Facebook Looks Committed To Single-Column Timeline Changes

by Adam Rosenberg on Jan 10, 2013
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We know Facebook is testing a new personal profile Timeline with more of a single column look.

This design appears to be somewhat of a hybrid between the old “tabbed” profile format and the new “timeline’ format.

More details about this new Timeline design continue to surface.

The new format lists all content posts in one column on the left side of the profile while the right side contains only friends and recent activity.

This presents all content posts such as photos, links, and status updates as a single left-side stream in a hierarchical format with the most recent content at the top.

Some Throwback Elements

The biggest change is a throwback to the old Facebook profiles with the reintroduction of tabs across the top of the timeline rather than the app boxes. This also includes the addition of a “Collections Manager”- a feature that allows you to edit and customize the content tabs at the top of your timeline as well as rearrange the content in the right-hand column (Friend box, recent activity box, etc.).

Previously, you could only hide these items rather than rearrange them. Older Facebook profiles allowed you the ability to rearrange boxes of content. Screenshots of the new profile layout show room for five tabs to be visible at once and this includes a “more” tab for accessing a dropdown menu for all apps not shown (music, movies, Foursquare check-ins, etc.).

Here are a few screenshots (HT InsideFacebook and Mashable) of the Collections Manager, a side-by-side of a single column profile next to the regular timeline profile, and the dropdown “more” tab in action.

Why this is important

While there is no timeline for this change, you can safely assume that in the not-too-distant future this feature will be rolled out for pages since Facebook rarely gives features to user profiles but not brand pages.

This means thinking about how content appears on your page. The single column timeline makes content easier to follow due to a single line of tracking. This could be manipulated visually with photo posts to leverage your timeline as one large image broken apart rather than individual ones.

A key change is that content aggregations (i.e. how often a user interacted with a graph app like Spotify or Instagram) are now segregated from the timeline.

On the surface, this would appear to be a hit to developers, but I think this is being done to make app engagement more natural for the user and build trust overall in app engagement. Rather than looking at Liz’s profile to view the timeline box featuring the last five movies she watched using GetGlue or Flixster, I can now find that information by exploring her profile under a more natural tab of “Movies.”

Additional clicks yes, but similar to when Facebook changed app permission notifications, the extra step builds trust in interacting with the app and could lead to more usage long term. Facebook has rolled out a number of app-focused updates lately that make for a better user experience and more natural story publishing.

They also recently allowed flexible sentences on graph apps so that “Paul tracked Muse on Songkick” (i.e. “What the heck is tracking?”) can now appear as “Paul tracked Muse to get concert updates via Songkick” (i.e. “Ohhhh I want to try that app!”). Facebook ultimately wants your interaction with life and things on the web to appear as seamlessly on a Facebook newsfeed as it would if you sat down with someone to tell them the clothes you bought this past weekend.

There are probably a lot of folks foaming at the mouth over the possibility that default landing pages and tabs are going to make a comeback on brand pages.

There’s no confirmation yet on whether or not this is something that Facebook will roll out, and if they did it would mean in the last year they’ve had a feature, taken it away, and added it back. It’s not only very “un-Facebook” but it also shows how unreliable it can be to rely on page structure in a marketing plan.

The biggest takeaways from Facebook here are still the same: good content does well and Facebook emphasizes user experience over everything else.

Post Author

Adam Rosenberg is an Account Supervisor at Edelman Digital where he specializes in developing community management and content strategies for clients. He also DJs and co-owns his own record label. When not doing the digital marketing thing, he can frequently...

  • Not sure that FB emphasizes user experience over everything else. I think they emphasize marketing dollars over everything else, even user experience.

    That being said, I think this shift is due to the negative response that users had to Timeline. Timeline has some nice features but some of them just did not translate for real users.

  • True but they have a HIGHLY successful ad product based on us being the product. It’s in their best interest for our user experience to be good so we can seamlessly see ads.

  • I wish they would stop messing with Facebook. It’s bad enough as it is.

  • I would say user experience is first. Ad dollars have to live inside of the Facebook priority of “this user must return to the site.” They track everything on Facebook. If a new ad product or newsfeed twist starts showing users coming back less, they will drop it.

  • Ha. They will never stop messing with Facebook. There is plenty to complain about, but 1 billion people come back every month. So they are doing quite a few things well. And for no other reason than they have to get money out of the site now, changes will keep coming.

    I have to say though, I have the exact same sentiment sometimes.