Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Story-Telling through the Facebook Cover Image

All Facebook timelines, for people as well as pages, use a large header image known as the "cover photo". While there are some rules about what you can and can't display in this prime real estate, the space is essentially a billboard, and with one quick glance, your timeline visitors can get a real sense of who you might be and what you might be going through.

If you've set up a Facebook page for your Superhero child, perhaps as a way to help keep in touch with long-distance family, then you no doubt encountered the cover image dilemma. What image do I put here that lets people know what this page is about. The natural fall-back is an image of your child, but let's face it- that may not be the most flattering or telling image to plaster at the top of your timeline. For starters, it's potentially embarrassing for your child, but also most candid photos are, in general, just not good photos. Blown up to the dimensions of the Facebook cover space, most amateur photography is going to look a bit blah.

But let me offer this idea as an alternative: how about using the cover image on your child's page the same way most people do on their personal timelines? Save the photo of your child for the profile image, and certainly share them through your timeline, but use the cover image to share a deeper understanding of what's going on with your child's life.

We've had a pretty rough winter, and I know most of us are pretty jazzed about spring. Is your child? Are they getting excited about getting out of the house, or finally being able to get the windows open and hear the birds? Share their hopes with an image that evokes the season.

Or maybe your Superhero is getting anxious to see the new Captain America movie (I know I am), and is hoping to have the chance. Maybe it's all he's talking about right now. Let your followers know it's on his mind with an image of the First Avenger.

Perhaps your daughter has recently been a bit down in the dumps, and you've been using rainbows to cheer her up. Plant the idea in people's minds with a rainbow-themed cover.

Or maybe, like my son, your child is in love with trains, and likes just about anything having to do with old-fashioned locomotives. A rotating gallery of train cover images that fit the season, your child's mood, or somehow tie into a current milestone or life event can tell a story without ever needing a post in the timeline.

Think about the ways you can express the events, feelings, hobbies and things that matter to your child through the first image people see on your child's timeline. Use your own images if it makes sense, but think about how the image is composed, and whether it really is a good enough quality to make so big online. And, of course, as much as you can, have your child give you input and advise on what they would like to see, and don't shy away from their suggestions (unless they are really inappropriate, of course). Cats, for instance. Everyone on the internet likes cats, right?

The best images to use are those already sized for the cover format, which is 851 x 315 pixels. Images of other dimensions can be used, but they will either be enlarged to fit the width, or you'll need to crop them. Doing a Google image search that includes "facebook cover" will provide a huge number of images already sized correctly. This also offers you a chance to use great photography and design beyond what you might be able to create at home.

And with that, I'm going to go change my own cover photo now.


Director of User Experiences