Breaking: Facebook Profile Redesign – Detailed Specs & First Impressions

As most people in the Facebook developer community are aware, the upcoming Facebook profile redesign is the biggest and most far-reaching project at the company so far this year. Its impact on users and developers will be significant, and Facebook hopes it will create a better and more valuable experience for all.

Today, Facebook is announcing detailed specs on how Facebook applications will interact with the new profile page. On the whole, the upcoming updates to the profile page will have a big impact on how users interact with each other and express themselves with applications. In order to get a detailed look at all of these changes, their significance for developers, and Facebook’s hopes for their impact on user experience, I sat down with Ruchi Sanghvi and Josh Elman, Product Managers of the Facebook Platform and leads on the profile redesign effort. Here are all the details.

Developer Documentation & Sandbox

Starting today, developers will have access to documentation on the upcoming profile changes on the Developer Wiki (see links below). In order to create a level playing field, everyone will have the next couple of weeks to read and absorb the changes and think about how they will affect their applications. Starting in late May, Facebook will open a developers’ sandbox that will allow developers to test their apps. A few weeks after the developers’ sandbox opens, Facebook will push the new profile design live to all users. If developers do nothing, their apps will continue to work as is. However, in order to take advantage of new opportunities for integration with the redesigned profile page, developers will need to update their apps in several ways.

With the profile redesign, Facebook wants to give users more control over their profile and make the profile more communication focused. In order to integrate with the new profile design, developers are going to need to adapt to and take advantage of several new integration points on the Facebook profile:

Changes for App Profile Boxes

Application profile boxes will largely be moving to a new home in the updated profile design. The new Facebook profile is getting 5 default tabs: Feed, Info, Wall, Photo, and Boxes. All current profile boxes will be moved to the “Boxes” tab with the update (the title of the “Boxes” tab is still up in the air). The specific migration flow has not yet been determined, but the specifics of how Facebook implements it and helps users decide how to organize their new profile pages will have a big impact on developers. On the Boxes tab, users will be able to add, remove, and organize their profile boxes.

In addition, the Feed, Info, and Wall tabs will have a left-hand column that will hold “main profile” boxes that will be height limited (to about 250 pixels) but otherwise will be very similar to current profile boxes. Users will be able to move their profile boxes between the Boxes tab and the “main profile” area fairly easily. Finally, users will be able to have up to 5 boxes in their “main profile” area – more than that will be put into the “Extended Profile” that developers have come to know well since the initial profile cleanup tool.

The New Info Tab

One of the new integration points for developers in the profile redesign is the new Info tab. This will be a very structured tab, much like the Info sections on the current Facebook profile page, containing key-value pairs on which information will exist in comma separated text or thumbnail lists. Unlike the Info sections currently on the profile page, content added to the Info tab from apps will link directly to the application (not Facebook search results). There will be an in-line editing flow on the Info tab for users; Facebook will provide a suggested type-ahead editing interface.

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