The Surprisingly Effective Way Facebook Tested Its New iPhone App

Mashable_facebook-ios7-update_FullyC_001With iOS 7 rolling out today, lots of apps will be making their new, iOS 7-friendly apps available for download within the next few days. One such redesigned app is the Facebook app, which should be available at some point today.

The new app has had a fairly extensive redesign, including a minimalistic toolbar on the bottom that replaces the one that used to be on top, updated icons, and an iOS 7-style aesthetic.

That’s not the interesting part, though. In an interview with The Verge, some key figures in the redesign explained how many of the features of the new version have already been user tested. In fact, they may have been tested on you, without you even knowing it. (Dun dun duuuun)

From The Verge:

Facebook built an entire system for creating alternate versions of the native app within the native app. The team could then turn on certain new features for a subset of its users, directly, and measure the results. Starting in early 2013, the team put together a system of “different types of Legos — that we can reconfigure really easily … and see the results on the server in real time.”

What’s most surprising is the scale of Facebook’s user testing with the navigation bar. The team says it has tested the new navigation bar with as many as 8 million users, using various iterations of the layout since March. Yet despite this widespread testing, the feature hasn’t garnered widespread attention from the tech press.

Why so little notice? It’s likely that Facebook is just smart enough to know who is and isn’t likely to take note of such a change — but the team also believes that the new navigation bar is so intuitive that users hardly notice it: “When we did UX studies, people just don’t realize that there’s a tab bar there.”


So if you’ve noticed a handy little navigation bar appear at the bottom of your iOS Facebook app only to disappear a while later, you’ve unwittingly been a beta tester. The great thing about this system of testing is that the company can be fairly well assured the app will be well received. In fact, plenty of people have showed up in the comments’ sections on articles about the upcoming app to explain that they had features like the new navigation bar for a while and were upset when it disappeared.

I’m not a fan of the current version, so I’m hoping this new version will be an improvement — and also that they’ll fix the app’s tendency not to push notifications to my phone for some reason.

(via The Verge)