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Facebook Privacy Settings Redesign on Fortune.com

Last week, Fortune.com (CNNMoney.com) published an article and screenshot gallery titled Hey Facebook! Here’s your privacy redesign, and I was fortunate enough to have my work included in it.

Reporter JP Mangalindan reached out to me a few weeks ago and asked me to mock up a couple ideas for how Facebook could redesign its complicated privacy settings, then he interviewed me on my thoughts about the flack they’ve been getting.

Also included in his piece is the work of rising star Catriona Cornett; Jason Brush of Schematic; the Sapient Nitro team of Nathaniel Perez, Eddie Gomez, and Omar Mendez; and Michael Jones of Smart Design.

My concept (which was cropped for the article) was not to redesign the privacy settings page, but instead to bring the functionality onto the profile page itself in order to give better context to what content those settings actually control.

With Facebook, it’s largely a communication issue. Privacy settings are completely divorced from your actual information. You have to either bring up both pages simultaneously, which is cumbersome, or you have to remember what you put into each of those fields and what those fields were labeled, which isn’t typical behavior. So when redesigning, I didn’t think the issue that needed tackling was a better design of the privacy settings page necessarily, but actually the context in which those privacy settings are being set.

[Read the full article]

Info Tab

Additionally, I added a couple settings to the top of the Wall to control who can post to it and who can view the posts.

Wall tab

I really enjoyed thinking through these ideas, but the necessary caveat must be made: I would never produce designs for a client without first gathering user intel — either via interviews or usability testing. Still, it was fun to toss around some ideas and have them seen by such a wide audience.

I didn’t quite expect the article to get passed around as much as it did. And while I can’t say for sure if it had any impact on the Facebook team, just a few days later they announced their simplifications to the privacy settings. Read Facebook Bows to Pressure Over Privacy in the NY Times.

Learn more about the changes on Mashable here and here.

Thanks to JP and Fortune for including me in this great piece. I hope to be able to participate in more design brainstorms like this in the future.

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  • http://voirol.com Tom Voirol

    I find it a bit puzzling that your redesign is right at the bottom of the vote with 10%. The others might be attractive to facebook geeks who like to fiddle with complex controls. They certainly “look more designed”, but for your average Facebook user, nothing beats the immediacy of choosing who gets to see an element right next to that element itself.

    I had a bit of a think about this over time. I always felt a preview (“this is what non-friend would see of your profile page”) was missing to see the impact of your privacy settings, but to make the settings in the first place your solution strikes me as the most intuitive.

  • http://wildwildeastdailies.blogspot.com WildWildEast

    Thanks. Great thinking. I'm working on a similar issue for a Korean company now and this helps bunches!

  • inspireUX

    Great stuff, Whitney! I thought it was a really interesting exercise to go through. I think the range of all of our solutions was wonderful. I wrote about my solutions in more detail here:

    Part 1: http://www.inspireux.com/2010/05/24/exercise-us

    Part 2: http://www.inspireux.com/2010/05/25/exercise-ux