The daily Narrative

Timeline For Pages and Its Impact on Custom Tabs

March 1, 2012
written by Mike

Well, here it is: Timeline for Facebook Pages has officially been launched. Lots of speculation has been circulating around Facebook’s hottest topic for the past 2-3 months, once it became obvious that Zuckerberg and Co. were going to adapt the user profile look to brand Pages alike. Since yesterday’s surprising “release for all”, each Page admin has instantly become able to update to Timeline. Facebook officially pushes the Timeline button – like it or not – on March 30, 2012. You may already want to activate Timeline for Pages right now, however, there are a couple of good arguments that might want you to hold on for now. People that care about their Page as well as all users of Hike Tab Builder, Hike Video App and those who use other custom tabs solutions should definitely read on …

A General Introduction into Timeline for Pages as well as an Admin Guide (PDF) can be found over at Facebook. All relevant topics relating to Timeline have been well collected at this source.

Three words upfront: Don’t be afraid! It’s all good with Timeline. Lots of stuff has changed for the better, few things for the worse. You probably will feel a little lost at the start, but this ain’t the first update to Facebook Pages and we all know that it just takes a bit of time until everybody feels accustomed to the new thing :) Timeline is an advancement of the 2-year old version of Pages, whereupon the introduction of iFrame tabs for Pages had just recently celebrated its first birthday. Anyway, custom (iFrame) tabs are still available and they most likely will register a “boost” with yesterday’s change. Generally, the Timeline update opens the door for lots of new possibilities, which is why Facebook took that step. All things considered Facebook has become much more consistent – Timeline for user profiles and Pages basically mirror each other now (again).

An Overview of All Changes in Regards to Tabs:

  • Wider Tabs
    The new layout enables tab contents with a max. width of 810px opposed to the current max. width of just 520px. The setting can be adjusted in the developer area (“Page Tab Width”) for each app. There is no programmatic feature available yet, recognizing whether a tab is installed in a classic Page or a Timeline Page. That said, most tab apps will likely use the 520px layout until March 30, 2012 – before wisely switching to the 810px version. Reason being: 520px easily fit in 810px, however, it might be tough to place 810px designs into a 520px canvas ;)
  • Tab Icon Look
    16x16px tab icons are no longer utilized for the main navigation. Instead the new tab navigation now displays more spacious graphics of 111x74px.
  • Number of Tabs
    The previous version of Pages displayed 5 custom tabs underneath each other. By clicking “MORE” an unlimited array of extra tabs could be uncovered. For Timeline Pages the max total has been reduced to 12, including Facebook’s standard apps (Photos, Videos, Likes, …), whereas the Photos tab is mandatory and always in the no. 1 spot.
  • Position of the Like Button
    The Like Button is now positioned in the upper right-hand corner and is no longer visible right beside the Page name/title. The Like Button has also changed its a look marginally.
  • Tab Link Format
    Tab links changed as follows:
    Old link (via navigation): http://www.facebook.com/Page?sk=app_123
    New link (via navigation): http://www.facebook.com/Page/app_123
    Facebook generated link (still as before): http://www.facebook.com/Page?v=app_123
    We expect Facebook to support the old links moving forward as it would create unforeseen amount of unwanted dead links all over the internet if they didn’t.

Pros:

  • More Space for Tabs, Less Distraction
    The tab view now has much more space to breath (810px) and it’s very focused on, yeah, just the tab itself. It’s surrounded by a 20px wide, white border; increasing the canvas width to 850px total. This allows for much more content to be laid out horizontally rather than placing it all over a vertical skyscraper. It opens the door to much more imposing designs and more clever layouts in general. Tip: Red Bull is one of the first major brands to displays what the future holds. By putting the user focus solely on the tab and the small top navigation there is much less surrounding noise (profile banner, tab navigation, about text, stats, page likes, additional links, friend connections, ads, recommended Pages) taking away from your content – the TAB ITSELF! This alone should significantly improve the conversions of campaigns, especially when linked directly to the custom tab. The user gets caught at ease and can’t be attracted by surrounding things any longer. The fact that the header image is missing on tab pages is no shame as it avoids an ugly page fold. Bug: Some of the new 810px tabs are not centered correctly yet. +6

  • Bolder Tab Icons (Graphics)
    In the past only 16x16px icons could be used for your custom tab navigation. Not only were they small, but it’s also been a pain to get them up on your Page. Plus, they hardly had any visual impact, because it were just 256 pixels collectively. The new tab icons have dimensions of 111x74px for a total of 8,214 pixels. That’s 32-times more space compared to the old icons. Thanks to the new dimensions you are able to already teaser/visualize the tab content graphically, which should result in increased traffic numbers for your featured tabs. +3

  • Custom Tab Icons w/o the Need of a Custom App
    The new tab icons (111x74px) can now be defined in the tab settings through the Page admin himself. Gone are the tough days of setting up a custom Facebook App in order to place a 16x16px next to your custom tab… NOT! Not? Yeah, because the new tabbed navigation still displays 16x16px underneath the bold tab icons. So if you care about consistency and branding, you still will want to edit the 16x16px icons, which still requires the old and awkward setup. However, since the small icons are no longer visible at first glance, it’s less important to focus on them. +3

  • Unlike Not Possible Anymore (in Tab View)
    This aspect has to be registered as a plus from the admins’ point of view. Those who only care about real fans, will most likely not care about it at all. From an user’s point of view it has to be considered as a setback though. In the tab view there is no longer an “Unlike” link available. Even a click on the new Like Button doesn’t offer an option to “Unlike” the Page again. Instead the user has “to return” to the Timeline to hit the gear icon next to the downward-pointing arrow in order to “Unlike” again. Especially in the next couple of weeks this change will most likely turn a bunch of users into “forced fans”. Our daily Unlike rate is currently at about 4.5 – 6%. We are anxious to see if this level continues. This connects to the next discussion: “What’s worth a fan who ain’t none”? +1

Score: +13

Cons:

  • NO Ability to Set Default/Landing Tabs in Timeline
    *Ouch* Yeah, that one hurts! This option indeed seems to be history. However, this does not mean Fan-Gating is not an option, as visibility settings are still alive and working. Rest-assured; there are still plenty of ways to use your Hike apps to entice fans to Like your Page in order to unlock exclusive fans-only content. And who knows, maybe Facebook will revive landing tabs if the community is strong enough to convince them. Let’s try to see the positives of this change: Fan-Gating used to cause confusion, because it 1.) excluded Page admins, 2.) it only worked for non-fans and 3.) it didn’t work at all for a few selected Pages. With Timeline there are consistent “landing” conditions for all. Editiorial content plays a major role and real content is king again. Still this change has to be considered the major blow for tabs in this whole Timeline story. -4

  • Less Surrounding, More Space for Tabs
    Advantage and disadvantage at once. No doubt, the tab itself earns much more recognition, however, it’s strong connection to the brand takes a hit. How much of a distraction this is has to be looked at as the case arises. Not everybody will become a fan of it. -2
  • Tab Navigation
    Within the tabs, the tab navigation as “custom dropdown” seems far from being highly visible and intuitive. Once in a tab, some users may feel lost. Thus the new navigation has to looked at with skepticism. -1

  • Complicated Tab Administration
    The removal and rearrangement of tabs has become more complicated. However, since it’s of pure administrative nature, it’s not that big of a deal. The replacement of an easy drag&drop functionality with an hard to grasp “replace with position x”-menu doesn’t speak for up-to-dateness. We expect additonal support tickets related to that topic once everybody is on Timeline. Maybe Facebook will throw in an update here though, as they improved the old Pages in regards to the navigation several times as well. -1

  • No Reload after Like Click
    The Like Button above the tab currently doesn’t trigger a reload of the Page, which makes the classic Fan-Gating obsolete right now. This is a temporary bug though. By using Hike Tab Builder and its free Fan Gating Plus+ you can easily prevent any realted issues completely. +-0 (temp. bug)
  • 12 Tabs Total
    For some this may be a disadvantage, most won’t be bothered though. No longer is it possible to install an unlimited amount of custom tabs. You have room for a total of 12 tabs, so select your content wisely. Less is more anyway ;) +-0

Score: -8
Final Total: +5

In a nutshell, the Timeline update has to be looked at positively. Plus, we haven’t looked at the advantages of the actual Timeline itself, because it’s been (and still is) discussed multiple times elsewhere. We, as Facebook App provider, feel confident about what the future holds with Timeline and so should you.

To-Do List for Page Admins:

  • Creation of tab icons (111x74px)
  • Preparation of tab contents for 810px width
  • If you are using Fan-Gating: Maybe hold on till a fix has been released (reload after click)
  • If you are using landing tabs: Preparation of Timeline as “Welcome Page”, adjustment/removal of old landing tabs
  • Train social media team
  • Analyzing active tabs/ads/campaigns and cautious migration
  • Briefing of designers: 810px width (new position of Like Button, if you still want to point to it via arrow)

To-Do List of Hike:

  • Bold Default Tab Icons, 111x74px (completed)
    So far, Tab Builder users had been able to choose from 15 small tab icons. We will create an updated set of icons (based on the old ones) to match the new look of Timeline tab icons.
  • Tab Builder Version for Timeline (completed)
    Most likely, we will release a “Timeline Version” of Tab Builder in the upcoming days, which will be able to make use of the new canvas width. However, It’s not set in stone yet, as we 1.) don’t want to create confusion and 2.) rather guarantee a perfectly smooth transition for the official Timeline switch on March 30. Since even most of the big name launch partners of Facebook are still sporting their 520px tabs (see Coca-Cola), most of you should confident in what they have on their Pages for this short transition period. That said, don’t rock the boat! Sit back and relax until things have settled in. This friendly advice is good for the whole Timeline switch. You should rather test it in depth in preview mode or even better an unpublished demo page. It’s not just us who advise to do so ;)
  • Fan Page GUI for Timeline (completed)
    We have already started working an updated version of our loved PSD template. Expect it to be available next week. This will give you enough time to start preparing great designs for your Timeline launch.
  • Timeline Switch of Hike Facebook Page
    As soon as the “reload after click” issue has been resolved, we will switch our Facebook Page to Timeline with a new header and profile image. Tabs will also be redesigned to fit the 810px width. Your Hike Tab Builder and Video App won’t yet be affected by it.
  • Tab Builder and Video App Adjustments (Free, Pro and Agency customers)
    Of course you want to try out the new width ASAP and utilize our apps for it. We WILL NOT adjust existing apps until March 30, because we can’t distinguish between Classic and Timeline Pages. We will continue to use the 520px tab mode until Facebook forces all Pages into Timeline. Once that moment is here, Tab Builder and Video App will make the best possible use of 810px. Therefore you should all prepare your contents and designs for an April 1 Timeline launch. Should we release the “Timeline Version” of Tab Builder in the next couple of days, you will be able to manually switch, however, you won’t have to.
  • Hike Agency Center Adjusments (for Agency customers only)
    We will integrate the changes of tab handling (sorting, icons, renaming) into Hike Agency Center till March 30. So far, Facebook hasn’t performed any updates to their API, which forces us to wait until we can proceed. Worst case you will have to perform certain changes directly in Facebook if you already switched to Timeline with your Pages. Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to use the support in Agency Center at any time.

How do you feel about Timeline for Pages? Have your planned tabs and campaigns been damaged by change or even become obsolete? Which Pros and Cons do you value differently than we did?

DISCUSSION