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Facebook updates its Help Center

Facebook this week unveiled a major revamp of its Help Center, offering its almost 1 billion members a faster and less confusing way to answer many of their social network-related questions. While the Help Center has been around since 2007, Facebook has constantly drawn criticism for the fragmented nature of its support services, particularly when it comes to issues of security and privacy.

The bulk of the new Help Center home page is taken up with six different colored icons, which vary depending on whether you are signed in to Facebook or not. For example, casual visitors who might not have a Facebook account are offered “Get Help Logging In” or “Create an Account,” while those visiting the Help Center from their own Facebook page will see topics such as “Learn the Privacy Basics” and “See What’s New on Facebook.”

Interestingly, both versions of the home page include a “Learn More About Timeline” icon, perhaps reflecting the continuing confusion over the Timeline format, which was introduced last year and is currently being imposed on all Facebook accounts despite considerable opposition.

The home page also includes a menu list of other topics, including “Get Started,” “Security,” “Privacy” and “Facebook Mobile.” There are also links to the most frequently asked questions (“What is Facebook Timeline?”) and more tips and updates on privacy and mobile issues.

The idea behind the new Help Center is to not only consolidate all the help resources in one place but also to allow members to find help faster, so they can “get back to connecting and sharing” as a Facebook blog post puts it. Whereas before it could take five clicks or more to find an answer to a question, the hope now is that users will get there in three clicks or less.

Despite all the icons and the menu list, perhaps the simplest way to get information is through the personalized search bar that appears at the top of every page in the Help Center. For example, entering the phrase “untagging photos” will produce a dropdown list of the six most frequently asked questions (FAQs) on that topic, with one-click access to the rest. And this time Facebook can’t be accused of being deliberately unhelpful or evasive: the six FAQs that came up after a search for “unfriending” includes a link to “How do I permanently delete my account?”

At the same time that they unveiled the redesigned Help Center, Facebook also announced a worldwide rollout of the Support Dashboard that they originally launched in April. The dashboard allows members to track the progress of reports over abusive content. Once a report is made, the user will be able to see the dashboard in their Account Settings. Notifications will also be sent when the status of a report changes.

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