Facebook Changes Coming August 23

August 10, 2010

Facebook, as you no doubt know by now, is more than just a toy for teenagers. The ubiquitous social media king recently celebrated adding its 500 millionth user, and with its’ “Open Graph” protocol gaining massive popularity, Facebook is no longer confined just to the www.facebook.com URL. Facebook is, in many ways, stamping its influence on the entire internet.

Of course, you also know that Facebook, never content to run in place, is always adding changes and features. If  the recent firestorm over user privacy issues is any guide,  Facebook’s biggest problem isn’t the way in which it maintains its site, but the way in which it communicates (or just as often, doesn’t) to users about them.

It’s with that in mind that we share with you that rumors which were originally heard back in 2009, and supposedly supposed to take place in early 2010 but which never did without any explanation, have finally come to light. Earlier this week, Facebook announced two seemingly minor changes which could have major repercussions on your brand’s Facebook property, and which will take effect on August 23.

1) Tab widths will change from 760 to 520 pixels. For the “standard” tabs, like the Wall, Photos, & Videos, this won’t be an issue you’ll need to worry about too much, as Facebook will automatically resize them.

However, this may present a problem is if you have any custom (or FBML) tabs on your site, such as the CooperVision “C What I Mean” widget or the Hunt’s “High Five” tab. As you can see, many such tabs feature an eye-catching design, fully utilizing all available space. In the coming weeks, those tabs will be losing 240 pixels of real estate with which to work.

In order to aid with the transition, on Tuesday Facebook enabled page administrators to see what their pages will look like in the new design scheme. Tabs which exceed the new 520 pixel limit are simply cut off at that point. In order to avoid that, tabs will need to be redesigned to fit within the new design scheme before August 23rd, though in some cases it might be a good opportunity to think about the next phase of a page’s life rather than trying to rework a previous idea.

2) “Boxes” on profiles and pages will be removed. At first glance, this seems like a necessary move. We’ve all seen the cluttered Boxes tabs on various pages, which serves mostly as a dumping ground for all sort of applications and tabs installed on a page; the layout never works and 99% of “Boxes” tabs are rightfully hidden away in the “more” section of the tab navigation.

However, there is one little-known but quite important feature of Boxes, and that’s the ability to add a custom box on the left-hand side of the Wall tab. This does not apply to “standard” Facebook features like Fans, Photos, and Favorite Pages, but to custom areas where many pages add links to Terms of Use or graphical callouts like coupons. As an example, the Terms of Use section of the Clorox page is shown at right.

With the new changes, Facebook has confirmed that these custom boxes will no longer be available. The information contained within will need to be moved to a tab or elsewhere on the page. Facebook hasn’t accurately explained why they’ve taken this step – they claim it’s to aid with “ease of browsing”, though that seems vague at best – but it could have major repercussions for pages which use that area regularly.

In the coming days leading up to August 23, each account team and page administrator will need to work together on a client plan on how to handle these two new changes. If left untouched, your page will look quite different than you expect once the switch happens.