Facebook gives developers more ways to have their apps featured on user Timelines

Along with a Timeline redesign, Facebook today announced new features for developers to get their apps more prominently featured on users’ profiles.

Timeline includes new app and activity-driven sections that users can customize to highlight the categories and apps that are most important to them. Developers can configure “collections,” which showcase a user’s activity in their app. For example, Foursquare displays a user’s check-ins, badges, top places, saved places and map. These app sections will replace Timeline “aggregations,” which didn’t necessarily include all Open Graph stories and were not easily discoverable in the old UI. However, developers who previously configured aggregations will need to now create collections, which must be approved by Facebook.

When users add an app section, they can choose where it appears among their other sections, and it will remain there until they edit the order or visibility of the section. Previously, app modules would appear sporadically on Timeline. Users couldn’t control which apps were displayed or in what order. App sections also weren’t available on mobile before, but are in the latest update.

There is also a way for third-party apps to populate Facebook’s new default sections for movies, books, TV, music or fitness. If an app uses Facebook’s common actions, such as read, watch, listen or run, users can opt into having these actions fill out their About sections. More information about that is available for developers here. For now there is no default games section, as there was in the previous version of Timeline, but Facebook tells us it is working on ways to surface game stories in a more ideal way.

To add an app as a section, users will need to install an app and click the “Add to Profile” button on their app section page. Facebook recommends developers encourage users to add their apps by linking to the button on web or invoking it on mobile.

There are three design options for app sections: list, gallery and map. List is ideal for activity that doesn’t have a strong corresponding visual element. Gallery is much more visual and images must be at least 200×200 pixels. The map template is of course for showcasing location-based stories.

Facebook says the idea behind custom collections is giving users a way to express themselves. The company laid out the following principles for creating collections:

  • Set clear expectations about what it means to share a custom collection and what someone’s friends will see on their timeline.
  • Let people easily control what shows up in their collections.
  • Publish accurate, meaningful and well-structured content.
  • Provide an easy-to-use interface, value to people and no significant bugs.

Other criteria for getting custom collections approved is available here.