The old proverb that, “When you leave the old road for the new, you know what you’re leaving but you don’t know what you’ll find,” is proven by Facebook’s recent adoption of the Timeline. The more social media-savvy online brands accustomed to piling on striking functionality onto their important first pages now find that they are are limited to a billboard: A static wide-aspect ratio image with a small inset on the lower left-hand side.
Predictably, a January 2012 SodaHead survey showed that 70% of Facebook users despised the very idea of the Timeline layouts, and if the survey had been taken among online marketers the percentage may have been much higher. This unbridled hatred is not strictly aesthetic, but due to the severe restrictions Facebook has placed on all “front page layouts,” handicapping most marketing functions. Here’s why users are steamed, and rightly so:
Kills All Meaningful Content above the Fold
Online Marketing 101 teaches that the most successful place to position content you want to feature prominently, like email newsletter subscription forms and Calls To Action, is in the top section of the page known as “above the fold.”
The Facebook Timeline layout neutralizes any advantages to marketers as there is no way to reconfigure the page in any way and you are therefore restricted to showing a pretty picture… and an unclickable one at that. But it gets worse. When most marketers upload their pretty picture they find that it’s…
Blurry Beyond Belief
Go create the highest resolution image you can crank out of your 18 megapixel Canon EOS 60D, load it as your Facebook Timeline Cover Image and prepare to faint dead away. Your sparkling sharp photo has turned into a fuzzy, grainy, out of focus piece of junk that looks like it was shot on a $20 film camera and then magnified ten-fold.
Even if you pre-format your photo to precisely 851 x 315 pixels to match the size of the section, you’ll still find that Facebook thoughtfully degrades your picture quality to the point where you just want to scream.
Display 3 Page Thumbnails, Hide the Rest
Through the Timeline layout, Facebook offers the option that you can order your pages in any way you want as long as it’s their way. The pages that were once listed on the left sidebar are now thumbnails.
You might think that’s an improvement until you realize that the first one is Photos (which can’t be moved) and you only get three more pages to display. You can have more thumbnails to access your other pages but they’re hidden away behind a fully unintuitive little arrow with a number equaling how many more pages you have and nothing else.
What Was Facebook Thinking?
The Timeline layout itself seems to have been designed in a reality-free zone where all mobile devices can display 851 pixel images while blatantly ignoring the fact that most smartphone users will be forced to horizontally scroll back and forth until they give up and leave in frustration.
At this point, many online marketers may be dreaming of grabbing Mark Zuckerberg by his thrift store t-shirt and asking him just what the heck he was thinking. Driven by the misplaced desire to standardize the layouts of his social network, he has created a misshapen monster that neuters the most effective strategies utilized by online marketers.
With a large number of those marketers equating the new Timeline layout to a swift kick in the face, Facebook is certain to… not do anything at all. All indications from the social network is that the Timeline layout is here to stay, so the rest of us are stuck with blurry cover photos and clumsy layouts graven in stone until Facebook goes the way of Webvan.com, Pets.com and Kozmo.com.