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BLOG: Dear Facebook: Please learn how to design Android apps that don't suck

JR Raphael | Jan. 25, 2013
Facebook is notorious for providing awful mobile experiences, and it's reaching a point where there's really no excuse.

Facebook Android Apps

Android apps have come a long way over the last couple of years. Since the advent of Google's Android 4.x design standards, most active developers have started conforming to a consistent style -- one that's both visually pleasing and intuitive to use.

One notable exception: the company that currently has the most popular third-party app on the platform.

I'm talking, of course, about Facebook. Facebook is notorious for providing awful mobile experiences, and it's reaching a point where there's really no excuse.

Facebook's Android app has pretty much always sucked. In December, the company made much ado over the fact that it had rewritten the app from scratch -- but the change didn't actually make the app good; it just made it a little less bad. Look at Facebook's app next to a well-designed one like Google+ and the difference is almost painful.

Facebook Android App

Facebook's Android efforts are like lessons in bad design: The main Facebook app has an on-screen menu button that loads a sidebar-style list of commands -- and then also a hidden legacy menu button that loads a dated-looking Android 2.x-style list of commands. Worse yet, some functions appear in both lists, only with slightly different descriptions. It's about as confusing and non-user-friendly as you can get.

What baffles me even more is Facebook's latest Android app offering: Facebook Pages Manager, a newly released utility for users who need to manage brand pages (as opposed to personal profiles) on the social network.

The Pages Manager app uses the same convoluted split-menu setup as the main Facebook app, but it takes things a few steps further: First, the app provides push notifications of new page activity yet provides no option to turn the notifications off. It randomly allows you to disable notifications until "tomorrow at 8 a.m." -- God knows why -- but doesn't allow you to disable them for good.

Then comes the element that could just as well be a placard proclaiming "WE DON'T UNDERSTAND ANDROID APP DESIGN": the widget. When creating the Facebook Pages Manager app, you see, someone decided to add in a flag indicating the presence of widget functionality. Consequently, "Pages Manager" shows up as an available widget on any device where the app is installed.

The problem: It's impossible to place the widget on your home screen -- because there actually is no widget. 


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