Your ultimate cheat sheet to Facebook design

Kelsey Bryant

With the roll-out of our new Facebook contest category and the growing importance of social media design overall, we thought it was about time to focus on the different elements that make up Facebook design.

In this article, we’ll break down the different elements of Facebook to ensure that you’re creating a well-branded and clickable web presence for your client.

Cover photo

Facebook cover photo
Facebook cover: Diesel

The cover photo is the best place to give your Facebook page the “WOW” factor. Consider it like a hero image – a high impact space that should showcase the brand while balancing well with the elements surrounding it.

Try to keep your design image-heavy with text only when necessary – calling out a special deal, hashtag campaign or a CTA, for instance. Always take note of where the text, profile picture and social buttons are placed so that your design doesn’t detract from those spaces. The last thing you want is for your cover photo to feel too distracting or busy.

Gather some additional tips and inspiration from our article “8 standout ways to create a Facebook cover design“.

Pro tip: Facebook advises that cover photos load fastest “as an sRGB JPG file that’s 851 pixels wide, 315 pixels tall and less than 100 kilobytes.” However, image quality may be higher with a PNG file. Because of that, it may be worth talking to your client about the importance of load time vs. image resolution.

Dimensions: 851 x 315px (computer); 640 x 360px (smartphone); preferably less than 100KB

Profile picture

Facebook profile picture example
Screenshot: Sprite

A profile picture should be designed with two things in mind. First, it must blend well with your cover photo. Second, it must be able to stand alone in the newsfeed and your timeline. Reserving the profile picture for your logo and having the cover photo play off of it is the most efficient way to do this.

While the picture is large on your page, it is shrunken down to a mere 32x32px in the feed. Because of this, it’s wise to avoid ornate details and instead focus on a design that can hold its own when shrunken down to that small a size.

Pro tip: If your profile photo looks blurry after uploading, try using an image twice the size at 320 x 320px.

Dimensions: Must be uploaded at 180 x 180px minimum; 160 x 160px (computer); 140 x 140px (smartphone); 32 x 32px (timeline)

Facebook ads

Facebook ads
Sidebar ads for She Inside and Moo (right)

When creating ads, designers are heavily restricted. Your image may not include more than 20% text, so you’ll need to get creative with how you catch people’s eye. You can check whether you’ve met the requirement by using Facebook’s Grid Tool.

In part, this requirement is doing you a favor. Because your ad may be placed in the News Feed, on mobile or in the right column, the design and text need to be highly adaptable to stay engaging.

Just as you want a profile photo that translates at a smaller size – you especially want an ad that looks highly-clickable at all sizes:

Facebook Ads
Scaled view of News Feed, mobile and right column ads (via Facebook)

The same goes for your copy. The text below the ad is also limited, with a maximum of 25 characters in the headline and 90 characters in the text below. Your link is constrained to 30 characters total. So keep it short and to the point.

For extra oomph, add an embedded call-to-action button to encourage users to like, shop, get an offer… the list goes on and on.

Pro tip: Avoid using blue and white, since they will likely blend in with Facebook’s branding. Focus on colors that will stand out – perhaps a bright red or orange to contrast against their signature blue.

Dimensions: 1,200 x 628px for high resolution; image ratio of 1.9:1

Facebook ads (multi-use)

Facebook ads
Multi-use ads: Warby Parker and Inkkas

For e-commerce sites, it may be more effective to use multi-product ads. These allow you to showcase 3-5 images and their corresponding links within one ad. Play around with different imagery to see what grabs your audience’s attention.

Lifestyle (especially people’s faces) and product imagery are often the most effective, especially if you can tell a story or drive home your brand’s offerings with your picture selection.

Pro tip: Be sure to rotate your ads on a regular basis to keep them fresh – and to test which ones are the most engaging.

Dimensions: 600 x 600px; image ratio of 1:1; same text constraints as ads above

Timeline photos

Facebook posts
Draw the eye in with a bold image or keep it social with a shareable quote (via 99designs)

Timeline photos are a fantastic way to boost your brand with images that are highly shareable. Include a CTA link with your image to encourage clicks or spark a Facebook conversation with an interesting quote or question.

Below we’ve included some of the Timeline options and their dimensions so that you can embrace that space:

  • Timeline photo (single): 504 x 504px
    • Landscape photos will be scaled to 504px wide
    • Verticalphotos will be scaled to 504px high
    • Maximum upload size is 1200 x 1200px)
  • Timeline photo (2 horizontal): 504 x 251 each
  • Timeline photo (2 vertical): 251 x 504px each
  • Timeline photo (2 square): 251 x 252px

For a fantastic visual breakdown of how each design element works within Facebook’s structure, check out this infographic from COVERSHUB.

Have any other Facebook design tips? Share them in the comments!

The author

Kelsey Bryant
Kelsey Bryant

Kelsey is 99designs' Designer Marketing Manager. Born and raised in a small town in Connecticut, she moved to San Francisco in 2009 with a degree in Strategic Communications from Elon University. When she’s not working with the designer community, you can find her exploring the city, taking weekend road trips, and soaking up that California sunshine.

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