By now I will assume that everyone knows the value of Twitter, whether you are a brand or an everyday person. Optimizing that space behind the feed, your background design, is an obvious step to extending the reach of your brand and making it that much easier for others that may be interested in you or your brand to make a connection.
Some may say, “I only see someone’s background in Twitter once, so who cares what it looks like?” To that I say, first impressions are key. Besides, I find myself going back to view someone’s profile on Twitter from Tweetdeck to catch up on some missed tweets.
Changing background designs and color options is simple to do in Twitter Settings, and there are a few ready-made designs or themes that they offer to you as well as tons of paid services. But why stop at ready-made when you can be unique? I will go through the basics of what Twitter offers, then dig deeper into the more creative ways to liven up your design by using patterns, photographs, a business card style background, or a combination of all.
Within your main navigation you have Settings; this is where you can change your Design by following the link on the bottom to Change background image or selecting a preset theme.
Once you click on Change background image, you can then upload or delete your current image.
Clicking on Change design colors takes you to settings that control colors for all the other components like text, background, side bar, etc.
Graphic Fade to Color
This technique can be more lightweight than a huge photo and still pack a stronger punch than just a solid color background. By adding a graphic to your background you add visual interest. For the graphic to work well with higher screen resolutions, you would need to fade it out into a solid color. This solid color would then be set as the background color from the Twitter basic settings for design colors.
Below is the graphic used for @obox ‘s background. A color selection, hex color #, from the very edge of the graphic will then be used for the background color in Twitter’s settings.
Photo and Pattern Backgrounds
Photos are a great way to give life to your backgrounds. They can be purely fun like Twilk, which is a background generator that will create a custom background made up of your friends’ profile photos. The downside is you have to pay a fee of $5 to get the Twilk.com branding removed.
A very large photo can be powerful and effective in creating a certain mood or feel. The examples below show a crisp, clean interior shot of an airplane, interesting books on shelves and a stark simple cup of coffee. All of these relate directly to their brands.
You can also tile your photo or image so that the picture repeats itself like a pattern. Simple, effective and fun.
A repeating background pattern is a sure way of knowing that your background will display on any monitor at any given setting. Upload a repeating background and check the option for Tile background.
Business Card Design
This is the better background design option to ensure branding and design consistency is tied together throughout all your design and media.
When I started creating the 10e20 Twitter background design, I began with a template in Photoshop with a canvass size of 1635 x 1288 pixels. This large size ensured that even the biggest screens/resolutions would see just design or solid color.
Then I set up margin guidelines where the main text and additional company information would be, like “10e20′s on Twitter,” etc. The size of this space is 234 pixels wide. Again, this gutter width varies from screen to screen depending on certain variables, but if you design for at least 200 pixels wide you are playing it safe.
After uploading the 10e20 background design, I left the option for Tile background unchecked. This means that if someone has a huge screen/resolution they won’t get endless repetition.
I also set the Change design colors to White for Background, so when the design did end the white in it would continue on in either direction. This is essentially a Fade to color technique.
Some creatively designed business card backgrounds that I feel work great:
When you’re viewing someone’s background and you see links to other social sites as graphics that you can’t click on, it gets a bit annoying to have to type in that URL just to get there. It’s almost like using a rotary phone. I wonder if Twitter sees this flaw with the backgrounds packed with information and in the future allows a more in-depth customization of the background with fields for specific links and other information besides the right-hand side bar.
Your screen resolution does matter when it comes to seeing some of these information-packed Twitter backgrounds. Like anything designed on the web, you will run into inconsistencies with various screen resolutions, monitor sizes and how big the browser window is that the viewer is using. These are all variables that constantly change. The assumption that the image size available is determined by monitor size is not 100% correct. It is determined by the window width, which the designer has no control over.
Still, there are some who say “DON’T DO IT!” about backgrounds at all, but where is the fun in that? I say get in there, play around, have fun if you’re starting out. If you’re a business then get it together and use your existing branding that allows your audience to recognize where they are.