In many respects FB is un-designed. If I had to rate its usability, I’d give it a 6 out of 10.

I regularly find many aspects of Facebook frustratingly hard to use. Important controls are hidden (the Create New Message button often disappears off the right side of the page), getting to some locations involves unintuitive/unobvious links (to see my own photos, I need to click on my own photo first; none of the visible conceptually undifferentiated photo links go to my photos), and context changes (am I looking at statuses or a wall? Are these private or public posts?) are never obvious enough for my liking.

And yet the un-designed interface flaw is massively overcome by the critical mass of people on Facebook. The social stuff is what keeps people plugging on at the crappy user interface. And once they are used to it, by rote learning the unintuitive operational steps, the flaw becomes as a lock-in, as every other alternative would seem alien and different!

How much is this brilliant combination of factors intentional? Not sure… in a way, life is good like that! Although how that helps us move away from mediocrity is another matter.

The evolution of Windows is similar to this in a way. Windows 98 required more mouse clicks to accomplish tasks than MacOS 8. The distinction between when to use single- versus double- clicks were muddy. I actually did a direct comparison during my switch from Mac to Windows. (I still switched nonetheless as I was fed up with Apple’s BS over quality and customer support and no longer wanted to be held to ransom.)

And now that I am used to all the extra mouse clicks and the inconsistent single- double-clicks, I don’t notice them anymore. And I expect each new version of Windows to be broadly similar to 98. And playing on other OSes just feels weird and wrong. I am not surprised that the German government is switching back from Linux to Windows because people could not get used to Linux; especially if they have a Windows machine at home.

This post was inspired by an email conversation with Natalie Shell.