Six UX Lessons Learned from the New Facebook App, Paper

By Stef Miller | February 7, 2014
Six UX Lessons Learned from the New Facebook App, Paper

Facebook Paper News Feed

Paper — Stories from Facebook News Feed

What happens when Facebook takes on the mobile experience head first? Paper. With over 3,000 reviews and a 4+ rating on the app store, it’s clear that Paper is quickly becoming an app to be reckoned with. To explore the success of the app, we ran a study with 105 of our mobile testers.

Here is what we learned:

  1. People love guided tutorials they can control.

  2. People appreciate the lack of navigational elements.

  3. People really want to curate their news feed.

  4. People are delighted with subtle animation.

  5. People want to browse their content distraction free.

  6. People still want to share what they love with their friends.

PDF: View the results of this study. 

Lesson 1: People love guided tutorials they can toggle.

We asked study participants to download the new Paper app and give it a go. Right off the bat people praised the intuitive tutorial that started up on first launch. While the guided tour is a much-needed part of the app, most of our mobile testers wanted to check their progress on the tutorial, or find a way to toggle it on/off as they needed it. A caution to designers out there - a lot of folks don’t care for auto-play experiences.

ponysyd: “I found the tutorial extremely helpful (I would have been very lost without it) and I think that's a great feature. It's nice how it just pops up when you're doing something new for the first time on the app, so it's kind of always there as a guide.”

Lesson 2: People appreciate the lack of navigational elements.

There is a story-first approach to the design of Paper. No buttons, no drop-down menus, no flashing, no blinking. Just the user and their feed. By relying solely on natural mobile gestures, the app has managed to get rid of distractions and let users focus on the content. It didn’t take most of our users a long time to get the hang of the new navigation. Overall, they definitely liked it.

chemohill: “This is a lot easier to read than the regular app and easier than the mobile site. it's easier to navigate through stories and i like the ability to go into different types of stories (headlines, LOL, etc).”

Lesson 3: People really want to curate their news feed.

As more and more content permeates the social space, it makes sense that Facebook has turned their attention to supporting publishers. In its first iteration of this newspaper-esque app, Facebook introduced Sections. These interest-based news collections feature stories by major news publications and well-recognized brands. While still in its infancy it was clear to us that users were optimistic about the addition of news stories within their Facebook experience. Functionally, they loved that they could easily drag and drop the Sections that most appealed to them into their feed. Ideas ran rampant when it came to how this feature could be improved. If this becomes yet another way for Facebook to promote ‘pay to play’ amongst publishers these feeds may become less relevant to the end-user, but for now they are a hit.

audracasey: “I also really enjoyed being able to stay in 1 app and view news, sports, tech, photography, etc all in one place along with my Facebook feed.  It's really everything you need to read all located in one place.”

Lesson 4: People are delighted with subtle animation.

With just a flip of the finger users are able to drill-down into content, ‘unfolding’ news stories into a full-screen experience. A resonating ‘Awesome’ from our users. A simple down-swipe and they were taken back to their feed. Easy, effective, and slightly entertaining. Just the way reading the news should be.

benetherington: “I liked the seamless, smooth feel. It really felt like I was in a sci-fi movie.”

Lesson 5: People want to browse their content distraction free.

It may go without saying, but Facebook Paper shows that content is still king. As with the original Facebook app experience, brand-related content and news stories appear with a name and logo. The recognition is there, but it isn’t in your face. Users really connected with the clean design and simplified interface.

andrea8090: “This will transform the way I consume news on Facebook. It's so much easier to read articles, and it feels like it's one fluid experience rather than segments of content.”

Lesson 6: People still want to share what they love with their friends.

With the development of Likes and +1’s and RT’s our social experience is still that; social. Seeing friends’ status updates, photos and comments was still an expected part of the new experience. While Paper missed the mark on some key sharing elements, (no way to mention friends in status updates or easily share favorite content with one specific friend) it’s obvious that we have become co-conspirators of content consumption.

krs10813: “I like that you can still get to friends profiles, see your notifications, news feed and then you have all these other things to see that you are interested in as well that can be shared. it makes the FB experience more entertaining and interesting.”

Interested in seeing the results of the study? Download the summary PDF here. I’m really looking forward to watching the Facebook Creative Labs team as they continue to explore new mobile experiences. Any thoughts? Opinions on your experience with the app? Questions on the study? Feel free to leave a comment!

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About the author(s)
Stef Miller

Stef Miller is a former marketer at UserTesting, where she spent most of her time connecting people with content. Miller has worked for global corporations and teeny tiny studios, and believes that true happiness comes from collaborating with creative people to make awesome things happen.