3: Basic Navigation

(EN: Repeating this notice at the head of each chapter: the specific details of this book are likely outdated, but the core concepts of social networking are likely timeless.)

Facebook provides a user interface that is largely standardized: users may opt to include some elements and not others, but once included, each element appears in a standard format, such that all users' pages have the same basic layout. Once you are familiar with this layout, you should be able to navigate any page from any user.

(EN: FB periodically changes the layout, and seems to be constantly testing and tweaking things, so it changes very often.)

Top Blue Bar

The top of the screen provides a navigation bar that is presented on every page. It includes:

Left Column

The left column differs slightly depending on which page you are viewing, but has the following elements on the home page:

Center Column

The center column of your home page contains the news feed, which is the content of primary interest. It contains recent updates by your FB friends - status updates, shared items newly posted photos, even requests, etc.

The way that news is presented - the order of the items - has changed since the book was written, and recent changes have irked a number of users who were accustomed to the previous conventions, so it's still in flux.

Regardless, the general principle seems to be that most postings are listed in reverse-chronological order (newest first) and FB is fiddling with ways to automatically decide which posts are important and display those first, regardless of time posted. (EN: The user consternation is generally that FB can't seem to get the logic of this quite right ... and worse, it has taken away controls to let users sort items according to their own preference, which largely seems to be reverse-chronological without any special treatment for specific items.)

In the news feed, as in other areas where a great deal of content is presented, FB loads a number of items and provides a link at the end of the list to load more.

Actions that people take that create an announcement in news feeds include updating their status, posting a photo or video, asking a question, and sharing a link.

Most of the items will be posts by your friends, but some of them will be from people you have not "friended" but who have taken some action relating to a friend.

The author details some of the controls you have from within the news feed (EN: but this has changed since the book was written) - namely the ability to remove posts from your feed and, in doing so, the ability to permanently ignore posts based on specific criteria (ignore a user, ignore posts from a specific application, etc.) This is very useful in removing from your news feed the postings of overly-chatty people or applications that send constant announcements.

(EN: The author does not mention it, but at the top of the news feed is an affordance to post an item of your own: update your status, add photos, ask a question. The options change and shift, but status updates are generally the most popular and prominent.)

Right Column

The content of the right column has also changed since the book was written. The author details:


A "chat" icon is presented in the lower right of the screen - beneath, but not part of, the right column. This enables you to initiate one-on-one chat sessions via FB and manage certain settings related to chat (using sounds, indicating your availability to others).

Like Button

The author calls special attention to the "like" feature, which places buttons and links next to various items throughout FB so that you can express, with a single click, that you "like" an item rather than posting a comment. You may remove a "like" if you reconsider, which is not "disliking" it, but merely removing the "like" flag.

(EN: Worth mentioning that "comment" usually accompanies "like" to give you the ability to remark in greater detail. With this in mind, the perennial suggestion that FB enable options such as "dislike" or "agree" seems unnecessary. If you don't want to "like" the fact that someone is getting divorced or attending a funeral, you can post a brief comment.)

Navigating Your Profile Page

The items on your profile page are different from those on your home page - though the author goes into superficial detail, which may be just as well, given that the profile is constantly being changed by FB.

The main difference is that the profile is all about yourself, rather than others. You will see posts that you made, notes about your activities (when you make a new friend, make a comment on someone else's post, etc.), links to your extended profile information, etc.

Another key difference is that the main page is evanescent - it shows things that tend to be temporary or of passing interests - while your profile contains information that is more permanent and not of particular interest at any given time (e.g., your hometown is part of a profile as it is not "news" that is subject to change or be updated often, but is permanently relevant.)

Changing Constantly

The author lists some of the changes that were made in December 2010 - but this is already outdated, as some changes have been rolled back, other changes made, etc. However, a summary might be helpful as an indication of the kinds of things that FB is prone to goofing around with:

Naturally, every change is to the delight of some users and the dismay of others. Making something more prominent or accessible means making other things less prominent and accessible. Changing something to make it easier requires users who were accustomed to the way it used to work to learn a new procedure, etc.

Likely Facebook will continue to test and tweak to make corrections and improvements - if you are keen on keeping up with new developments, they are usually described on the Facebook blog (http://blog.facebook.com).