Hands-on: New Facebook News Feed explored

Facebook has updated the look and feel of its News Feed feature in the hope that it will become the best personalised newspaper you would ever want. As the global roll-out begins, Pocket-lint has been given access to the new feature so we can share what it's like.

The biggest change to the News Feed is the look and feel. The desktop version of the site now replicates the mobile app experience a lot more and that includes a cleaner design that is easier to navigate and use.

If, like most, you use Facebook on your phone or your tablet, you'll immediately appreciate the new look. Stories are created in siloed windows with grey borders separating them from each other rather than following the cluttered design of the version that is live for most people.

There are now three distinct columns too. A grey navigation panel on the left is identical to the mobile app (it collapses to icons when the browser window gets smaller), the News Feed column, and a further column that allows you to customise your feed as well as show you a stack of adverts that you'll probably ignore in the same way most do the right hand column.

The crux of the experience is the middle column with big pictures dominating. If your friends like sharing pictures of their kids then there is now no escaping them. Instagram pictures benefit the most here it seems, really shining in the same way they do on the mobile app - no surprise there, seeing as Facebook owns the social photo sharing service too.

To control the News Feed you now get a powerful controlling box top right, and this allows you to break down the News Feed into sections.

The choices available are News Feed, All Friends, Following, Photos, Games, Music, Most Recent, Acquaintances, Family, Close Friends, Individuals, and Groups you belong to.

They all work in the way you would expect. Music highlights the posts featuring music - in our case when friends have listened to something on Spotify - while Games the highlights games they are playing.

Most Recent, however, details all recent activity whether it’s a friend commenting on another friend's status update, or actually posting a status update themselves. It's probably the one you will use the most as the News Feed default is to show only the top stories. 

Slightly off-putting is Following, which is based on News from pages and people you follow, as well as news from pages similar to the ones you like. Somehow this delivered a stack of status updates that had nothing do to with what we like. Thankfully you can hide them.

Where the News Feed really starts to work is the ability to filter the results quickly and easily into the groups that you want, like Family for instance. 

It's something Microsoft does really well on Windows Phone in the People hub, and Facebook has borrowed that feature and amplified it here really well. We can see the creation of groups, which is very easy to do, something that people will start to focus on very quickly when they get the new feature.

Conclusion

The new features are welcom, and will be welcomed by many. This update aligns the desktop version of the site with the mobile version that has probably become your main port of entry for Facebook anyway.

For once Facebook has made an update that simplifies the experience rather than making it even clumsier to use, and we like that a lot.

The new design will go live over the next couple of weeks. Users that want to get it early can sign up at http://www.facebook.com/about/newsfeed.