Managing Facebook Like. Or not.

I’M ON FACEBOOK. I want to see everything I supposedly “like” and prune the list of things I don’t. There should be a page where I can do this—that’s UX Design 101—but instead there’s just a sidebar box on my profile page showing a rotating, random sampling of liked items. The box is fine as an outward-facing device: on my profile page, it gives visitors a teasing hint of some of the cool stuff a deep guy like me digs. But inward-facing-wise, as a tool for me to manage my likes, it’s useless.

At the top of sidebar box, there’s text stating that I currently have “372 likes.” The text is a hyperlink. Here’s what should happen when I click that link: I should be taken to a page listing my likes (or the first, say, 100 of my likes, with a pagination tool). Each liked item should link to its corresponding Facebook page in case I need to refresh my memory about it. (This is the one part Facebook actually gets right.) More importantly, each liked item should be preceded by a checkbox. I should be able to check off 50 items on the page that I no longer like, and press a button allowing me to delete them all at once.

A number of elegant variations will occur to even the least experienced interface designer at this point: Perhaps there’s a drop-down allowing me to choose functions other than deletion; perhaps there’s a link to “select all” or de-select all; and so on. Such variations could make Facebook’s hypothetical best-practice “like management” page easier, faster, or more pleasant to use. But they are pretty much beside the point, as Facebook does not provide a like management page when I click that stupid link.

When I click that link, what I get instead of a useful, simple management page—the kind we’ve been building in hypertext for over 15 years—is a small, in-page pop-up window, with a scrolling sidebar … because, like the sidebar box, this window is also a tease instead of a tool.

Inside that scrolling box is every item I’ve liked. I have to scroll to see anything beyond the first handful of liked items. There are no checkboxes. There is no master switch to delete one or more items. There isn’t even an in-place deletion button beside each listed item, like the primitive edit tool in the first iPhone 3G.

No, my friends. There’s nothing.

If I want to delete a liked item, get this! I have to click the item’s hyperlink, go to the individual item page, and then hunt around on that page in search of a tiny link that would let me “unlike” that item. If I manage to find that link and unlike that one item, there’s no confirmation dialog, and I’m not returned to the floating box, because the item’s like page doesn’t know about the box.

All that JavaScript, and no connections. All those pages, and not even the most basic tools.

And nobody complains. Why? Because nobody really uses liked items. Indeed nobody really uses Facebook, except to post links and photos and comment on their friends’ links and photos. Liked items are for advertisers, they’re not for you. In Facebook’s estimation, you don’t need to remove a page you no longer like, because you are never going to visit it anyway.

Hey, they have the stats, they know what their users do and don’t do.

Facebook is a charnel house of features that appeal to advertisers and businesses without actually being used, supported by tools that don’t work, for people who don’t care.

Now I, uh, like Facebook fine, for the same reasons you do (if you do), and I generally ignore its well-branded but otherwise abortive gestures toward key features that have made it famous without actually doing a damned thing—“like” being the people’s Exhibit A. But as a designer, it bothers me, not only because badly designed things bother designers, but because badly designed things in a highly successful product spur a lust for imitation. I don’t want our clients to think “like” works. I don’t want them desiring similarly broken functionality on sites we design for them. I don’t want them thinking users don’t need tools that work, simply because millions of users don’t complain about broken tools on Facebook. Tools like like and its sad little pop-up.

Me no like.

39 thoughts on “Managing Facebook Like. Or not.

  1. Here, Here!! well said, VERY well said – a designers nightmare is the client that says “make my website like Facebook without looking exactly like Facebook, because everybody loves everything about Facebook” when as you so rightly point out they only actually use it to chat and show off holiday photos!

    Great Post :)

  2. I agree Facebook is full of UX headaches. Applications is another area where the links on the homepage should bring you right to a screen to manage your apps. But of course that wouldn’t add advertising revenue either.

  3. It is design for the business model not for the user. Does anyone like the Facebook Ux? People are there because it’s massive and that creates gravity. Being less crap than MySpace isn’t much of an achievement.

    I understand that their revenue comes from advertisers but the value of those ads comes from the number of users and the clickthrough rates. If all they can do with all the data they harvest is fill that sidebar with the irrelevant ads I see then their not doing a good job for the advertisers in the long term.

  4. They do actually have a place to edit your likes. The thinking behind it is sound, even if slightly disagreeable, as it’s the same as changing anything on Facebook (as, not easy unless you know how).

    It’s probably easy to show you by (trying) to think like a FB developer. Apologies in advance if the tone sounds off, I’m taking the talking to the masses route, not to-the-point developer talk.

    You like something, it appears on your profile and becomes part of your profile. You want to change this? You edit your profile. From here there is a tab to change, add and edit your likes ( .

    The page itself is actually very user friendly. You can select each like to either delete or hide from your profile as well as add any other tv, book, film etc you also like.

    Maybe not the best suer experience but still a hell of a lot better than going to each page and unliking (disliking?) it..

  5. I like this ;)

    Another thing that I’ve seen happening is people creating graphics including the “like” icon which doesn’t actually allow you to “like” whatever it is, instead it’s just a link to a Facebook page. You then have to click the Like button on that page. Lazy? Cost-saving? A step in the right direction? Who knows.

    That’s if you really do want to click a button that does precious little of worth… If you really do like something and want to share it on Facebook, why not just post a link on your wall? Or am I missing the point?

  6. During one of their recent revamps, they turned all of your “likes” into links to the equivalent pages for these things. Obscure interest? It was replaced with a URL to a generalised version of that item, or turned into a “claim this page” result when clicked.

    This also meant that the things I “liked” could publish to my news feed. I love the Beatles, but I don’t want their press person spamming me every day. If I remove the Beatles from my likes, I can no longer proclaim my love for 60s Merseybeat to the world. If I want to, I have to put up with the ad.

    Obviously ad-supported content and sites is nothing new, but only allowing me to define my interests in terms of how much advertising I can handle from them is pretty disgusting.

  7. I think they do this not just because people are never going to visit it anyway, but, like with other things on FaceBook, they seem to want to make it difficult for users to remove/unlike/get rid of things they don’t want anymore. Displaying a box with 1000 likes gives the impression that that user is extremely active & involved with using FaceBook – so then why make it easy for him to just remove stuff with some simple checkboxes? With the current setup, it’s just too much trouble to do that.

  8. “Liking” a Facebook page does achieve something — it means that future posts to that page appear in your News Feed (unless you hide them). I’ve found out about a handful of album releases and gigs from bands I like (and also “Like”) that way, so I’m personally grateful for the functionality.

    None of which is to disagree with your argument about having a better way to manage “Liked” pages within Facebook itself.

  9. If the design and development team of Facebook don’t seize on the core points made so eloquently in this post, then that would be wasteful, sloppy for users, and a poor example for designers who might look to the Facebook UI as some sort of industry standard. Good points Jeffrey.

  10. Yep agreed. Other gripes if you are trying to add traction to your new brand using facebook. for new brand owners. renaming not of page isnt possible before 25 likes. yes, fine but that loooong url isnt exactly going to help promote my brand is it now. grrrrrrrrr. This and the general UX confusion in sharing with only those who like and those who are perhaps your general users only adds to both liker and likee confusion.ill not convinced it wont be overtaken yet by a dedicated, friendly and usable brand-pages-with-personality upstart. hmmm new idea……

  11. I just noticed that you remove the “Recommend” button from your blog posts. I guess we are all guilty of jumping on the Facebook “like” button bandwagon at some point.

  12. I’m continually flummoxed by how jankily some of the Facebook features behave. Same thing if you create a private group (which you’d think would be private as in “only you can see this,” wouldn’t you?). The only way to delete such an inadvertent social club is to remove every user from it (after you’ve apologized to them for the false alarms), then remove yourself.

  13. It would be nice if the like feature was just a personal tool used to capture specific things that you liked. I don’t use it because it’s just a marketing tool used to ultimately sell you and your friends.

    Also, until I see facebook ‘Liked’ badge counters with around 1000 likes per page, I’m not to impressed with the counter number. Having something that says your page has only been liked 15 times makes the page look insignificant.

  14. I have always disliked Facebook’s “like”. I understand the convenience it can bring to users but find it to have quite an intrusive impact on the web. One company owning the preferences of so many people. I also hate how all these disgusting social widgets break the aesthetics of an otherwise beautiful site.

    I also worry about the movement on recent blogs where they move their comment system to Facebook. Very, very convenient that is, but think of the complications: One company owning all conversations.

    I’m not paranoid about it, just worried how Facebook is impacting the entire web. It is not doing so for you, let that be clear.

  15. Add my voice to those who believe that someone should create a “Designers Hate the ‘Like’ Button” group on Facebook.

    …Delightfully oxymoronic without actually negating itself, isn&squo;t it?

  16. I really must learn how to type. ::SMH::

    In point of fact, I look at Facebook as a big, cynical effort to get eyeballs that’s wildly successful. Why should they care?

    …Though of course, that’s half the point to the second half of your post. You don’t care if they care; you do care if your prospects demand shitty design because they saw a popular implementation of it somewhere else.

  17. These are great examples of poor interaction design. Additionally, Facebook has historically had utterly crap information architecture (i.e. clearly delineated contexts & intuitive/useful connections between them). This is a great example. It’s one of many — though things have been getting somewhat better. (I remember spending about 3 hours once a few years ago trying to figure out the difference between “profile photos” and “galleries”). It’s the same sloppy thinking that leads to debacles like their privacy/identity/exposure controls (contextual confusion: who can see what? where do I go to change that? did Facebook remove walls/doors that used to be there and put in new ones overnight?)
    Argh … it drives me batty. But my kid and wife are on there … so I am too :-)

  18. @graham
    +1000! I don’t ever use the Facebook twitter thing. The Facebook profile thing is much better. Facebook was great back in 2005. If you never use any features they added since then, you won’t ever have any trouble.

  19. It is my understanding that likes are similar to email subscriptions in that you can only easily unsubscribe from them when your newsfeed (home) gets interrupted and you no longer want to be interrupted by that interest/page.

    I totally agree that it is difficult to unsubscribe, but I figured that was the point! Facebook wants you to be interrupted by the things you like so that businesses will create pages and you will visit those pages.

  20. I will “like” things I, well, like. But if whoever runs that particular page gets spammy, I judiciously use the Hide functionality in my stream.

  21. I agree, but these problems are only a small part of all. The main advantage of the site is that it has so many users, that they can’t allow themselves anymore not to be there. So at Facebook they probably think, that no matter what they throw at us now, we’ll have to like it, just because they don’t have competition. It’s more of a state “I own you” than “I allow you”. Although Facebook are doing some cosmetics, I think that they won’t go very far this way.

    Apps are painful to use, especially when they removed the “Boxes” tab, which made some of them unusable (like Visual Bookshelf). You don’t immediately know what is installed on your account and you have no quick way to figure it out. I could only search for existing applications, because I’m stupid enough to not be able to show a long listing of them and choose individually what I want to install – a feature that was still available before. Most Apps think that I’d like to inform my contacts about what I’m doing with them, without even asking me. They ask you for “accept”, but you actually accept everything then. It’s like installing an application that has 3-4 smaller apps to hack you. There are already indications that account information is beeing stolen and sold.

    The “like” button should simply change to “unlike” once you clicked it. But they first want to create ambiguity, making a separate link for “unlike” and then place it so for away from the “like”-button, that it wouldn’t make sense for a person who rarely uses FB to search it down the page. They simply want us to get more and more connected, because that is what Facebook is all about. I read that earlier there was a McDonalds campaign that gave away burgers to people who actually “delete” friends from their contact list. After a while, Facebook probably recognized it as a threat and removed it.

    Can you befriend someone without receiving his posts in the news feed? Well, enough for now.

  22. The logic seems to be that while viewing your public facing profile sidebar items like “Likes”, “Friends”, and “Links” are not for management but rather quick hits / searches. This information is controlled from your “edit profile” area (as I am sure your read here by now). I do not personally feel this is a complete UI blunder, it makes sense, where the mistake is that it is not obvious to the user. In that regard your frustration is justified.

  23. Here here! I actually have a Like that I didn’t like. It was a piece of spam that I clicked on in my feed belonging to someone else. Didn’t know it was spam. And when I go to unlike this page it takes me to a 404 page so I can’t actually unlike it. It’s so frustrating because I don’t want anyone else who views my Likes to click on it and than they won’t be able to remove it. I’ve emailed FB but not had a response yet or the item removed.

    Bad user experience.

  24. Very good article.

    Their ill design might cost them all their hard work. Soon someone will implement a similar site with usability in mind. Also, I think the designers of Facebook are being narrow minded. Many people avoid Facebook completely just because of these design flaws. Hence hindering a lot more its intentions than helping. Just give the users the tools and let them be the judge of what they want to like and unlike easily. Companies would benefit a lot more from the honesty of users than trying to force them into an old obsolete business mindset.

  25. i use like to get news from groups (mostly local bands and community organizations). so while it big for the business side of things, it’s also useful for me.

    that said, i do want a management screen.

  26. Dumping friends is an equally horrific nightmare. I dumped nearly 100 acquaintances in order to reduce the amount of facebook noise, and for each one I had to click through to their profile to do it. It’s like dumping a girlfriend and having to sit there and endure the painful experience of seeing them heartbroken. Alright, that’s a little dramatic. But I wonder if the, “I’ll just be a douche until they unfriend me” technique is the same.

    As mentioned by other commenters, I do believe the user’s goal and facebook’s goal are two very different things. Most users believe it’s about relationships, while facebook is hell bent on world domination. Knowledge is power, and facebook knows more about most people then their parents do.

  27. I really don’t think it’s as easy as some are saying it is to find and remove your Likes by going to your profile settings. First, you have to know that “Edit Profile” is even where that option is. There’s Account Settings, Privacy Settings, Edit Friends (which could mean edit other types of things you’ve done in a “friending” kind of way, such as “liking”), etc. You have to know this before you even know. In other words, not immediately obvious.

    Then, despite the left nav showing an option called “Likes and Interests”, your Likes aren’t shown on the page. Just the manual stuff you fill in for activities you like, books you like, music you like, etc. The only way to see it is if you click on “Show Other Pages”. That’s entirely vague. Why not just show all your Likes on the page to begin with? Or it could still even be a link to show that list but call it something like “Your Likes” instead of “Show Other Pages” — what the heck does that even mean? What pages?

    It’s not entirely intuitive and easy to navigate. It may be relatively easy for a FB regular or a tech blog reading geek like us but I doubt it is to the majority of people out there who are on FB.

  28. Let me start by saying nice post. Im not sure if it has been talked about, but when using Chrome I can never get the entire site to load without refreshing many times. Could just be my computer. Thanks.

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