There’s no nimble way to sum up the “ease” with how each service is used. To me, Facebook is becoming a flashy “organized mess” while Google+ tends to have correct placement and flow but disparate, separated functionality which ruins the overall feel of the service. If this showdown were a gun fight, it would be a probable draw at this point in the game. But this doesn’t mean that each service doesn’t have caveats which may appeal to different crowds. Let’s dissect the differences between each and highlight what I like (and dislike) about each.
The New Facebook is Like a Storybook, But Workable
It’s funny to hear myself say “new facebook” since we have gone through these waves of revisions for years now. Ever since 2005, when the first major overhaul hit the service just after it was opened to the public, the Facebook community has been up in arms over each successive change to the interface. It’s now October 2011, and a few weeks have set in since Facebook went through its most recent overhaul. Its users are quite unhappy with the new changes (or so it seems). According to this survey which was conducted recently, 86% of users are disapproving of the new changes. That’s an uphill battle for Facebook – but seeing as a majority users likely see the product as a necessary evil in their lives, they oblige and move forward even if dissatisfied.
What’s being referred to, more specifically, is the addition of the “Timeline” change to profile pages which turns your identity into more of a scrolling history book moreso than a traditional profile page. While this may appeal to some in the audience, a majority seemingly find this intrusive and unwelcoming. The general undertone is that Facebook is catering too heavily to the needs of its advertisers and app developers and not keeping the “common user” in mind.
If you opt to use the new Timeline style on Facebook, you will be greeted with the option to set a large cover photo for your profile, and subsequent other information is displayed in panes along two columns going down the rest of the page. While everything that was available before is still there, much of it was displaced into different spots for sake of clarity according to Facebook. While I personally do not find the changes welcoming, they are a new way to show yourself on the service and should be investigated with some curiosity.
Timeline is the largest new addition, along with a revised and revamped News Feed that straddles the right side of your page (if you choose so). The news feed turns your Facebook into a ticker-like application that gives you up to the minute news on what everyone and anyone on your friends list is up to at the moment. For those with friends who are Facebook “dwellers” most of the day, and subsequently create a lot of updates, this can get overwhelming quickly. Just like a moving stock ticker is hard to follow, this dynamic content area on the right side of the page becomes a bit much. Give it a try however before you dismiss it.
Timeline takes the story of your life, as written on Facebook, and gives you an easy way to both organize and view the content. This change is a double edged sword, to be honest. For those with an interesting Facebook history this feature excellently displays your past with ease, allowing you to zoom in on months or years to see what was posted. Photos, status updates, and all the rest are all stored and displayed with options you can set. This is how Facebook decidedly took the turn of creating a storybook of your life, instead of merely a socially enthralling place to hang out. While I think Timeline is a tad intrusive on the past of one’s life, for those “scrapbooking” types, this may come to be an essential feature which sets it apart from Google+.
The Cleaner Side of Google+, Albeit Young with Room to Grow
Upon first login to Google+ you will see a very clean, minimalistic design that is focused around the content first and foremost. Many, including myself, would consider the design of Google+ more aptly aimed at allowing people to focus on smaller bits of information without the overload that is common of spending some time on Facebook. Status updates, app and game notifications, friend chat messages, etc are all distractions and part of the Facebook experience. As Facebook has compounded the number of avenues available to the average user, so has the complication level risen and general “screen clutter” that comes with such a busy interface.
Google+ takes a different approach. A simple left hand side of the main screen allows you to quickly check out the various “streams” that relate to people who make up the circles on your friends list. As a reminder, a circle represent a grouping of people you know by how you view them in real life. So it would make sense that you would be curious to jump between the various groupings of friends you have to see what they are posting. Google+ allows you to do so with the click of a button. This is nice for circles that tend to be too chatty, or diverge on topics which you aren’t as interested in reading about for longer periods of time greater than, say, a few minutes.
Below your streams is the live chat within Google+ that mimics what you would see on your Gmail Chat. This fluid connection between both chat areas is one of the pluses that comes with using Google’s alternative to Facebook – the integrations and seamlessness between products still exists. You can get notifications for Google+ from the upper right hand side of Gmail’s screen, and your chat friends are the same between both services. This creates an easy environment to ease into if you are new to Google+ but are familiar with Gmail already (which many of us are).
The other facets of Google+ are also welcoming. You can click on Photos to see a nice “thumbnailed” collection of various pictures that have been posted by people in your circles. Your profile page on Google+ is much cleaner than what is seen on Facebook, and resembles the Facebook of pre-2010. Only the important information is shown, along with your most recent posts and +1 activity, with photos that have also been posted. In all this creates a simple one stop shop to share information about yourself without divulging your entire life story as is on the new Facebook.
Two Sides, No Clear Winner
If I had to choose a winner for ease of use between these two products, it would be like placing my flag down in the Coke v Pepsi debate. While one is preferred over the other by the populace, there is no true winner per any reasoned science or otherwise authoritative manner. Preference rules supreme at the end of the day and how you want to approach your social networking experience. While I myself have grown tired of the ever encroaching nature of Facebook’s feel, others may enjoy the fruits that come with such an approach. I recommend you give both services a try before you settle on one, as this will allow you to understand what was meant from my comments above.