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Episode #132 Julie Zhuo - Facebook: Data-Informed vs. Data-Driven Design Decisions Live!

April 27, 2011  ·  12 minutes

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Analyzing data is a great way to make design decisions. But when your analytics log contains billions of clicks, how do you distinguish which ones you should use in forming those decisions? Users’ behavior and activity can provide you with great information and insights. But when do you look to that and when do you trust your own instincts? Julie Zhuo discusses Facebook’s design process.

Show Notes

This is a session sample from Julie’s talk at our Philadelphia Web App Masters Tour stop. You can still see Julie at our Seattle Tour stop.

Analyzing data is a great way to make design decisions. But when your analytics log contains billions of clicks, how do you distinguish which ones you should use in forming those decisions? Users’ behavior and activity can provide you with great information and insights. But when do you look to that and when do you trust your own instincts?

Julie Zhuo is the Product Design Manager at Facebook. In her talk at this year’s Web App Masters Tour, Facebook: Data-Informed vs. Data-Driven Design Decisions, Julie discusses Facebook’s design process. The Facebook team uses data to learn about users' pain points and to support their own intuitions.

Facebook’s deactivation page shows you pictures of your friends to encourage you to reconsider.

Julie and her team know there are downsides to being too data-driven. Numbers and metrics can always look good on paper, but they don’t necessarily speak to your users’ emotions about your brand and image. If you’ve implemented a change that, from an analytics standpoint, works and is successful but leaves a bad taste in the mouths of your users, is it really as successful as initially thought?

Facebook faces some unique design challenges. With 600 million users all over the world, it’s impossible to predict how each individual is going interact with Facebook. Implementing a design or functionality change may thrill many users, but it is equally possible that it will disappoint others. They have to balance user interests against network interests, and certain rules need to be in place to encourage the right types of interactions between people.

Ultimately, data and metrics are great for making design decisions, but they’re only part of the process. Especially for a social network like Facebook, there are many other factors that need strong consideration. How you interpret and use that data is especially important. Having a sense of what your team values from certain endeavors will go a long way to helping inform your decisions.