The user should always come first – Facebook Developer Garage February

Conventions, meetups and ‘garages’ are becoming as common in developer diary as they were in the diary of Panini enthusisasts back when Premier League football sticker collecting was at its most fever pitch.

Events such as the ‘Facebook Developer Garage’ bring together evangelists who utilise the Facebook platform on a daily basis and ask them to share their knowledge with developers, designers, project managers and entrepreneurs (there were multiple ‘my name is’ stickers for the field you were in). Every month, this social group of people get together to discuss the Facebook platform, be it app development or future functionality, whilst indulging in Pizza and alcohol put on by one of the many sponsors.

Do you know what YAHOO stands for?

The general structure of the night consists of opportunities to network and to watch talks by specially invited speakers, so there is a perfect mix of standing awkwardly in large rooms like it’s school prom and listening to talks. Hosted by Todd Chaffee, the talks cover all bases from ‘What’s new in the world of Facebook’ to more open talks by members of the audience but there seemed to be a running theme.

Central to this months chatting was that the ‘user should always come first’, a term that the majority of developers at the event stand to. Lead Flash developer (don’t hold it against him) Gavin Clark from Specialmoves highlights this fact perfectly during his talk on how to create an interactive social medium for Facebook.

Interaction with the User

Utilising the Facebook platform, Gavin’s team were able to tailor a unique experience for every individual using their app. Similar to Take this Lollipop and other such mediums, Specialmoves were commissioned to make on for the WWE, the Wrestling corporation, not the animal charity.

It was here that he highlighted the rich experience of the piece, the user interaction, and the ability to become ‘Part of Wrestlemania’ through utilising Facebook data (Profile Pictures and Names). The personal involvement aspect of the piece really accentuated the users enjoyment, so much so that they were critical that their experience was not recorded.

WWE Facebook

Guest speaker Roshan Singh continued this ideal perfectly during his talk on ‘Social design in Facebook Apps’ by stating that when creating for Facebook, you need to make sure that you give the community a platform on which to do something that they already participate in. This may sound like an absolutely pointless activity as the userbase are coping fine without your additional functionality, but that’s what Facebook has built it’s prime features on. Take the ‘Lost Phone Numbers’ case study for example.

Lost Phone Number theory by Adam Roche

This is not a real theory but a paragraph to highlight how Facebook has made certain platforms available for us to use that have either helped or sped up a process that we were using the system for in the process. In the early stages of Facebook’s timeline, groups were used to gather information when one had lost its phone number.

Groups popped up daily after being created by lost souls who had misplaced their phone whilst out clubbing, dog walking or whatever activity could cause them to lose their phone.

Originally, the group title shouted out the fact that ‘Barry has lost his phone, numbers pls’ or ‘Ooops did it again, comment your numbers pls’ but over the past few years, Facebook introduced functionality to support this usage of groups. The option to create a custom group type for lost phone numbers and the integration of Facebook to majority of phonebooks allows numbers to be directly uploaded to your Facebook contact list. There is also the option to use a back up of all of your Facebook friends phone numbers. A pretty nifty way to utilise a function that the platform was being used for and make it better.

Overall

What the user needs or what the user wants should always come first. If my first experience at a Facebook is anything to go by, the value of your fans and how you communicate with them is integral to the growth of your business. Make one wrong move ( Nestlé ) and your fans will turn on you; But the only difference between now and protests of old, is that it only takes 5 seconds to make your point.

P.S. YAHOO stands for Yet Another Hit Orientated Oracle