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Hands-On with Facebook's Customizable News Feed: Better UI, Bigger Pictures

Facebook is getting a new design, again. This time the social networking giant has updated the aging News Feed's look and feel, for the better. Never fear, there aren't any alterations to your privacy settings to worry about, and the new design won't cause massive confusion. In general, it is cleaner and easier to navigate with some clever new features. 

While the new design isn't open to everyone yet, you can sign up to be among the first by going to We were lucky enough to get in early. We spent some time with our new News Feed and were most pleased with its greater focus on images and new sortability.

As Facebook promised at the announcement, the redesigned News Feed is less cluttered and oddly Google+-like. Functionally, we were very happy to see the left rail of navigation borrowed from the iOS app version of Facebook. This bar will be rolled out to every version of the network, so the navigation will be consistent across all iterations (Android, iOS, desktop). 

Another key to the new design and functionality is the ability to sort updates by source. On the top right of the screen sits a drop-down menu that expands to show a variety of sortable feeds. All of these lists are now organized by chronological order, as opposed to the previous logic of what Facebook thought you would think most important. Among the options you can now sort status updates by all friends, close friends, brands/pages you follow or by your common interests with friends. 

One feature we were most happy to see in the redesign is the dedicated Photo feed. It's back after going to the grave several design versions ago and brings you a constant visual flow of the photos being shared among your friends. The photos themselves are also bigger and, generally speaking, square, which matches up with Facebook's Instagram partnership. The bigger pictures may also clear the way for bigger ads to appear in your feed in the future, but since you can sort out what you don't want to read, we don't anticipate this being a huge problem. 

When you're in a specialized feed, such as Music or Games or Family, Facebook automatically selects a photo from your library and crops it to create the background for the banner at the top of the page. We wish we could customize and crop that image so it didn't seem so random. However, you can click on it to open the image, if it picks up a photo you'd forgotten about or if you can't quite make out what's happening in the pic.

Another feature we enjoyed were the compilations of similar content that Facebook does for you in the new design. For instance, if two people share the same link, it only appears once in your feed. Those people's thumbnail photos will both appear stacked on top of each other to the left of the link. You can hover over each to see what they had to say about the link. Also, when you hover over a thumbnail image of a person, whether it's to the left of a post or within the comments, a pop-up will tell you a bit about that person, such as what friends you have in common and what their cover photo looks like. 

Also, in the compilation vein, if you follow a media source such as, Facebook will periodically offer up a list of recently shared or most popular links from that source. 

Overall we are excited by the visually-appealing new design, and we anticipate you will be too.