A year ago, Facebook announced a new News Feed that was completely redesigned to focus on content–it had large photos, big user icons, better integration with Facebook messenger, and it brought Facebook’s website into closer alignment with its mobile apps. It was beautiful. During the few months I was able to use the new design, my Facebook experience was significantly better. Here’s what it looked like:
That’s Dustin Curtis, back in 2014, in a post titled “Whatever goes up, that’s what we do.” His title refers to how Facebook (supposedly) kill really good designs if they don’t increase engagement. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the idea; if the numbers don’t go up, neither will the design.
I was reminded of the above piece because, announced today, Facebook is shutting down Paper, an alternative to their main iOS app. Here’s Casey Newton, reporting for The Verge:
Facebook is shutting down Paper, a bold reimagining of the company’s flagship app for iOS that impressed critics but failed to attract a large audience, the company said today.
[…] Paper signaled the beginning of a design renaissance at Facebook. The look and feel of the app were orchestrated by Mike Matas, whose design firm Push Pop Press was acquired by Facebook in 2011. Paper was notable for the novel animations it used to guide you through the app — tap on a link and it would unfold like a letter; pull down on the story and it would fold back up, returning you to the feed.
Mr. Matas’ influence in Paper was obvious to anyone who followed his work at Push Pop Press. Each animation and interaction felt intentional. It was one of the most enjoyable apps I’ve every used on iOS. Facebook felt fundamentally different when viewed with Paper.
Back to Mr. Newton, Facebook’s Instant Articles feature (the near-instant loading of news stories that Facebook pre-caches for you) borrows a number of design elements born from Paper. Finally, here’s Facebook:
“Our goal with Paper was to explore new immersive, interactive design elements for reading and interacting with content on Facebook, and we learned how important these elements are in giving people an engaging experience.”
Engaging isn’t the right word; emotional is. Paper was that good.