Lessons You Can Learn From Facebook About Website Design

Facebook Like buttonWhen was the last time you took the time to evaluate your website design to see if it needs refreshing?

Does it still meet the needs of your audience, or is it still designed for the business you had before it evolved into the business you’re in now?

The Little Things Count

In her TED Talk (below), Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s director of product design, describes how important even the little things are in designing sites like Facebook and YouTube with their billions of users.

The massive scale of their audiences presents unprecedented design challenges in creating what she calls “digital experiences.” What she says are lessons for all of us who are trying to attract visitors to our websites. Excellent content is essential, but design is vitally important, too.

We don’t face the challenges on the scale of Facebook, but it is important where we place our subscription and search boxes.

And it annoys and amazes me when I’ve wandered into a site to look around that the navigation bar will not have a Home tab to take me back to where I started. That happens more often than you might think.

Facebook’s “Like” Button

Stewart gave an example of a “little thing” that Facebook needed to fix: it’s iconic “Like” button. She said, “The button had kind of gotten out of sync with the evolution of our brand and it needed to be modernized.”

I don’t know about you but I don’t think I even recognized the change. But that was a “little thing” that Facebook felt was important because, “this innocent little button is seen on average 22 billion times a day and on over 7.5 million websites,” she said.

The World on Smart Phones

Those of who live in developed countries take access to electricity for granted. We rage at a temporary loss of our lights during an electrical storm.

Facebook recognizes that millions of people around the world live where there is no electricity, free press, or access to public libraries. The company understands that it will have to design for “low-end cell phones,” said Stewart. “It is not glamorous design work, but if you want to design for the whole world, you have to design for where people are, and not where you are.”

Getting back to the design of our own websites, is yours designed for mobile viewing? That’s where our audience is increasingly accessing our sites. Is the most important information “above the fold” for viewing on laptops? Is your site on a dated WordPress template?

I’ve decided that mine is and needs tweaking. I’m glad I watched Stewart’s TED Talk. If a giant like Facebook sweats over the design of a little “Like” button, then shame on us if we can’t put the same effort into the design of our websites.

Leave a Reply


  1. Hi Jeannette,

    You are totally right about Facebook. And I think everyday about the design of my website and soon I will fix it.:)

    As you have mentioned there are many places where electricity is not enough. Many people face problem regarding energy. People wish to use Facebook in their no-smart phone. Similarly bloggers need to make their blog mobile friendly so that people can open it in their mobiles.

    Twitter has become mobile friendly and millions of users have added to it.

    Bloggers should learn many lesson from these websites. A post worthy to read. 😉

    Have a great week.:)


    • Ravi — Thanks and I agree, bloggers need to make their blogs mobile friendly, either through the responsive design of their template or through a third-party host such as Duda Mobile.

  2. Wow, a hidden Home tab? I can’t say I’ve ever seen that one Jeannette. Is there a rule of thumb for a time line to reassess your blog/website? I’m asking because last year mine was updated in design, including for being a “responsive” and ready for mobile design.

    As always, helpful.

  3. You are correct about this; the little things do matter so much. I also am one who has not redesigned my website in a while. It is time to do it now. Thanks for sharing.

  4. You are correct about this; the little things do matter so much. I also am one who has not redesigned my website in a while. It is time to do it now. Thanks for sharing.

  5. The evolution of a website is like keeping the garden in check. You may want the best lawn on the block but that means you have to maintain and upgrade it. Tweak for better or for worse, trial and error. I did notice when FB changed the Like button and thought it was an improvement over the old outdated one. To be honest though, I didn’t realize it was outdated until the new one came along. That is often the case I think.

    • Tim — I love the analogy of a website and a garden. It’s so true. You can’t neglect either. Well, I didn’t notice the new Facebook Like button. You’re very observant!

  6. This was a very informative TED talk. We do get comfortable in the same old shoes, yes? Because I am having so many website issues at this particular time, I have really been looking at it!!! It does need a tweak or two…but it took a calamity for me to really see it:)

    • Jacquie — Ugh. No one wants a calamity to force a website makeover for sure. I hope everything is working now!

  7. Hi Jeannette,

    It’s always the little things that get us. Right?

    When I work on a design for a client I always have a couple of things in mind starting with:

    1. Do you “really” know what business you are in and do your prospects know as well?
    2. Do you “really” know the problems you solve for your prospects and customers?
    3. Do you know who you solve them for?
    4. What is the purpose of your site? Marketing, information, education, e-commerce, a blend?
    5. Site structure and organization within a responsive grid for all browsers (desktop, tablet, and phone)
    6. Logo and color pallete
    7. Layout based on all previous information
    8. Sitemap – knowing the navigation and how pages relate to one another
    9. Properly messaged and simple look on all pages so that in a second your audience knows how you help them or meet their need for being on your site.

    There is more to it than that, but the point is that there is a lot that goes into it from both a conscious and subconscious point of view to help make the site clean, easy and relevant. So, it’s more than just a button, it’s about a branded experience. I hope that makes sense?

    I hope you have a great week Jeannette!

    ~ Don Purdum

  8. Hi Jeanette, All good points you make. I’m in the midst of a website redesign now. But will definitely watch Stewart’s TED Talk to see if there are other things I need to keep in mind while I am still in the process. It’s amazing how much those little things matter!

    • Susan — I love your website now — all those wonderful illustrations — so can’t wait to see how you’re going to change it. Little things do matter. I’m undertaking that process now — overdue.

  9. It’s so easy to “set it and forget it” but I have a webmaster who watches after my site for me. It is a current WP theme and I do stress over the little things on it. I think it is easy for us social media people who are online all day – but surprisingly not on our website to remember that the goal of social media marketing is to direct folks back to our site, so it has to stay fresh. It’s not a static kind of thing anymore. With that being said, now I have to go and look at mine again!

    • Laurie — I’m in the process of refreshing mine, too. I was in “set it and forget it” mode for too long. It’s sort of exciting to start over!

  10. I’m always intimidated when I think about all the design that goes into huge sites like FB. And then there’s little old me, with no marketing or graphic design background, trying to make the best decisions I can with the little information I have. And I agree with you about the “home” button on the menu bar. That should be standard!

    • Meredith — I’m have to admit a dark secret. I don’t have much design sense either. When I was a kid in school during art class if we were asked to draw a picture, mine would show a horse standing next to a house and they were the same size. I leave design to the people who have the talent.

  11. I actually make a blogging rubric to help with blog critiques in a group I belong too. The skills needed to objectively evaluate one’s one work do take time to develop, and have led to people often calling me a perfectionist. I beg to differ though 😉 I just take a big picture view that can be way more time-consuming…

    • Jeri — great idea to belong to a group that offer critiques about your blog. It’s hard to evaluate it yourself because you’re so close to it.

  12. Hi Jeannette; I can understand site owners making improvements to help their customers and clients use their websites, but I find far too often that facebook and many others will make changes just to make changes. as a blind computer user its far easier for me if they can keep things in the same place for longer periods of time. I find it interesting that they will design versions of their sites for people with no high tech infrastructure but won’t expend similar effort for the visually impaired. thanks for reminding us to keep our sites up to date. Take care, Max

    • Max — I also find it annoying when a company changes a website and it’s not for the better. PayPal just did a total overhaul and I haven’t figured it out yet!

      • glad we agree on that. I never have been much of a fan of pay pal’s site. I can just barely pay someone if they send me an invoice. But if I have to send someone money all on my own, I take the aspirin before i start. 🙂 and in my opinion the recent changes to groups and email notifications on linkedin were not for the better either. One thing I’m very happy to keep hearing is that the wordpress version of the new site works better for people. I made the move out of a believed necessity, but that wouldn’t have excused me from having a bad site after the move. by the way i just replaced feed burner with aweber on my site and am asking my friends to tell me how I did. glad its not just us blind users who hate some of these updates. take care, max

  13. It seems to me that no matter how much we tweak our websites, we’re never happy, because we always land on someone else’s whose seem nicer, brighter, more organized, etc… right?

    I think it is a good idea to be constantly improving, though. 🙂

    And it’s pretty hard to compete with geniuses like Zuckerberg. 😉

    • Lorraine — I feel we just can’t keep comparing ourselves to others. It will drive us crazy. Improve, yes. Change because someone else is doing it better (you think), no!

  14. I am still in the process of completing my site and have bookmarked this post to refer to as I’m working my way through. thanks.

  15. Wow, I added a home button as soon as I read this. I feel so stupid! You are very right in this post. We should evaluate ourselves through others like Facebook. The wealth of info we can gather from places like TED is immeasurable. Definitely sharing this!

  16. Jeannette,
    That was an excellent TED talk. I have known for a long time that my website design is doing me a disservice. It’s an old theme and is not responsive. To make matters worse, I have yet to work with a professional graphic designer to create a logo and brand for KeepUpWeb. It’s way past the time that I should have done this. Thanks for the nudge.

    • Sherryl — as I wrote to you I’m trying an online crowd-sourcing design site. Sent in my criteria today. I’ll keep you posted about the design submissions I received. I’m thinking of this as an adventure, and like you, overdue.