“Home is the first product we’ve released that’s really about ‘mobile-best’ and the transition beyond ‘mobile first'” said Facebook’s VP Cory Ondrejka. To further that, Facebook previewed some new features Home will get eventually including a “Dash Bar” buddy list for starting chats, an improved “Dock” for your favorite apps, and a better “new user experience” onboarding flow.
Later today around 3pm PST, Facebook will release its first update for Home in the form of a Google Play update to Facebook For Android (which hosts some nuts and bolts of Home). The update is predominantly performance and bug fixes, and doesn’t include these new features mentioned above. Dash Bar, Dock, and NUX will come in future monthly updates, but no specific schedule has been revealed.
As for ads in Home, VP Of Mobile Engineering Ondrejka says there’s no timetable for that yet either. “We know we’re going to do ads in Home, but there are steps we need to take before we do that so they fit into Home’s aesthetic and they’re beautiful. We’re not ready yet” said Ondrejka.
Home Makes People Use Facebook 25% More
Ondrejka gave a momentum update at the “Home Whiteboard Session” today at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park. He explained that Home is nearing 1 million downloads, and users’ favorite features are Cover Feed and Chat Heads. Those who’ve download Home spend 25% more time on Facebook as a whole. That stat alone could mean Home is a success, and has a lot of potential to benefit Facebook in mobile. Home also increases the number of daily comments and Likes someone leaves on the news feed by 25% too. Meanwhile, Ondrejka said that Chat Heads increases participation, or the raw percentage of people who use Facebook Chat, by 7%, and it increases messages sent by 10%.
However, there were a few main complaints in Home’s Google Play, which I detailed on Tuesday. Specifically, people don’t like losing the personalization they’ve already done on their phone. They don’t want to lose their widgets, app dock, and folders. Users also said it’s too difficult to start a Chat Heads conversation. Finally, some users get confused about where their old Android app launcher went. Facebook will address these with a few new features.
Future Changes To Home
Facebook will add a better “NUX” or new user experience that it internally refers to as “Blue’s Clues”. When users first install Home, they’ll get a deeper walkthrough of how to use gestures to reveal their app launcher, chat, and use other features. Little blue instructional boxes pop up as you first navigate through Home. They explain what a button or gesture does, and encourage you to try them to continue through the tutorial. This should reduce confusion and frustration, and get more people to give Home a chance.
Here’s a Vine of Facebook Director Of Product Adam Moserii previewing the new onboarding experience.
A new app dock will be added to Facebook Home’s app launcher. Android users gave feedback saying they enjoyed the tray of favorite apps that always sits at the bottom of the launcher. Home got rid of that, but in future versions, Mosseri tells me users will be able to import their old dock, and possibly build one from scratch. When you swipe up to access your apps, the Dock tray will appear locked at the bottom, similar to the persistently visible Dock at the bottom of the iOS homescreen. You can the Dock in Home in the photo on the right.
To make starting a conversation fast, Facebook will add a Buddy List into Home. Before, you had to swipe left to open the full Facebook Messenger app to start a new conversation. With Dash Bar, when you swipe left it will instead create a Chat Head bubble that contains an overlaid Buddy List where you can get an instant look at all your friends and see which ones are online to chat with. Then you can initiate a conversation with them, all from a screen over the top of Cover Feed rather than within the Messenger For Android app.
Respecting Your Old Phone
Facebook seems to have realized that people spend time customizing their phone experience. They don’t want to sacrifice it for Facebook Home. They want both. This previewed slate of changes will help Facebook respect the phone you already personalized. This is a shift from Facebook Home as a homescreen replacement to a homescreen layer. If Facebook can pull it off, users won’t have to choose between apps and friends. They’ll have both at their fingertips.