I’ve long been frustrated by the poor quality of Facebook’s iPhone and iPad apps. They are buggy, sluggish and generally a pain to use. The end result is that I access Facebook a lot less from these devices.
A quick perusal of the app store reviews shows I am not alone:
(every app has some negative reviews, but these were the first few for the app and seemed to be the norm rather than the exception)
Thinking about this some more, it is genuinely shocking that a company with the user base of Facebook, stocked with world-class engineering talent, would not ensure they have provided their users with stable and polished applications on what is the fastest growing platform (mobile) where users are spending more and more of their time on social networks. For some context of the size of Facebook’s user base, some in the tech media have pointed out that at their current growth rates, Facebook is likely to soon bump up against their maximum addressable market as the total number of users worldwide who could theoretically access Facebook via PC or phone is not too far off from their current 900 million user base.
(As an aside, for the conspiracy theorists among us, iTunes won’t give me an aggregate ‘star’ rating for Facebook’s app as it does for other apps, indicating there aren’t enough ratings while simultaneously showing there are 23,029 ratings for the current version and 261,323 overall.
Agility at the Expense of Quality
I don’t have any special insight into why Facebook’s iOS apps are reviled by users, but Facebook famously makes use of agile development principles that emphasizes rapid deployment of features. BusinessWeek reported not long ago that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a sign above his desk that says “Stay focused & keep shipping.”. So Facebook’s driving force is to ship, ship, ship. And yet, their users hate their iphone and ipad efforts. Somehow, Facebook seems to be missing the fact that there are brand considerations when churning out garbage. Their focus should be on how to develop a reputation for quality. There are principles with which to build a company: surely one of them includes avoid frustrating your users?
Responsibility for Your Users’ Experience
Critics will point out that the DNA of a startup is rapid, agile product iteration. But I’d propose that companies like Facebook—those that have broad enough reach where putting out a product that is partially baked can be damaging to their brand and frustrating to hundreds of millions of users—should aim for the best of both worlds. Utilize agile development processes that enable you to quickly iterate on products and features via methodologies such as hackathons and other rapid development processes, but before releasing, put on your big boy pants and ask whether your customers are in fact going to be delighted by the product you are putting out. Sure successful modern day tech companies want to retain the startup foundation rooted in agility that got them to the place they are in, but what it comes down to is at a certain point, a startup has to grow up and take responsibility for putting out a quality product.
- About the Author
Nathan Safran is a former Analyst at Forrester Research where he covered the Digital Home. While at Forrester, Nathan authored research studies on trends, attitudes and behaviors of consumers toward technology adoption and use.
Nathan has been quoted as a subject matter expert in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fortune magazine. Currently, Nathan heads the Research Department at Conductor, Inc an SEO Technology Platform firm.
Nathan writes at exceljockey.com about the intersection of Business, Technology and Psychology. See the About page for more info. Follow Nathan on Twitter: @Nathan_Safran