It can be fun to experiment with the design on your Twitter.com profile and certainly if you’re a professional having a professional-looking background can make the right impression to your followers.
However, before you spend days and weeks putting something amazing together, or hire somebody else to do it for you, there’s a couple of things I really think you should contemplate.
1. How Often Do People Actually Visit Your Profile?
One way to do this is to approximate yourself how often you visit the profile pages of other users. I surveyed my own followers about this a week ago.
There were four main responses:
Profiles We Visit Regularly – These include friends and those followers who we communicate with often or whose tweets we really enjoy. We may visit their profile to catch up on their submissions, certainly if they tend to tweet outside of our timezone, or to message them or have a better look at their picture.
Profiles We Visit Semi-Regularly – This includes those we communicate with less often, and some celebrity tweeters (again, often to look at their picture, certainly if it has changed).
Profiles We Visit Occasionally – Every so often we might check out a profile if somebody @replies to us or says something notable in a tweet.
Profiles We Visit Rarely/Once – When deciding on whether to follow a new person (or, indeed, whether to unfollow them), we often (and should) look at their profile. This may be the only occasion when this happens.
As your follower count grows, the vast majority of your profile visits will fall into this final category – rarely or only the once. Indeed, if you use any kind of auto-follower, you might never visit certain followers’ profiles at all. I would estimate that if you’re anything like me or the people who took part in my survey, you probably only visit about 5-10 per cent of your followers’ profile pages regularly, which means that you return to only 90-95 per cent of them on occasion, or not at all.
If you switch this around, it’s possibly eye-opening to consider that most of your followers will visit your profile rarely, once or possibly never. Hence, unless you really are a professional and Twitter is a potentially a great source of business, the effort and expense that can go into a world-class profile design might not be warranted.
2. Does Your Profile Design Work On All Systems, Browsers And Resolutions?
This has been a nightmare for website designers for years. As different browsers come on to the market and the popular ones are upgraded, some websites designs can look significantly different or not function at all. This is a problem with Twitter backgrounds, too, notably because any images used have to be fixed-width in format.
Moreover, as portable netbooks continue to make indents into the PC market – current estimations are that they’ll have a ten per cent share (approximately 30 million netbooks) by year-end, with Apple also rumoured to be considering a device – more and more people are logging on to the internet with smaller screens than standard.
This includes me. I do everything on my Samsung NC10, which has a 10-inch screen. This is what some well-known Twitter profiles look like on my machine (click to enlarge).
And that’s with the full ten-inches. Imagine how bad they must be on an Eee PC or similar? Not everybody has a 17-inch Macbook. If you’re sharing any information in your sidebar, it’s often fairly obscured when seen on a smaller screen.
Now, I’m not singling these guys out for criticism. Pretty much every profile on Twitter that uses a sidebar in their profile looks wrong when viewed via the screen of a netbook. You may not feel it’s a huge deal, but if you consider that ten per cent of your followers could be seeing results like this by the end of the year, and maybe 20-25 per cent a year or two after that (certainly if Apple get involved), it might make you reconsider the sidebar.
The solution here isn’t immediately visible. Because images are by default a defined width, it’s hard to make something that is pleasing to screens and resolutions of different sizes and depths, unless it’s just a standard background that tiles. Sometimes I wonder if that is the best option for everybody.
I have yet to do much with my own Twitter profile background (I have a simple tile). On a few occasions I’ve put aside some time to do something fancy and creative but have always found myself musing over the points made above and ultimately put it off. I will get around to doing it properly – one day – but I’ll need to try and find a way to make it work on everybody‘s machine.
Because while a relatively few number of your followers will visit your profile more than once, it would be nice to know that if they make that effort they’re seeing exactly what you want them to see.