The effect is, to say the least, subtle.
Kind of puts you in mind of those old "spot the differences" puzzles from a kid's magazine, doesn't it? There are really just two major changes to the new design. Now, updates are set off from the background of the page by making them look like white cards against a gray surface. Also, updates also appear a hair lower than they used to, giving the effect that a user's name and profile picture are grouped together as a header, and the picture and caption are their own group as the content. The font is also slightly different, with the aim at making the site more readable.
Unlike past overhauls, where Facebook changed how users navigated the entire site -- or even the one where it added the news feed itself -- this redesign may seem hardly worth a mention.
Yet this redesign is notable, when looking at the long view. For one, it comes in place of a previously planned overhaul that the company announced last year but never fully deployed. That look was a bit more drastic, with the aim of completely unifying the look of Facebook's products across desktop and mobile screens.
That design change was also supposed to hit screens within "the coming weeks." But very few people ever got it, because early users began telling Facebook that the bolder redesign was just too much.
" People who tested it told us that they liked the bigger photos and images, but found it more difficult to navigate Facebook overall," the company said in an official blog post explaining the changes. So Facebook changed its plans.
As the company notes, some changes from the failed experiment are staying. It's no mistake, for example, that the more prominent pictures are the major focus of both redesigns. Pictures have always been a central part of Facebook use -- even more so since its acquisition of Instagram -- and it makes sense to have images loom large no matter the size of the screen you're using to see your news feed.
Plus, the aim to get a more consistent look for the site whether you're looking at a smartphone or a tablet is still in play. While nothing is changing about the way Facebook currently looks on its mobile site, the white cards in the new design do mirror the look of Facebook's latest app, Paper, which has won rave reviews from design critics for its look and usability. While we may not see the whole desktop site flip over to the more horizontal layout of Paper, this change signals that the company is looking to that design success to inform the way it lays out its main site as well.
The changes, while small, do help make the site cleaner and easier to read --usability tweaks that are particularly important for the social network as it expands its reach with older users who haven't grown up navigating the company's sometimes messy tweaks and may not be as forgiving when they can't figure out how to get to a certain menu.
And, for once, the site didn't get excoriated by users for the changes. There were even some compliments.
"More focus, more presence, well done!" wrote one commenter on the company's post.
Sure, there were also some complaints about the changes -- ranging from those who wanted the layout last year to those who want the site to look like it did a few years ago -- but there was nothing like that quick, fierce backlashes we've seen in the past.
That, alone, is worth comment.