In January 2012, Menlo Park, CA based Facebook Inc released a new user interface (UI) called Timeline. Timeline replaced the current UI for Facebook Fan and Group pages, but still remains optional for individual profiles.

The new UI overhaul is a vastly different look and feel from the previous Fan/Group pages and current, optional previous profile pages. According to the Facebook blog, Timeline is “where you can tell your story from beginning, to middle, to now.” Appropriately, there’s a vertical timeline-esque feature on every page, where users can click through the history of posts from the day the page was created until the present.

Surely, Facebook spent quite a bit of time and money into the new look. But did they truly deliver what users want? The answer is debatable.

Many people don’t adapt well to such great leaps and bounds of changes. Do an Internet search on “timeline” and you’ll find all sorts of varied opinions on it. Some think it’s “snazzy” while others say it’s “so much work.” A few have even started Fan pages on how much they dislike it (see “I hate FB Timeline, and want to disable it ASAP).”

Given so many disgruntled comments and extreme reactions, one might truly wonder how much time Facebook actually spent on developing Timeline, researching user desires and reactions to the overhauled look. When we think of Google interfaces, generally, we feel they “did it right.” This is because (this author happens to know) Google spends a lot of time on UI research, employing people with big, fancy PhD titles to manage the efforts.

Of course, Google doesn’t always get it right (remember Google Buzz?). Like Google, it’s suspect that Facebook has entered that period where they are so cash-heavy, they are now looking for ways to spend it. Unfortunately, this can lead to romantic and narcissistic visions of grandeur and designing products that companies (or leaders) think users want — rather than really delivering what they need.
Hopefully, next year, Facebook users will either forget their UI was ever changed or fall in love with it. Right now, however, I feel sorry for the Timeline Product Manager.

Timeline: good or bad? What do you think?

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