Friday, 02 March 2012 18:23

Oops, they did it again!

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It should come as no surprise to anyone that Facebook is once again changing things up, this time for pages. Over the last year or so Facebook has been migrating pages away from the FBML style to the newer iframe style tabs. Just when you thought you had your Facebook page sorted...

Just like their personal page counterparts, business pages will soon be migrating to the Timeline style view. This has both positive and negative repercussions for business pages and the new layout will definitely take some changes to current customizations.

The Good - Facebook Timeline Features

The biggest positive change will certainly be the lack of columns in the timeline design. That means that custom tabs will no longer be limited to 520 pixels wide. The new style can accommodate a full 811 pixels, nearly a full width website! That means that savvy designers will be able to fit considerably more message without making the page go long. That means less coding tricks to keep the dreaded double vertical scroll bar from showing up.

Another positive will be the new tab icons. Since the left column will be gone, there will be much larger tab icons at the top of the page. Admins will be able to select which icons display so there will definitely be an opportunity to steer users to the content you want them to see.

Timelines of course have what Facebook calls a "cover image", which is basically a huge image that spans the entire width of the user area. Combined with the logo/avatar image, there are many creative things that can be done with that much image area, not to mention the branding opportunity that so much real estate provides.

Private messaging will also be making its way to business pages. Finally brands will be able to interact with users privately. This will open the door to a much more personal interaction with your users that we have not been able to achieve within the confines of Facebook.

Sticky posts are also making their debut with the new timeline look. Much like a forum or blog, an administrator will have the ability to force a post to stay at the top of the timeline columns. Look for some creative uses of this new ability as soon as designers figure out they have even more area they can control on the page.

The Bad - Facebook Timeline Limitations

Of course it wouldn't be Facebook without some drawbacks. By far the biggest issues are tab related, partially in part to losing the left column. Without that column, the tab links had to be relocated to the previously mentioned large icons at the base of the cover image. Unfortunately there is a limit to how many links can be displayed, so anything over the 3 links will be hidden away in a dropdown menu.

The other major loss of functionality is the ability to set the default page. Once the switch is made, all pages will default to the main timeline page - no more dropping users on a special content page. Like-gates will still be possible, but not nearly as effective since those pages will have to click on rather than defaulted to. Luckily, I think this can be overcome with the use of the cover image and sticky posts, so all is not lost.

If you haven't taken a look, you should be able to see a preview of your page so you can see what your timeline will look like. There are some exciting possibilities with the new layout, but don't wait until the change is forced on you before figuring out your new Facebook marketing plan. You have until March 30 to make your changes so you better get to it!

Brent Friar

Brent Friar is the owner and chief web developer for BNR Branding Solutions. His development experience dates back to 1994 when he was a founding partner of Internextion Web Development in Orange County, CA.

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