Facebook Timeline for the Graphically Challenged

One of the biggest questions I’ve been getting since the announcement of Facebook’s new timeline is all about the graphics for the new

layout. Most people think that unless they can use Photoshop or some other graphic program their only resource is a graphic designer and not all of us have pockets that deep.

So, I decided to challenge myself and see what I could come up with for you.

The new timeline provides some wonderful real estate for your personal branding and already I’ve seen some very creative and beautiful uses of the space. So, let’s get started.

Planning Your New Layout

Creating a pleasing layout that conveys both your message and your brand takes planning. Before you get started, there are a few things you need to consider.

Facebook has amended it’s terms of service (TOS) and added restrictions to what you can and can not put on the cover (that’s what they are calling the really big main graphic space). I talked about them in my article last week, Facebook Timeline for Brands: Game Changer. Bottom line no calls to action or blatant advertising.

My view of the new timeline is that it’s a great opportunity for personal branding. So what is your personal brand? If you’re in direct sales, most people will respond with the name of the products they sell, but that’s not your personal brand – it’s the company’s brand. You need to hink about how you want people to see who you are and what you do. You also need to think about who’s your ideal client and what will attract their attention and resonate with them.

Finally, what do you want to accomplish with your fan page? However you answer that question should be the focus of the page and supported with the graphics on the page. I can’t tell you the number of pages I’ve reviewed where there is no cohesive look.

Plan your page graphics and the placement of the graphics carefully to get the biggest impact from them and make people want to spend time on your fan page.

Tip #1 – Study Professionally Created Pages

A poorly laid out page is like an unprofessionally designed business card. Everyone knows one when they see it.

Your page represents you and your business. You only have seconds to make a good impression, so you have to get this right.

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Take time to look at the pages of some of the major brands in your niche to get your inspiration.

Many of the best graphic designers start by “copying” establish designers in the industry. No, I don’t mean infringing on copyrights, I mean looking at ads that capture people’s attention and then using it as inspiration for their own work.

Most of the new timelines are using a simple high quality photo, some clip art and a few words. Before you start throwing things together, go look at what others are doing. Find something that inspires you and use it to create your own layout.

facebook timeline changes 2012

Tip #2 – Use Royalty Free Images

Unless you are a very good photographer consider using photos from stock image sites like iStockphoto or Getty Images for royalty free images. For a few dollars you can buy a high quality photograph and have it to use as an anchor or background for your fan page. They also offer illustrations. Susie, my alter ego here and on Easy Fan Pages, is a great illustration from a young artist that I found on iStockphoto, and while illustrations cost a bit more, she’s been well worth it.

Do not google images and copy them for yourself. That infringes on copyright. Enough said.

Another option, although it will cost a bit more is to go to Upwork or Freelancer. They provide an internet virtual marketplace for talented freelancers and freelance agencies from all over the world and both are well respected.

Tip #3 – Create Your Own Design, Even if You’re Graphically Challenged!

If you know how to use Gimp, Photoshop or some other graphic design software, you’re good to go. I’m already seeing templates online for those tools to use to create the timeline cover.

But, you don’t need Photoshop to create some really cool looking graphics.

If you have Microsoft PowerPoint, you’ve got a great graphic tool that’s a perfect fit for this kind of job.

OK, here’s the back story. I used PowerPoint for years creating presentations for consumption by execs. It’s drag and drop function, along with how it intuitively aligns the graphics and words, made it a charm – and I got good at it.

A couple of years ago, when I was brushing up on my graphic skills (aka Photoshop and Illustrator), the graphic designer I was studying under mentioned that when he didn’t need all of the power of Photoshop, he usually used PowerPoint. Said it was perfect for creating graphics for blogs and on the web.

Hmmm, really? Yes, really. So now, when I either don’t have time or want to futz around (technical term) with Photoshop, I simply open up PowerPoint.

There are a few key points you will need to keep in mind:

  • Most sites provide information on the size needed for graphics and generally that’s in pixels. PowerPoint’s page layout is done in inches, so you’ll need to do a conversion. You can google “pixel to inches” and find dozens of them out there to do this math for you.
  • Getting the aspect ratio (is it a square or rectangle such as 4:6 or 5:7) correct is important. You can figure this out by looking at the dimensions provided by the site.
  • Some sites are now supporting high resolution graphics versus the old standard of 72 dpi (dots per inch). PowerPoint images are saved as 72 dpi. Facebook has adopted the high resolution and to accomodate for this I have found that if I increased the size of my design, while maintaining the aspect ratio, the pictures worked just fine. This is the only area where you might have to play around a bit with the page set up in the main menu of PowerPoint to get the right size.
  • Finally, when you have completed your layout, all you need to do is  go to File + “Save as pictures”. Bet you’ve never noticed that option before. Your file will be saved as a jpeg and be ready to upload to the internet.
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Now it’s your turn. Go get creative and show us your inner designer. And don’t forget to come back and let us know how you did.

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