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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Website Redesigns

Facebook and Google recently announced major overhauls of their interactive homepages, and Google's page comes out with the better result.

Facebook's new site is available to the general public at, and once you visit the link the entire site overhaul is available, along with a link to revert back to the previous version of the site. The redesign doesn't add much in terms of raw features, but I did notice a "Comment" link available for a status change. Facebook Chat is still integrated, and continues to maintain any current chats between tabs and while navigating around the site. Unfortunately, my sidebar Facebook Chat bookmark broke, and I haven't yet found a way to fix it.

While the reorganization is nice, and the AJAX-ification makes life easier for navigating the site. Applications, which quickly crowded profiles and made navigation messy, are now on their own "tab" of the profile page, and the rarely used "About Me" information also receives its own tab. While the re-organization is nice, I did have a few issues switching between tabs.

The worst, though, is that there is a large amount of wasted space on larger monitors. With the new wider layout, Facbeook is no longer limited to the center of the screen, but the wider layout doesn't contract as the window is narrowed. As a result, there's a gap in the middle that makes the site unweildy.

Google's interactive homepage, iGoogle, was also throughly redone, and now features a more intelligent integration of Google's technologies. Chat is available both in a tab and in a bar along the bottom, so quick conversations are always at hand. Also, GTalk is still accessible from Google's own desktop client and third party clients, so the chat interface is redundant if you choose to make it so. The tabs also now list all their content, and when the title is clicked on in the left navigation bar, it brings up the box with expanded information and filling the full screen. As an example, GMail lists only a few messages from the inbox while on the page view, but when in fullscreen view the standard GMail is available inside of iGoogle. RSS feeds come up in a view very similar to Google Reader, and the Weather view goes on steroids.

iGoogle is a great update, but its not fully available to the public, and still has a few issues. Some RSS feeds don't come up properly (missing some links, feed titles, etc.), and sometimes are handled by the box view instead of the Google Reader view when in full page view. Also, a few issues exist when moving boxes between columns.

The new Facebook and the new iGoogle are both welcome redesigns, but neither is quite ready for prime time. iGoogle has some bigger issues, but is still in a closed beta (a signup is required, and is really designed for developers). Also, its the better redesign. Facebook is in open beta, and only has a few niggling issues until everything is ready for public release.

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