Recently, the newest version of Facebook was unveiled, promising more features and ease of use for everyone. For the past several months, I have elected to use the mobile version of Facebook, mainly to avoid all of the clutter and headache that I encounter on the main page. However, many of the features of Facebook are not available on the mobile version, from applications and photo uploading, to the ability to chat with friends who are on-line. I have chosen to miss out on those features for the most part, avoiding the main page whenever possible. When I heard about the redesign, I decided to try it out. After all, maybe they made it a little more user friendly and I could start taking advantage of those features I have been denying myself by sticking to the mobile version.
I went to the main page and wanted to log in. I was eventually successful, but the password edit box was not labeled, so I had to arrow around to make sure I was putting it in the right place. The page seemed just as cluttered to me, headings are there but there are so many that using them to navigate is almost as time consuming as tabbing and using the arrow keys to go through the page content. There are several access keys at the top, but many of them don’t make any sense. Examples of this, “0, Alt+2,” “1, Alt+3,” “5, Alt+4.” It seems as though they are using access keys to get to access keys?
There are a ton of buttons and edit form fields that you cannot tell what they do if you look at them out of context, by listing all available forms and controls on the page. The same goes for links, it is very difficult to get where you want by finding your link in a links list. I tried tabbing through and not using the arrow keys, and it seemed that I was not able to get to the area to type “What’s on your mind,” the tab key only got me to the area just above that edit box at the end of the top frame where it says “most recent.” When you press buttons to add suggested friends or even like something, there is no feedback given as to whether or not you did anything, other than the button now says it is unavailable. Sometimes you can find more information at the bottom of the page, such as a message telling you that someone will have to confirm your request, but you really have to look for it. Also, it seems there is a very important message from Facebook about security settings, but this appears at the bottom of the page, I may have never gotten to it if I hadn’t been looking for something else.
As far as the chat feature, I found it a bit difficult to use. Sometimes I could see who was on line at the time, however it was confusing figuring out who was actually available to chat with. When I activated the chat link, a new window opened, but the edit boxes were not labeled and it was unclear where to start typing and with whom I was about to chat.
I think there are some definite efforts being made by Facebook to make many things accessible on their main page. They have been working with the American Foundation for the Blind for quite some time and have made some great strides. That said, there is still a long way to go. There is an active Accessibility Improvement Group Facebook members can join, where we can have the opportunity to voice our concerns. Personally, I will still choose to use the mobile version for most of my Facebook interactions, simply because I can get the information I want in a condensed fassion. But for the times I wish to interact with the main page, it would be nice to see continued improvements regarding both accessibility and usability.