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Octofeed

Facebook's muddled newsfeed gets a user interface overhaul

by James Thorne in Tech on 06 June 2012

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In an era of digital minimalism, even some user interface designers scratch their heads when looking at Facebook's maximalist approach. The newsfeed has become a cluttered mix of content that's challenging for even the most savvy user to digest. For those wanting a more simplified experience, Daniel Chin-Yee and Jennifer Puno have created Octofeed, a website that pulls and arranges content from the Facebook newsfeed. The result is a content-focused, simple and beautiful answer to the social media overload.

Chin-Yee, a independent programmer, began playing around with Facebook's feed in what was initially little more than an experiment. The program he developed was then perfected on the front end by his wife Puno, an accomplished UI designer from the video game world. "I'm not a style guy. I'm not a visual designer," explains Chin-Yee. "I come from development—she wants to make things look good."

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At first glance, users will notice that the size images and video in the two-column view is significantly larger than in the newsfeed. Recognizing that one crop doesn't fit all, Chin-Yee decided to leave all images at their original dimensions, with coding to scale content to different browser widths. Video content is looped and autoplays when scrolled into view, ceasing to load when it leaves the window. The act of clicking is eliminated wherever possible. Chin-Yee explains that one of the most frustrating elements of Facebook's feed is the need to click in order to play video and see full images. Left to his own devices, these annoyances disappear.

Appearance-wise, bold blocks and large text dominate the screen. Neon contrast highlights add a bit of style without going overboard. Another fun detail is the "Like-ning" bolt button, which allows users to "like" comments and posts directly from Octofeed.

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While feed aggregators and readers are in abundance, the best examples of these are in the app world, where developers have a chance to see profitable returns on their efforts. Feed readers also tend to focus on either images or video—losing helpful text in the process. Octofeed pulls all the content from the newsfeed, simply reworking the interaction and appearance.

While Octofeed remains a passion project, the couple continue to build improvements into the site on a weekly basis. There are still a few kinks to work out, and it would be great to see more options for sharing content to your own wall through Octofeed. That said, the user end is already close to seamless and ready for your scrolling pleasure.

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