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A cover photo and profile picture is just the beginning with the new Facebook timeline, which goes live for all Facebook users on March 30, 2012. As described in Facebook’s video, “How-To: Using Facebook Timeline and Subscribe”, timeline is a “Collection of most important photos, stories and life events that represent who you are…”

Featuring a new visual format, reportedly inspired by designer Nicholas Felton’s annual report project documenting a year of his life, timeline is intended to “Show people who you are and what you care about.” While there has been talk about whether or not that really means, “show marketers and advertisers what you care about” that’s not the purpose of our article. Privacy concerns and user preferences aside, timeline offers greater page design opportunities for users, particularly brands. Below are my key takeaways. For those who want the GUI nitty gritty, check out this excellent article from HIKE, additionally this TechCrunch article is a handy quick-start guide.

Visual & Information Hierarchy—getting organized: Take advantage of timeline’s structure, it inherently pushes users to focus on content by removing control over visual appearance with a clear information hierarchy of three main areas — cover, stories and apps, and limiting image formatting.

As described by Joey Flynn, in a Co. Design interview, “… Facebook decided to tightly control the visual language and instead give users control over what to emphasize within that framework. Users can’t decide what borders to use, but they can decide which photographs to emphasize, for example, by making them bigger or smaller. ‘It’s about being personal through the content, rather than being personal through the veneer,’ Flynn says.”

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Format & Orientation—reading from left to right: At 315×851 pixels, timeline’s cover is essentially a wide-format showcase—maximize it. Feature high-impact images that relate to your brand. And, no more endless vertical scrolling, timeline’s more horizontal layout leads the eye left to right then down.

Focus—curate your self: The ability to selectively add, hide and emphasize posts, photos and events on your timeline combined with the apps area and interest lists enables you to create a picture of yourself and/or your brand.

Audience—are you talkin’ to me? One page, multiple audiences. Selective privacy controls enable users to control who sees what on their timeline, allowing users to have one page that serves both a private and public audience. Users can also set who can find them in search results and view their subscriber lists.

With a little time and attention timeline can potentially provide for more visually compelling and engaging content — provided users and brands buy into the change.