Facebook apps impossible to find? Blame adaptive user interfaces

You don’t have to be a developer to need to find apps on Facebook. Almost all Facebook users end up adding some kind of app to their account – even if it’s just to super-poke a friend.

The problem isn’t in adding apps. The problem is after you add them – they can be so hard to find (and edit or turn off) that one developer has created an app to help you find your apps.

Seriously. This is not a joke

My Facebook apps are so hard to find in the Facebook menus that I just end up typing in the address: https://www.facebook.com/developers/. But those are developer apps. What about apps that general users add to their Facebook account?

Blame the usability features
Thanks to Facebook’s quasi-adaptive user interface, things you don’t use often don’t show up as often. So if you don’t use a lot of apps, you’ll never easily see the link to them … they’ll be hidden from view by default, and you’ll only see them if you click to reveal them.

For example, in the image to the right, you’ll see that I have used apps recently enough that Facebook has put the link above the More/Less line, making it easily discoverable, clickable, and accessible.

However, if you don’t use apps very often, Facebook will put the link below the More/Less line … see here for example with all my links expanded.

Adaptive interfaces
Adaptive interfaces are just what they say: they adapt to the user. So for instance, as on BlackBerry, most-often used tools graduate to screens where they are more accessible.

Here’s the problem:

Since the adaption is not user-nitiated, it is not remembered (or even known), and it is therefore often not even used. Adaptive interfaces sound great in theory. Unfortunately, in this case, like so many others, while in theory theory there is no difference between theory and reality, in reality there is.

In the real world, when you move a cup, it stays where you put it. Adaptive interfaces break that connection with reality and therefore can violate a basic law of the universe we learned as infants: object permanence.

So unless it’s done in a super-smart and super-useful way … most adaptive user interfaces are less friendly, less usable, and less adapted to a user’s needs than a standard static interface.

Facebook links remind me of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm … the one that shows you the status updates from your friends that it thinks you might be interested in, not all the status updates that exist.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

 


Want weekly updates? Of course you do …


 

         

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • My problem actually IS finding facebook apps: underneath the list of my friends’ apps there is no «apps directory» link…

    How do I get to search apps now? Using FF 3.6.19 and Safari 5.0.6 respectively.

    Thanks for any hint!

    • Hi,

      They’ve just recently killed the directory too. So now I guess you have to find FB apps elsewhere online, or FB apps creators have to advertise on FB for you to find them.

      The might just be revenue-positive for Facebook ….

      🙂