For developers trying to keep up with the dizzying pace of changes Facebook is making to the Facebook Platform APIs with the profile redesign, this article is for you. Here’s a quick tour of the major changes coming in the upcoming Facebook redesign and the essentials every Facebook Platform application developer needs to know.
Application Specific Tabs
At the top of the profile page there are now tabs on the profile page, instead of one long page. There are 3 tabs by defailt: Feed (which in the current design contains both feed items and wall posts), Info, and Photos. These three tabs cannot be deleted or renamed, but users can add additional tabs (up to 6) for applications of their choosing.
Application tabs can each feature one app and are 760 pixels wide. These tabs are essentially a mix between a canvas page and a profile box and offer users the opportunity to personalize their profiles by prominently featuring their favorite applications. Given that application tabs could become the most coveted real estate on the new user profiles, developers should work to provide a compelling tab experience for their existing users. In theory, the application tabs should disproportionately benefit the more engaging applications, but even for these “deeper” apps the benefits of the tabs could be somewhat impacted by the introduction of the boxes tab.
Application Boxes Tab
A Boxes tab is automatically added for users that either have more than 5 profile boxes or users with apps that don’t support main profile integration. The Boxes tab supports the existing fb:wide and fb:narrow dimensions, and is essentially a place for users’ app box “overflow.” Gone are the days of profiles littered with seemingly endless, useless profile boxes. The Boxes tab is a major step forward in the fight against profile clutter, but that improvement in user experience comes as a direct blow to application prominence on user profiles.
Narrow Column Profile Box
On the main profile (Feed and Info tabs), narrow profile boxes have a 200 pixel width and are limited in height to 250 pixels. When users switch to the new profile design, up to five of their existing profile boxes will be migrated to the main profile’s narrow column in a top-down fashion. Otherwise, application boxes can be added to the main profile when a user is on an app canvas page and clicks the “Add to Profile” button. This button will not appear on an app’s canvas page if the viewing user already has a box from that app on their main profile or box page.
Whereas today the narrow column is generally viewed as inferior placement, in the new design the left column becomes valuable real estate, particularly for apps that currently depend on the profile box for growth. Placement on the narrow column or as a distinct tab will effectively be the last foothold for app exposure on user profiles, as users’ excess profile boxes will be buried on the new boxes tab.
Application Info Sections
Another new integration point is the app info sections, which users can add via an “Add to Info” button on the application canvas pages. The Info tab features standard Facebook profile data (contact info, interests etc) in addition to structured information (text and/or images) provided by applications. App info sections are 540 pixels wide, and height is limited by number of items displayed or text length.
Facebook has long asserted that developers not fear Facebook encroaching on existing app niches and that instead applications would ultimately enhance existing, core Facebook features. By opening this integration point Facebook has finally given developers the opportunity to enhance a very central place where users build their personal profiles.
The new publisher is essential – it’s the tool users use to post both on their friends’ feeds as well as their own. The publisher sits on top of user feeds and is the new medium for the sharing content, from wall posts to videos to app-created content. This feature streamlines the functionality of the existing Wall Attachment feature, while providing apps a new integration point directly into users’ activity feeds.
All applications that support this integration can appear in the list presented above the publisher, which will be sorted by default applications at first and later by most recent use, for users to create content. The publisher interface will be similar in appearance when viewing a friend’s page or the viewer’s own profile, but the content creation options and restrictions may change. Content created by the profile owner appears in the feed as a full story, while content created on friends’ profiles is represented by a short feed story that may be expanded.
The publisher integration is ideal for gifting apps as the publisher provides a light weight, direct means to quickly share content with friends.
New Feed Templates
In the most recent design iteration the wall and mini-feed are entirely merged into one Feed tab with filtering options. To complement the increased emphasis on the Feed tab feed stories now come in three different sizes (one line, short, and full) and can be resized by users directly. Profile owners have full control of their feeds’ presentation and can toggle between the three story sizes when available.
The one line and short sizes are largely unchanged, but the full size is a new opportunity for users to share deeper application content. Facebook will attempt to aggregate similar one line stories and similar short stories whenever possible.
Applications can automatically publish one line stories and some short stories without user approval in the owner’s mini-feed and friends’ News Feed. Additionally, apps can publish short and full stories with explicit user approval.
In conclusion, the Facebook redesign represents a paradigm shift in the ways Facebook Platform applications and Facebook profile pages interact. Developers hoping to survive the “shaking out” of applications that could occur with the redesign should take advantage of every possible point of integration on the profile in order to achieve maximum user growth and retention.