Tag Archives: Facebook

Can Users Find Their Games in the New Facebook Homepage?

So two weeks after slowly dripping out of the recent Facebook homepage redesign, one indicator that users still don’t know where to find things (like games) is the number of developers spending time educating users how to find the Game Dashboard:

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In general, while the creation of the Games Dashboard at least acknowledged the importance of games in the day-to-day usage of the Facebook platform, Facebook didn’t bother publicizing the games dashboard during the rollout.

So far I haven’t been able to discern a noticeable decline across all developers, as some games were already declining from December platform changes and there were a good deal of promotions (e.g. various Valentines promos and horse stable promotion on FarmVille) that may have masked the impact of the redesign. That said, one example where it does seem to have had an effect is Playdom:

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While bookmarks weren’t always leveraged by users, they were persistent and did provide a very convenient way for a user to get to their favorite application consistently. Now to get to the games dashboard, you must continually navigate back to the homepage to find the link. I firmly believe the games dashboard is a huge improvement, providing the potential to discover new games and find your existing ones. But further education cannot overcome the fundamental design flaw of not having “games” as a persistent part of the site navigation, visible from every page. There seems to be some ample space in that blue navigation bar at the top: a simple Games link there could be a benefit for the entire ecosystem.

What About the Power User?

One other side note is that I missed in assessing the homepage redesign initially is that the ability to filter the news feed has been removed: You can choose only to see the Top News or Most Recent news. In the past, there was a way to filter the news feed by leveraging categories in the left navigation, such as user-defined “Family” or network groups, but also by games (a FarmVille power user could select FarmVille and see all their friends’ posts).

One has to wonder if that feature has hurt some of the bigger games, as power users in the past could use that feature to connect with friends (and keep them reinforcing the circle of sending requests and gifts to each other). Now the only way power users can get that feature is to go to FarmVille.com, which has that filtered news feed prominently right below the game.

Update 2/20/2010:Kudos to the product team at Cafe World to take the initiative, being one of the first apps to actually share the Cafe World-specific filter and help their power users find their neighbors’ posts:

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Facebook Enforces Most New Policies, Seemingly Lax on Gating Content

Originally Published February 2, 2010

When Facebook began enforcing new policy changes in mid December, it was called a “philosophical approach to platform governance.” As Inside Facebook reported, “instead of trying to spell out all the rules in detail, it is laying out more general principles and reserving the right to make policy enforcements when its policy team deems doing so to be necessary.”

Looking at what has and hasn’t been enforced since the changes were implemented helps provide some intriguing insight into the policy team’s thinking thus far.

Forced Gifting Nearly Eradicated

Just about every game launched prior to the changes in December had gifts (where users send gifts to friends – in most cases to users not already playing the game) first and foremost in their viral marketing strategy – still evident by the number of games where the first menu tab is “Free Gifts” or “Send Gifts.” In reviewing 98 game applications with over 100,000 daily active users (DAU), only about 20% of them did NOT have a gifts component (the largest was Pop Cap’s Bejeweled Blitz with 2.8 million DAU).

The policy:”You must not prompt users to send invitations, requests, generate notifications, or use other Facebook communication channels immediately after a user allows access or returns to your application.”

At the end of January, among games with over 100,000 DAU, only four appear to push users to send a gift to others prior to playing the game: Happy Farm (940,000 DAU), Farkle (840,000 DAU), Garden World (260,000 DAU) and Las Vegas Slots (210,000 DAU). That said, Playdom titles like Sorority Life and Mobsters 2 are pushing the envelope a bit, actually taking users to a gifts screen when you click the Jobs and Missions tabs respectively. So while not necessarily the first thing users see when they come to the application, users still must skip the gifts screen (or send items to their friends) before they can actually engage in the game.

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While gifts have often been considered social spam (with some developers specifically not including gifts because they feel they are too spammy), they have become a very powerful way to get users to interact around a game and one can imagine a gifting mechanism that is a more natural extension of the game’s social aspects.

For more details and additional reporting from Eric Eldon who talked directly with the Facebook Application team, see the full post at Inside Social Games

What is Counter Worthy in New Facebook Design? Mafia Wars Gives Us a Preview

While Facebook has already communicated the elimination of bookmarks in the bottom bar and the addition of “Counters” next to each application listed in the left column navigation for bookmarked applications, the rules about how to use counters appears to be up to developer interpretation.

While you can’t see counters live yet, you CAN see how Zynga is planning to use it for Mafia Wars as their homepage has been redesigned to highlight a number of things and the counter-looking icon is in place in the upper right corner:

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Besides Game News, the list of items includes Bookmark Me, Become a Fan, Join the Email List, and Social Job (where someone has responded to your request for help on a job). A user can hide them to reduce the counter down, but these straight forward tasks already created a counter with 13 items in it.

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Initially, applications with high counters might get a user’s attention, but if these don’t provide value, they are likely to be ignored by users, much like the shotgun notifications were (several developers got in the habit of posting the same notification multiple days in a row). If instead, there are useful reminders, like when a crop is ready for harvesting or a energy pack is available, then users may find an enhanced utility around counters. Instead of having to police notifications, Facebook is probably hoping user reaction and market forces will ensure counters aren’t abused.

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Much like email marketing (and notifications before), the key will be optimizing frequency and the message, mixing in marketing promos and game-specific activity. Given a core of notices with utility for the user, developers are also likely to benefit most in that users will actually be able to find their notices, which before were lost in a sea of messages in the old Notification tool.