Social media users need help to adjust to interface changes

Social media companies that give users a greater sense of control can ease them into interface changes, as well as curb defections to competitors, according to researchers.

“Several studies have looked into how social media companies have failed,” said Pamela Wisniewski, a post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology, Penn State. “What we need to think about is how social media companies can be more adaptive and how they can improve the longevity of their sites.

In a study of the reaction to the introduction of Facebook’s Timeline interface between 2011 and 2012, researchers found that users considered the mandatory transition to the new interface highly stressful. They also found evidence that suggests that giving users a voice can give them a sense of control to better adapt to new online environments.

Facebook’s Timeline interface allowed users to access posts by date, highlighted certain events and set privacy controls to remove, modify visibility or hide posts on their page. The company initially provided a blog to release information to users, but then closed the blog, said Wisniewski, who worked with Heng Xu, associate professor of information sciences and technology, Penn State, and Yunan Chen, assistant professor of informatics, University of California, Irvine.

Denying users the ability to use the blog as a place to voice their concerns and give feedback may have thwarted one of the positive strategies people use to cope with changes in their environment, the researchers said. People who feel more in control become focused on solving problems and adjusting to the change, while those who do not feel they have control tend to focus on their emotions and resort to more negative coping strategies.

The researchers, who presented their findings today (April 30) at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, said that 67 percent of users’ coping strategies in the Timeline transition were negative. The users complained, threatened to switch to another social network and urged others to drop Facebook.

“Without giving people a way of offering feedback, you make them feel less empowered and they have more of a feeling of hopelessness,” said Wisniewski.

Some users did adapt more successfully and took positive steps to use the new interface, including learning about Timeline and finding new ways to customize it.

Companies that halt communication run the risk of allowing false information to circulate among users.

“Without providing more users feedback, not only was there more negativity, but a lot of the information that was causing the negativity was actually based on misinformation,” said Wisniewski. “Being more responsive and sharing information with users can stop some of this misinformation.”

The researchers also said that changing too many features at once can confuse users and may lead to a harsher backlash.

“In the Timeline rollout, they added several other features at the same time as Timeline,” said Wisniewski. “These weren’t necessarily part of Timeline, but were thrown in at the same time.”

The researchers examined users’ perceptions and signs of coping strategies by reviewing 1,149 comments posted to Facebook’s Timeline release blog from September 2011 to April 2012. Facebook first made the transition to the new interface on Dec. 15, 2011, as an opt-in feature. The interface became mandatory for Facebook users on May 21, 2012. The National Science Foundation supported this work.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Almost everyone has one if not many accounts on the social media even though most of the social media consist of the same elements, we still use them for communication but lately we have been faced with problems that sees a lot of personal information being uploaded on the internet, the social media should work to our advantage and not the other way around. Users should be given the voice to choose what they want on their social media, social media should be like blogs, a personal dairy online.

  2. Almost everyone has one if not many accounts on the social media even though most of the social media consist of the same elements, we still use them for communication but lately we have been faced with problems that sees a lot of personal information being uploaded on the internet, the social media should work to our advantage and not the other way around. Users should be given the voice to choose what they want on their social media, social media should be like blogs.

  3. That is true because most people arte using social media just because othe3rs are ,so you may find that those people dont know a thing about media and son if changes are made they got lost for real and good so it might be better for all socu7ail users to get help in adapting any cahnges that might be made.

  4. Social media is a way in which people communicate , share ideas and voice out their opinions. I, personally think that everyone should be given a to voice out their opinions , to share their own perspectives what they about social media interface changes. social media companies post data/information (pictures, stories, science information) for the audience so it is very important that they consider the opinion of the audience and accept any comment made by the audience.

  5. Social networks are used by people on a daily basis, therefore with a change in times and trends social media companies have to change the user interface as to keep up. Some changes are taken as a positive from day one but others take time as they are probably a large change but social media companies should always keep in mind the feedback from their users and try to implement what they gain from them. Social media companies are here to make money and to do so they they need a large amount of users on-line on a daily basis and to achieve that they need to considers the needs of their users. Giving users a voice can definitely help social media companies to grow.

  6. I personally remember this Facebook Timeline outbreak, everyone wished that the ‘wall’ would be reinstated and a number of links that were in actual fact hoaxes and scams supposedly ‘allowed’ one to restore the old interface. I personally believe that if people were given the option to personalize their experience many people would join the social networking instead of leaving it. Social networking sites on the whole should consider this fact in future, to increase their income and clientele.

  7. yes well i agree that the social networks help people get their voices out there but it is not convenient to every age group. for instance now young people are able to express their feelings via networks but how about older people who cannot accept change not because they don’t want to but because they can’t use anything of technology.

  8. I can relate to this, i am a big fan of Facebook and i have been using it for so long now, however many things have changed throughout the years. I deleted facebook a few times for to changes that i found difficult to cope with, whenever I deleted it, I would leave a reason of which why I was leaving it although i reinstalled it again after some time. It is going to be difficult for new social networks to compete with Facebook since it has been here for long secondly it is easier to use as it is not complicated like other networks that needs lot of time to get used to moreover it has already made its reputation. Facebook does take feedbacks from their users as you can see if we complain they do something about therefore Facebook still has many users. Giving us the platform to voice our opinions does help us get used to the new interface changes, and i feel like that what Facebook does which is why it is still popular.

  9. Social networking has become a daily part of our lives. You can often find people checking their Facebook pages and twitter updates. I believe that social networking is a rapidly changing field and all those who decide to use it must be prepared to adapt to the changes in the interface. Communication between social network users and social network programmers is essential. People love having a voice when it comes to the applications they use. Programmers and interface changers need to keep that in mind when upgrading their networks, as well as the availability of other user-friendly networks.

  10. With change in time,there has been a shift in how people live and communicate. The nature of people is that we want our voices to be heard so that we can bring a difference. Social media did indeed give the platform to that,therefore it should not restrict people.Users can be satisfied by allowing the ability to give feedback.Hence that will empower their voice to be heard and remove negativity. Thus for the website to succeed I also agree the users need to be happy. (14145082)

  11. Interface changes of social media can be a big issue as many people have not been computer literate for a vast period of time. Many people from the older generation get used to an interface and when it changes, they get completely lost. Within social media, comments are an absolute necessity. Users of social networks need to be able to comment and spread their views and opinions across the web with their friends or acquaintances. Social media is advancing rapidly and the number of social networks is increasing exponentially. In order for a social network to advance and be successful, users of the social network need to be able to give feedback about interface changes. In this way, the social network can also establish what the majority of the users of these specific sites prefer and in turn, creating the best possible user interface so that the social network will meet the majorities favour and hence it will become the most popular social network and never face the trouble of shutting down.

  12. What an interesting article and so well related to the age we live in!
    I think because we live in an era where people want to voice their opinions and want to be heard, social media is so widely popular, as this acts as a platform for individuals to do so. People are the social media sites, and unhappy people leads to, well…an unsuccessful site. Therefore, I agree with the previous comment, that people should be given the opportunity to voice their complaints or praise about how sites are being changed and operated. As there are so many different social media platforms, it is easy to switch from one you’re unhappy with to one that meets your required needs and which is more user friendly. So allow the users to say what they need to, in order to ensure the success of that site.

  13. It is very important to consider the needs people have when using social media, as social media has become a very big thing in the modern age. For a social media website to be succesful they do need to consider the comments of their users. Because their are so many social media cites it will be very easy for a user to go to another site when you don’t listen to their complaints or don’t meet their needs. I strongly agree that your users comments of how they experience your site is very important.

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