As you’ve probably heard (or even seen) by now, Facebook is rolling out a new News Feed to its users. The company last night unveiled the redesigned feed, which now provides a more visually immersive experience.

Consistent across platforms

Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg was quick to point out that the new look is geared for a more mobile world. Facebook will now look the same on both PCs and smartphones, as all the features and UI are consistent irrespective of which device you use. The updated app will hit iOS before the Google Play Store.

The company apparently studied how Facebook is used on different platforms and has designed the apps with that in mind. Facebook said PC users tend to spend a lot more time going through their feeds than smartphone users, so the mobile app is a lot more condensed and now shows you more information on a smaller screen. The PC experience, on the other hand, is sparse and more spaced out. It allows greater play for every update and bigger pictures help them stand out.

Consistent UI across different devices

A consistent UI across devices

Focus on visuals
Make no mistake, this is a big redesign for Facebook. Many people, including us in our live blog yesterday, said it looks like it was inspired by Google+. There influence is very apparent in the way Facebook wants us to see the pictures related to posts.

Pictures are now bigger—double the size, in fact—than they were earlier. Facebook says the reason behind the emphasis on bigger pictures is the fact that people are sharing more photos than ever before. About 50 percent of the posts shared have a picture or a video to go along with it, the company said.

Not only pictures, but the way you see posts also seems to be inspired by the rival social network. Users now see larger profile pictures of their friends, along with their posts. The News Feed also shows bigger profile pictures of people who have liked and/or commented on posts.

Photos are now much bigger

Pictures in posts are now much bigger

A brand new UI

There are surprises in the overall layout too. Facebook has done away with the  navigation bar on the left, which took you to events, photos and games. Instead, the News Feed takes up the main space on your browser window. The interface has been scrubbed clean so that all the links, sections and apps you use look cleaner; everything else is tucked away in a sidebar. This sidebar is located on the left edge of the window and is accessible from every page on Facebook, limiting your need to jump to the home screen every time you want to navigate to a new section.

When multiple people share something, hovering over their profile icons on will display their comments on the link. In addition, when a friend adds a new buddy, you will see a more detailed entry on the News Feed, complete with your friend’s cover picture, and the friends you have in common with whoever they have become friends with.

Users won’t have to scroll back up to check new updates either. Facebook has introduced toast notifications to alert you of new updates. Clicking on the toast takes you straight to the top. It’s an elegant solution and one that was sorely needed.

A shared video will now look like this

A shared video will now look like this

Facebook, your personalised newspaper
One of the catchphrases that Zuckerberg and Co used to describe the new News Feed experience was that of a “personalised newspaper,” which seems to be a major focus for the company with the refresh. A major design focus is now on providing bigger pictures and front-and-centre placement for the publications whose articles you recommend, share or post. The idea is to give publications a wider stage.

Links published by newspapers and magazines will get more play, including longer summaries of the article and a larger type for the headline. Facebook will also pull the logo or image of the publication whose articles you are seeing. “We want updates from our friends, but we also want updates from publications,” Zuckerberg said.

Bigger stage for third-party content
Third-party content is set to be featured more prominently in the News Feed. For example, if you are a Pinterest fan, your ‘Pins’ and ‘Boards’ will get a bigger space on the News Feed. The same will be the case for other apps that can leverage Facebook sharing.

Check-ins will no longer be plain and boring and Facebook will instead pull up location data to plot the check-in on a map.

The updated look of some of the News Feed elements

The updated look of some of the News Feed elements

Friends, Photos, Music, Following – The 'other' feeds

Facebook also introduced several new filter feeds for users to explore in addition to the News Feed. The All Friends feed shows you everything your friends are sharing and does not pull in updates from news sources like the News Feed does. Users will see quite a lot of updates from friends who they interact with the most.

The Photos feed has nothing but photos from your friends and your Pages. The company has also improved the album view with a better looking interface and, once again, bigger pictures. Navigation is simpler and the thumbnails line up below the bigger main picture. You no longer have to guess what the next picture in the album is.

The Music feed pulls posts from your favourite artists, songs you share on your wall, the latest news from the world of music, concerts around you, and of course the music you and your friends listen to. For example, if you like Arcade Fire, you will see all the news and updates about the band. This feed is also where you will see recommendations from your friends and what they are listening to. It will also show updates from third-party music apps your friends are using. For instance, if a friend has added a new album or artist to their Spotify list, Facebook will let you know. It also means tighter integration with services like Rdio. Of course, Indian users will not be able to stream music using the Spotify integration yet, but elsewhere, Facebook will be pulling data like the currently playing track and album info when friends use the Spotify app.

The Following feed looks like it will compete with Twitter. It pulls the latest news from the Pages you like, besides brands and public figures you follow. These updates will be chronological, which is why the Twitter comparison cropped up.

One feature of the Music Feed

One feature of the Music Feed

Besides these, you have feeds for your close friends and Games, two features that were also present in the older interface. All these filter feeds are located on the top bar and their order is automatically rearranged depending on which feed you visit most. So if you are a music nut, your Music feed will automatically be placed higher in the drop-down menu.

The new Facebook News Feed is certainly eye-catching and may be a step in the right direction. It surely was in need of some spit and polish, and the clutter definitely had to be done away with. Zuckerberg and team have managed to do just that and make the whole experience more visual. And I have a confession: I joined the queue for the roll-out as soon as the link went live and am looking forward to taking it on a test drive when it comes through. As for now, we will just gawk at the publicity stills.

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