Facebook: Bookmarks

Introduction

Bookmarks, the leftmost column of Facebook.com, was becoming an eyesore. Originally introduced in 2007, Bookmarks allowed users to quickly navigate to their favorite Groups and Games. Over the years, the surface became bloated with extraneous items and was mostly ignored. Despite several redesign attempts, the surface proved resistant to change for about a decade until my team and I worked to design, pitch, and implement the current version.

My involvement

I was the lead designer for the project. I was responsible for framing the problem in writing, synthesising research and quantitative data into hypotheses, interaction and visual design, and pitching my ideas to company leadership.

Project results

We reduced the number of bookmarks shown by 50% while increasing participation by 15%. The project shipped to all users on desktop and was later adapted to bring the same strategy to Facebook’s iOS and Android apps.

Problem framing

After some auditing and interviewing, it was clear that Bookmarks had three problems: internal politics, poor organization of content, and poor ranking. I worked to address each of these problems concurrently by hosting and leading a workshop for designers from across Facebook, designing a new means of organizing bookmarks based on content type, and by making recommendations to ranking engineers and company leadership on how to best rank Bookmarks.

Workshop

In order to solve the issue of internal politics, I organized a workshop on primary navigation and invited designers from across Facebook to engage in group sketching and discussion. We wanted to understand what was important to each product team so that we could design a version of Bookmarks that worked for the entire company. Our participants felt like the goals of their teams were understood and cared for, which built trust in our work.

New organizing principles

Next, we needed to understand what kind of content comprised Bookmarks and how it was organized. We thoroughly audited the surface and found that Bookmarks contained four types of items: content surfaces, discovery surfaces, settings pages, and actions. Instead of grouping Bookmarks together based on the product team they belonged to, we designed several solutions that grouped Bookmarks together based on their content type. This resonated with our research participants and ultimately led to positive gains in participation rate.

Ranking and and iteration

Finally, we needed to iterate on ranking. The existing pipeline was broken and needed to be rebuilt and replaced by a team of ranking engineers. I worked with the ranking team to suggest the optimal items to appear in any user's Bookmarks at a given time. Concurrently, my team ran a series of granular tests to measure the effect of each of our changes. Above, you can see an outline of the the initial set of individual changes and tests.

Conclusion

In the end, we managed to increase the surface's participation rate substantially while reducing the number of bookmarks we show at once by half. After weeks of carefully watching metrics and communicating our results to every affected team, we had the green light to do the impossible: ship our redesign to 100%.

This solution isn't a radical departure from the current design: bookmarks is still a list of icons and links along the left hand side of the page. That's because this project wasn't about making something radically different. Instead, the future of bookmarks depended on us shipping an improved foundation upon which we can iterate. Through rigorous research, design, testing, and communication, we were able to fix a surface that has been a thorn in Facebook's side for nearly a decade.