Facebook today unveils Timeline for pages — a combination of design elements and moderation features that give organizations the controls they need to maintain an effective presence on the social network.
The redesign, the largest for pages since February 2011, creates a more unified look and feel for the site after profiles and groups were updated earlier this year. Page owners will have a 30-day window in which to redesign their pages and publish when they are ready. On March 30, all pages will automatically switch to the new format.
The layout features a cover photo and larger stories presented chronologically, similar to Timeline for personal profiles. What differs is the ability to pin a post to the top of a page and a friend activity box that makes pages more relevant to each user. Page tabs still function, but there is no longer an option to set a third-party tab as default. A new admin panel, activity log and direct message feature will help page owners manage their communities.
We had a chance to preview the new pages. Here’s what we found:
In lieu of a unique landing tab, pages have a 851×315 pixel photo to convey a brand message. Facebook wants to keep cover photos from looking like banner ads, however, so images cannot include price or purchase information, contact info, calls to action or references to Facebook features such as Like or Share. Page owners might be frustrated by this, but we can see why Facebook would do it as most users won’t understand what aspects of a page are done by third-parties versus done by Facebook. If pages use cover photos like advertisements, many users could confuse them for actual ads.
Page owners can now add milestones and choose to make featured posts larger than others, similar to what users can do with life events on Timeline (see below). Pages can also hide individual posts without deleting them. This allows pages to display only its most engaging posts without losing important data.
Additionally, page owners can pin an important post to the top of the page — something they’ve wanted to do for a long time. Pinned posts can stay for up to seven days. Unlike on Twitter, pinned posts are available to all page, not just premium advertisers.
A new management tool appears at the top of pages to which a person has admin rights. It gives a snapshot of insights, people who recently Liked the page, fan activity notifications and a message inbox. Pages can now accept direct messages from users, which is similar to a feature we saw tested in December 2011. This allows customer service issues and other sensitive matters to be discussed privately instead of on the wall. Pages cannot initiate direct messages with fans.
The admin panel also includes Help Center items like “Request a name change for your page,” prompts to create ads and other tips for page owners.
As on personal profiles, the activity log is useful for finding and editing old posts. Admins can sort items by year or type of story. The activity log is only visible to users who have admin rights to the page. From screenshots we’ve seen, insights for each post are not shown in the activity log, but this would be a helpful addition.
Page tab apps continue to function, but instead of listing apps down the left side of the page, apps are available on the right beneath the cover photo. Fewer tabs can be highlighted above a “See more” option, but all apps benefit from larger thumbnails. App images are 111×74 pixels instead of the 16×16 pixel favicons used previously. Apps themselves can now be up to 810 pixels wide. They render on a new page underneath a header with a link back to the page, a drop-down menu with other tabs and a Like button if users don’t already.
Facebook will no longer allow default landing tabs. The company recommends pages pin a post that links to a particular tab. According to cover photo guidelines, pages cannot add images that use arrows or text to direct people to visit tabs or take particular actions. The social network seems to be weaning pages off of tab applications. The vision is for Facebook to be integrated into third-party websites and mobile apps, not to have applications running within page frames. Because many companies already invested in developing applications for their pages, however, the social network could not simply get rid of them at this stage.
We will be reporting from the Facebook Marketing Conference in New York City today, providing updates about the new pages and any other announcements the company might make at the event.