Designers Guide to Facebook Applications

Facebook LogoFacebook’s information for developers is thorough and easy to navigate, but for designers, it’s a bit more challenging. This guide walks you through the main touch points for the new Facebook design and the visual integration points for applications. This is not a review of all application touchpoints, but rather a graphical designers guide for what spaces and bits they’ll need to design when working on Facebook applications. Newsfeed items were intentionally left from this because I feel their importance would be minimized here and they warrant their own post.

At the very bottom of this post is a quick checklist you can use when designing for Facebook to ensure you capture all the necessary surfaces you’ll need to design for.

Profile Presence

After the newsfeed, the most prominent location users would see your application has historically been the profile. There are three forms of “widgets” or boxes, a tab and the publisher. All of which have some interesting uses.

Publisher

The publisher may be the most revolutionary item from the old facebook style. Designers won’t be doing much here beyond creating a facebook like UI for the application. For those unfamiliar with it’s use, the publisher allows content publication directly from the profile page. Much like updating your status, the publisher can update your photos, video and so much more. The publisher is 520 pixels wide and writes directly to the persons newsfeed.

Profile Publisher

Profile Publisher

Wall/Info Tabs

This box persists for both the wall and profile tabs of the new design. The box is very small, only 184 pixels wide, and very low on the pages. Note that this size matches the “narrow” box from the boxes tab. It should be noted that the user has to explicitly permit an application to create a profile box.

Wall and Info Box

Wall and Info Box

Boxes Tab

Boxes are the old profile items. They come in two sizes, narrow at 184 pixels and wide at 380 pixels. This tab holds the boxes added by applications by users from the recently phased out facebook profile design. The user can manipulate the placement of the boxes within the tab, including choosing narrow or wide versions. Much like the Wall/Info tabs, users must explicitly allow applications to publish these boxes for all new applications.

Profile Boxes Tab

Profile Boxes Tab

Named Application Tab

Another exciting change for the profile is the named tab. Unlike the other boxes, the tab actually pulls data from the application in real time. This provides the user with a more dynamic and interactive experience. A word of caution though, the user is responsible for creating the tab themselves. While the process is reasonably simple, it may benefit developers to provide a quick “how to” on adding the tab. Another nice feature of the tab is letting the users get a feel for the application in a controlled way.

Named Application Tab

Named Application Tab

Application Presence

The application is key for distributing your brand and where your users will spent most of their time. This is not the gateway in – but how they’ll experience you once they begin interacting with the brand.

Application Directory

Each day the application directory becomes less and less important for users to discover new apps. However, it still exists and the 75px x 75px icon is required.

Application Directory

Application Directory

About Application

The about page is a public facing (read indexable by Google and other search engines) page that describes your application, is commonly used for feedback and support issues as well as being referenced by every page in the footer as the go to place if something doesn’t work. This page is important – don’t underestimate it. The critical component here is a large 396 pixel graphic that can be placed at the top of the page. The intended use is as a screenshot, however, can include anything you think will help convey the purpose of your application to a perspective user. Also notice the 16 x 16 pixel icon which is used throughout the site as a “bullet” for your application is used here.

 About Application Page

About Application Page

Application Canvas

While last on this list, this is certainly not the least important item. The new design opens up a nice wide 720 pixels to developers which provides ample space to present information in a far less restrictive way. This design can be a re-hash of the profile tab, if appropriate for your application. Keeping the two designs the same certainly helps in building your brand.

Application Canvas

Application Canvas

Advertising

Facebook prohibits advertising of any kind, even plugs for your other applications, anywhere but on the canvas page. When designing the assorted boxes, keep this in mind.

Designers Checklist

When designing facebook applications, this list is a nice place to start when figuring out just what components you need to create. As always, use your best judgement with the height of variable height boxes. Your user will not keep the box if they are inconsistent with the Facebook design or use more space than they feel appropriate. Always place the user experience first.

  • 16px x 16px – gif
  • 75px x 75px – png, jpg or gif
  • 396px wide application about graphic – png, jpg or gif
  • 720px wide application canvas – html, fbjs, css and flash
  • 184px wide profile box – html, fbjs, css and flash
  • 380px wide profile box – html, fbjs, css and flash
  • 520px wide profile publisher – html, fbjs, css
  • 720px wide profile application tab – html, fbjs, css and flash
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