How to Optimize Your Facebook Profile

By Janine Warner, David LaFontaine

Take a fresh look at your friends’ Facebook Profiles and then revisit your own. Even the most clever, well-crafted text update pales in comparison to a striking image. Friends will Like, share, and comment on a cute picture of a pet, dramatic landscape, or new Profile photo far more readily than they will on posts that are just text.

When you change your Profile photo, the photo is added to your Timeline automatically and displayed to all your friends on Facebook as a post. The latest post in the Timeline is also the Profile photo.

The Timeline is the entire collection of pictures, text, and videos that you post on Facebook — essentially, everything that appears below the Profile and cover images.

[Credit: Janine Warner]

Credit: Janine Warner

Comparing Timeline, cover, and Profile images

Two kinds of images get displayed at the top of your Facebook Profile:

  • Your Facebook Profile picture (the small image included at the top of your Profile, as well as with all your posts)

  • Your cover image (the big photo you can add to the top of your Facebook Profile)

These two images are quite literally the face that you display to the world. Which images you choose and how you position them will have a significant impact on the first impression you give when your Profile is visited.

Sizing images for your Facebook design

The top of a Facebook Profile is made up of two images.

[Credit: Janine Warner]

Credit: Janine Warner

One of the key design challenges you face when you create a cover design is the fact that these are two separate graphic elements, each of different sizes and dimensions.

[Credit: Janine Warner]

Credit: Janine Warner

The Profile photo is a perfect square, but the cover image is wide and horizontal.

[Credit: Janine Warner]

Credit: Janine Warner

Further complicating matters, Facebook displays the Profile picture in your cover design at 160 x 160 px. However, Facebook requires that you upload a Profile picture at least 180 x 180 px because in some parts of Facebook, the images are displayed in a larger size.

Similarly, Facebook displays the large cover image at 851 x 315 px, but if you click the cover image after it’s placed in the cover design on Facebook, it opens in a much larger window. That means if you want your cover image to look its best, you need to upload an image that is larger than the display size.

The different sizes used by Facebook for your Profile and cover images can make positioning a bit complicated.

Uploading larger images works well as long as you keep the aspect ratio (the proportional relationship between the width and height) the same.

If you upload a cover image that is smaller than 851 x 315 px, Facebook stretches it to fit the display area. But if you upload a larger cover photo, Facebook reduces the image to fit the 851-px-wide display area in your Profile, and you have the benefit of the larger size when someone clicks it.

If the aspect ratio is not the same, Facebook crops the image to fit the space, but you can adjust the cropping area when you upload the image.

Be sure to consider that even though your Profile picture and cover photo will primarily be viewed together, both images can also be seen individually in other areas of Facebook. You may not want to create or select a Profile or cover image that makes sense only when viewed on your Profile page.

To view the designs on Facebook, you’ll need to use a computer monitor capable of displaying at least a 1024 x 768 px screen resolution.

Most modern computers come with widescreen monitors capable of displaying images and video at far higher resolutions, but if you’re still hanging on to a very old computer with a display limited to 800 x 600 px, you may have to scroll around to see the entire image at the top of each Facebook Profile.