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New Year, New Look

Published on December 29, 2011 by in Columns

After Facebook redesigned the site in 2009, the company polled users on their opinions of the changes.  96 percent of respondents—over a million members, at that time—hated the new look.  They simply couldn’t stand it.  Team Zuckerberg stayed the course, though, because they understood the way these things work.  When you change something as popular as Facebook has become, there will be some backlash.  Many users will threaten to leave.  Facebook called their bluff.

I only bring this up because, as you may know, the social networking giant is at it again.  Fresh off of the site’s redesign in September of this year, the company has begun rolling out its latest feature—Timeline.  Prepare to enter 2012 with a brand new Facebook.

Zuckerberg Timeline

Mark Zuckerberg unveils Facebook’s Timeline.

I suspect that this will likely result in a whole bunch of angry Facebookers, waving their fists and threatening to run back to MySpace, cursing Mark Zuckerberg and everything he stands for.  While the rollout is gradual, I’ve been surprised at how well my friends have been receiving it—some even showing enthusiasm.

Shortly after the Fall redesign, which basically affected the site’s “backend,” if you will—what you see in your News Feed, the items your friends share—I read about a way to enable Timeline.  (It was only available to app developers, so I created a phony app and was able to start using Timeline.)  I’ve been using it for about three months, and it really is spectacular.

Facebook’s Timeline affects how other people view your profile—the front-end viewers.  It takes all of your posts, dating back to your first day on Facebook, and places them on an easily navigable timeline.  (You can even add major life events that predate your life on Facebook—wedding photos from 15 years ago, your high-school graduation, or your first baby pictures.)

Timeline is visually stunning.  The photos and videos you share are bigger, the posts are a little bulkier, and the stuff we share seems to intuitively carry the appropriate heft.  It’s a sharp, two-column design, but with a single click you can choose to “feature” any post, forcing it to span across the center dividing line, the Timeline, and making it the width of the page.  Imagine a major event in your life—a vacation, a wedding, or the birth of a child.

Zuck's Timeline

Zuck shows off his own Timeline…

As one blogger pointed out, Timeline gives your social networking life the feel of a glossy magazine.  (The old Facebook felt more like the classifieds section.)  It’s far more customizable that your current Facebook profile—but not nearly as cluttered and incomprehensible as MySpace became toward the end.  It’s sleek and simple, and you will eventually see it for the improvement it is, but there may be some growing pains along the way.

If you choose to activate your Timeline before Facebook rolls them out, I’d recommend spending a little time with it before you publish it.  All of your previous posts will have the same privacy settings they did when you originally posted it—and you may not have been thinking two or three years into the future when you pushed the “Post” button.  One friend of mine went back and deleted all mention of an ex-boyfriend that she’d rather forget.

And with Timeline, you have several options.  You can easily delete a post from your Timeline, or just hide it.  You can also change the privacy settings so that only specific friends can see it.  It’s all in the Activity Log, which is easily accessible from your Timeline page.

Keep in mind that adjusting to change is never easy.  But, as an avid Facebook user, I really think that this is a tremendous improvement.  And I believe that, in time, you will too.

Originally printed in “Pulse,” 12/29/2011.
© Damien Willis, 2011.  All rights reserved.

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