Regardless of any complaints from developers surrounding the new Facebook platform redesign, many developers are seeing success. Looking at various statistics from sites such as Adonomics and the Facebook Developers Forum, it appears that those apps that are truly integrating the new Integration points that the Facebook Platform provides are truly seeing success with it. Those apps that remain stagnant will see a decline in behavior.
Apps That are Seeing a Decline
Reviewing the apps complaining of the new design and showing declines in their numbers, it appears that many of them aren’t integrating into the new design where they are supposed to. I’ll use my own app as an example. “We’re Catholic!”, one of the religious apps I wrote and run (I also run “We’re Baptist”, “We’re Protestant”, and wrote the app, “The LDS App”) at one point was getting up to 1,000 visits per day (DAU’s, or Daily Active Users) as it was taking off (it is still currently the largest single group of organized Catholics on Facebook). Users began to get used to the Facebook platform, and that leveled it off to about 2-300 DAU’s per day. At launch of the new design, that number has gone down 1-200 DAU’s per day. What’s not being told in this picture is that I have done absolutely nothing to integrate it with the new design due to lack of time. I have no doubt that with a little integration into the user’s profile with a tab, and maybe info section, along with some Feed Forms to give users the option for larger stories to share with their friends from the app, I could very well see my app stats increase to even more than they were before.
Pieces of Flair
This seems to be the issue with some of the apps developers are complaining about. One example pointed out in the Facebook developer forums is the Pieces of Flair app, by RockYou. Looking at Adonomics statistics, it appears on September 4, the week the new design was put in place, Pieces of Flair took a dramatic turn from near 660,000 Daily Active Users down to around 350,000 DAU’s in just a matter of a day. They were stuck there until September 16, where their DAU’s went up to 570,000 in just a day, still far short from the 660,000 DAU’s they used to have. Then, on Sept 18, the DAU’s went back down to around 400,000. Looking at this statistic, it would appear that Pieces of Flair isn’t doing very well, and that the new Facebook Platform redesign is to blame. To know for sure though, you have to look at the timeline of events related to the App.
Facebook Platform Timeline
September 4th, 2008 – New design launches to all
Looking at the history of the new design rollout, the new Facebook redesign was rolled out right on the week of September 4th, which would make the sharp downturn very understandable. At that point users were getting used to the new design and learning where things were.
September 10th, 2008 – Applications link moves
Right around September 10th or 11th it seems Facebook moved the “Applications” menu from the top down to the lower-left panel on Facebook. In addition, users could “bookmark” their favorite apps. Could Pieces of Flair have been one of those users were bookmarking? Other apps were bound to have seen a decrease because of this change.
September 16th, 2008 – Pieces of Flair makes changes
September 16th took some research to figure out. Looking at the forums on the Pieces of Flair About Page, several users started commenting about how it was now possible to add the app’s profile box to their “wall tab”. It’s unclear if they added a specific application tab at that point or not, but there was definitely an increase at that point, and it looks like it may be because of a change put in place to adapt to the new design by Pieces of Flair.
September 17, 2008 – One-line feed stories consolidated
On September 17, Facebook consolidated one-line feed stories that happened frequently for a single user in a day into one item in a user’s news feed. This would have reduced the visibility of some apps that updated frequently, perhaps explaining the slight decrease on the 18th.
Is it a Facebook Problem?
So, analyzing by date, it would appear that the biggest drops for Pieces of Flair may just be that Pieces of Flair wasn’t yet built for the new design when it was rolled out to members. Perhaps the new design isn’t to blame, but rather unpreparedness by developers of apps that are to blame for the decrease in traffic. Facebook announced the new design back in May, and developers have had since then to prepare – it would seem that this is a developer, not Facebook problem.
Apps Seeing an Increase
Regardless of the complaints, there are apps seeing an increase. While names weren’t mentioned, several developers in the Facebook developer forums posted stats that show such. Even Pieces of Flair we see is starting to show a gradual increase since feed stories were implemented.
Some have shown significant increase though. One of the most significant is We’re Related, which went from 180,000 DAU’s to 460,000 DAU’s when the Applications menu was moved, an all-time high for them. It seems the only decrease they ever saw was right after the redesign was launched. Some developers are claiming they’re spammy, but based on the stats in association with the time-line it appears regardless of spammy measures or not, they’re increasing because users like them and are bookmarking them as a favorite – they shot up more than any other on the date Facebook implemented bookmarking. (disclaimer: they were a client of mine and I trained some of their developers and helped design their initial release, so there is some bias there, but the stats do coincide with what I’m saying. I hold no equity in the company.)
Texas HoldEm Poker
Also of note is the Texas HoldEm Poker game. One of the most popular apps on Facebook, it would seem they too have never seen much of a decrease in usage. They too saw a slight drop after the redesign, but, while not as significant as We’re Related, they are definitely higher in DAU’s than ever before.
WaterCooler, Inc. and (lil) Green Patch
Some other Apps to look at are WaterCooler, Inc. (a conglomeration of many smaller apps), and (lil) Green Patch, all which have continued to show an increase, even after the new design. Of course, Facebook’s native apps have also shown significant increase after the new design, but they may be the exception in the fact that they get special promotion by Facebook in areas developers do not have access to, and are default for many people on Facebook.
Reasons for the Increase
As “DesignerMichael” put it in the Developer Forums, “The golden days will return in about a month though by my estimate. Users will finally start getting used to the new platform again by around then… So all is well. smile Just no more ridiculous changes please… Changing the location of bookmarks once a week is not good for apps. lol…”. It appears, based on the common drop amongst all the apps, that the major issue for developers is that users just haven’t gotten used to the new design yet. Assuming Facebook does not put any more changes in place, things will get back to normal.
In a communication via e-mail with Facebook, I was given the following message about the current state of the platform:
“We’ve seen a number of areas with greater engagement and sharing across the site, both on our own applications and on Facebook Platform. Daily and weekly active usage for applications have been on a healthy growth track for the past six months. Since the cut over began, aggregate Platform usage has continued to increase. The apps that have made the greatest effort to take advantage of the new integration opportunities are starting to see the results.”
Facebook is monitoring this. Without their developers, Facebook is not nearly as powerful as they are now. Currently developers are doing the marketing for Facebook and I’m sure Facebook recognizes that. However, it appears that in the end, as we see with the success of those apps that are seeing an increase, that it involves some work on behalf of the developer to happen. Some areas Facebook suggests are bringing more traffic to apps, or have the potential to do so are:
- Deeper integration into the profile
- Greater distribution through feeds
- Easier for users to discover new apps
- More meaningful user engagement
- Customized application tabs
For developers of apps, you can bring your application to even higher Daily Active Users than before by simply finding new ways to integrate with the different points mentioned above. It is very possible to be successful on the new design, and now is the opportunity for new developers to come forth. We’re in a new race for popularity, and those apps that embrace the new features most will see the most success.