In the coming weeks Facebook will be launching a new “Dashboard” screen for their Applications. At first glance it has many similarities to the iTunes app store, but looking a bit deeper there also seems to be quite a few lessons that Apple could learn from Facebook’s plans:
As you can see from the screenshot (click for full size) the new dashboard will have a much better layout than the existing list format. Links to the dashboard will sit on the left side of your home page and when clicked will replace your news feed with the new dashboard – like switching between live feed and news feed.
Facebook hope to encourage “discovery and re-engagement with games and other applications” and this is definitely a step in the right direction.
With a little luck it might also help clear up the news feed which can often become clogged with torrents of game notifications.
Applications vs. Games
This is one area in which Facebook seem to be leapfrogging Apple. The iTunes App Store has Games as just another category of apps (the most heavily promoted category) but Facebook is going one step further and dividing it’s applications directory in half, with users now having an Applications Dashboard and a Games Dashboard.
This is a great move by Facebook. Although there’s no technical difference between the two (a Game is just another type of app) from the average user’s point of view the distinction is useful. It also allows the Games Dashboard to include more game-specific features such as high scores and leader boards.
This is where Facebook’s new dashboards should move into a league of their own. For the initial launch the social integration isn’t anything we haven’t seen before but it’s still a great demonstration of how any simple service can be greatly enhanced by integrating a social web. Here’s Facebook’s list of features they expect in the new dashboards from day 1:
- Recently used applications and games
- News items: Examples given by Facebook include “It’s your turn in a game against Jared” or “The leader board was reset 6 hours ago, come play!”
- Your Friends’ Recent Activity
- Your Friends Play
- Directory, Including an “Applications You May Like” section
- Suggestions/Sponsored on the right hand side, based on a combination of paid placement and the applications they and their friends are using.
- Counters and home page placement: Bookmarked applications will also have prominence on the home page, and can be accompanied by Counters that you can set to let users know there are actions for them to take within your applications.
It’s A Numbers Game
The motivations behind this move are pretty obvious once you understand the numbers behind app usage. Apple should have an advantage in this area because applications sit on the home screen of iPhones and are harder to ignore, yet some figures show that as little as 20% of all iPhone applications are ever used more than once. Data for Facebook apps appears to be quite similar, with the Top 100 apps having only 10%-20% of users being “active” in any given month.
Try Them Out
Before the official launch you can test them out to see what your dashboards will look like using these demo links:
What do you think? Will this help you get the most out of Facebook Applications or is just more intrusions into your home page? Will it make Facebook games an even more lucrative industry?