Facebook product manager Bubba Murarka on designing for the social Web
Facebook mobile product manager Bubba Murarka
Last night I had the opportunity to hear firsthand how product development occurs at Facebook from mobile product manager Neel (aka Bubba) Murarka.
After today’s announcement today regarding Facebook’s partnership with Skype to bring video conferencing within the site, I am even more excited to share some of the behind-the-scenes insights he gave on product design and usability priorities at the social networking giant.
I am using my MBA/MSIS degree as a springboard to transition from multimedia production to product management and business development. Thus, I am fascinated by discussions such as Murarka’s regarding the crucial collaboration amongst designers, engineers, and product managers in order to effectively develop and reiterate on a product. At Facebook, Murarka noted that there is approximately 1 product manager for every 10 designers, and 1 designer for every
50 engineers10-20 engineers.
Moreover, Facebook does not have a creative director because they push all control down to designers and engineers. This gives them a great deal of freedom and flexibility but also a great deal of responsibility. For example, every engineer has the ability to push code live to every Facebook user in only 60 minutes. This enables them to move fast, which the company prides.
Whether they make a small change on the site (such as changing a period to an exclamation mark) or a large change (such as the newsfeed), they first conduct a series of tests by deploying up to 50 iterations of a change to less than one percent of Facebook users from anywhere to one hour to one day. Then, they revert back to the old version and analyze data across the different groups to determine how each design change affects user interaction on the site.
Murarka said that Facebook has design hypotheses rather than rules, since design principles can (and arguably should) change over time. Currently, they work according to four hypotheses:
1. Be there, start to ship.
2. Share early and share often.
3. Get your hands dirty.
4. Don’t fall in love.
Coinciding with these priorities, they want each of their employees to be independent rather than relying on others on their team, so they look for web designers who can code and print designers who can use a printing press, for example.
When discussing global strategy and how product design must change depending on the user base, Murarka noted that Japanese users were not satisfied with the traditional profile options and wanted to list their blood type as a way to identify themselves. Moreover, he said that CEO Mark Zuckerberg is so focused on entering China that he has made it his personal goal to learn Mandarin, which he practices for one hour each day.
Regardless of business strategy, he said that user experience trumps all decisions regarding product development.
Murarka praised HTML5, CSS3 and WebGL as solutions to “the mess” of concurrently designing for the PC browser, tablet screen and mobile phone. He said that he believes these technologies will spearhead an interactive development shift that will push interaction capabilities beyond what is currently capable. I, for one, hope he’s right because I can’t wait to be a part of it!
A big thanks to the North Carolina Triangle chapter of the Usability Professionals’ Association for hosting Murarka.
To learn more about Murarka, check out his profile on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, and bookmark his blog (in case he starts blogging again, cough cough).
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Tags: Bubba Murarka, design, Facebook, mobile strategy, Neel Murarka, product management, programming, TRIUPA, usability, user interface design, ux design