Facebook Sheds Light on Mobile Design Principles, Tips New Analytics Tools

As Margaret Gould Stewart explains it, when it comes to mobile ad experiences, Facebook views user sentiment and trust the same way it might look at a natural resource: don't use it up.

At the TAP Conference today, Gould Stewart, VP of Product Design at Facebook, laid out how the social network thinks about mobile product design as a balance between the short- and long-term advertising and e-commerce needs of Facebook's 1.7 billion users and 4 million active advertisers.

Facebook also released new app analytics tools for businesses and developers this week, expanding cross-platform metrics across desktop and mobile.

"The way connections are made between businesses and people is rapidly changing," said Gould Stewart. "What if we approached our work in advertising through as lens of sustainability? What would sustainable advertising look like? What if we look at people's trust as a non-renewable resource?"

Gould Stewart, a YouTube and Google alum, said Facebook's view of the mobile app economy is shaped by the knowledge that most mobile users around the world access the Internet on 2G connections and basic feature phones. Through that lens, Facebook's three primary design principles for ads, commerce, and mobile functionality are: design for people where they are; design not just for people, but with people; and design with respect for all.

While the principles are undeniably cheesy, they are evident in the products and features Facebook has built and rolled out.

Facebook LiteFacebook Lite is a pared-down Android app designed for 2G networks. It uses less data than Facebook's main app, with a focus on basic updates and sharing, friends and groups, and photos and notifications.

"We need to be clued into the local realities and not the ways in which we live," said Gould Stewart. "Facebook Lite is used by more than 100 million users globally, in huge markets Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, and Indonesia."

Slideshow Along the same lines, Slideshow is a different kind of video ad for basic smartphone markets, allowing businesses to take an existing video or static asset and stitch still images together into a slideshow element. Gould Stewart explained that for advertisers and users, the feature brings motion and dynamic ads to phones that don't usually have that kind of content capability.

Safety Check To illustrate the second design principle, Gould Stewart pointed to Facebook Safety Check, which emerged from a use case the company never expressly set out to enable.

She explained it using the concept of a desire path, or when foot traffic creates a more efficient route cutting around or through a planned pathway. Safety Check, she said, is an example of Facebook observing a desire path in its digital experience and building a feature around it.

"We observe how people and businesses use what we put out into the world. Most great tech innovations didn't set out to solve the problem they set out to address," said Gould Stewart. "We are not the sole designers of Facebook. You're all designing Facebook when you're using it.

"Software is even more malleable than Play-Doh, and when it's done right, it's this organic living thing that can constantly iterate and morph," she added. "Twitter didn't invent hashtags; that's something the community created to improve discoverability. Facebook wasn't invented as the world's most powerful happy birthday engine. People showed us that stuff. Safety Check is a product the community came up with, and we helped bring to market on their behalf."

Ad Preferences On the third design principle, Gould Stewart brought it back to the non-renewable resources analogy. In the case of something like Ad Preferences control for mobile news feeds, Gould Stewart said it's about creating a sense of controlled transparency where you're not bombarding the user with ads they don't want to see.

"Instead of unbridled access by businesses, what if technology empowered people to design their own experiences and control the experience they want to have? Consumers are increasingly empowered, with access to media on demand and choosing what apps to engage with. They expect value, transparency, and control," said Gould Stewart.

"The best breakthroughs come when we understand and respect people's wants," she added. "For the businesses of the world, you don't want to waste resources showing impressions to people who are antagonistic toward that topic. That's why millions of people have used this ad preference tool."

Cross-Platform, CRM-Integrated App Analytics Facebook also rolled out new Analytics for Apps features this week that expand what businesses and developers can glean from app experiences behind the scenes, particularly on mobile. A newly available beta of the free analytics tool adds support for cross-platform metrics and Web measurement

Facebook's cross-platform metrics are geared toward tracking customer behavior across multiple devices and platforms all in one dashboard, Josh Twist, Product Manager for Facebook Analytics for Apps, wrote in a blog post. According to Facebook, its analytics tool suite has been used by more than 800,000 unique apps since launching at its F8 developer conference in 2015.

The announcement also came with a couple other new features, the most interesting of which is a new metric in Facebook's Sharing Insights that tracks how frequently a link from your site is shared on Facebook, measured against all content published in the past five to 10 hours. From there, app marketers and developers using the platform can now create a Custom Audience of targeted users who've shared specific site content on Facebook.

For another layer of software-as-a-service (SaaS) integration for businesses, a new feature called user properties lets users integrate online and offline customer data. More importantly, this means you can combine and filter data from Facebook and mobile apps synced with existing customer and lead data from customer relationship management (CRM) software.

"Once you integrate your CRM data, you'll be able to filter customer activity based on the characteristics of people who have a certain status in your system, such as those people who are in your 'gold-tier' loyalty program or for people who were acquired via different ad networks. This helps you understand the lifetime value of your acquisition strategy," wrote Twist.

While the new analytics features aren't groundbreaking, the release adds more commerce and social-driven app intelligence on top of the platform while hooking into CRM, and gives businesses and developers better visibility into how their apps and content hosted on Facebook are actually performing. Given the recent revelation of Facebook's massively over-inflated video ad viewing stats, some more transparency for app developers isn't a bad thing.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.