DailyDev: Custom Twitter Background

June 3, 2010

DailyDev blog series thumbnail logo -- day 3I’ve been meaning to take a stab at a custom Twitter background for a while but was always unsure what dimensions would be best to accommodate varying screen resolutions. This Mashable post, which I used as my guide, recommends 1600px by 1200px. The left column where text popularly goes should be less than 240 pixels wide, the post suggests.

While branding is typically the main motivation behind custom Twitter backgrounds, I was going for function more so than form here.

I have two Twitter accounts, a personal account and one I created for school. I maintained both during the first part of my grad program but have since started feeding all my everyday tweets to my personal handle, reserving my old school account for live tweeting.

I wanted the custom background to convey this so that anyone who stumbles upon my school account doesn’t miss that it’s not my main handle.

Finished Product

Screengrab of customer Twitter background

  • I used Photoshop to create the image. I employed a gradient background and some basic layer effects on the text and icon to achieve some depth. The Twitter bird is from this free set.

Pros

  • Give your Twitter page a personal touch or communicate important information with minimal extra effort.
  • Brand yourself or your organization across multiple spaces by matching the look/feel of your website, print campaign, etc.
  • Non-designers can outsource the job to free online background generators.

Cons

  • Since you’re dealing with a fixed image, it’s impossible to get the dimensions perfect for every resolution.
  • Mobile users, a fast growing segment of your and any audience, don’t benefit from your custom background. Nor do your established followers, really. Once I start following someone, at least, it’s not often I click through to his or her page.
  • You can’t hyperlink the text. A good use of Twitter backgrounds is to promote your other online spaces, but, whenever I see this I have to fight my instinct to click on the words.

Tip

  • Don’t make your background too texty. It’s against the 140-character spirit of Twitter.

Recommend?

  • For organizations, definitely. It’s a can’t-miss opportunity to extend your brand and get important information in front of your audience. An attractive background that efficiently communicates what your org is all about can make all the difference when a user is deciding whether to become a follower.
  • For individuals it can be beneficial for the same reasons, but, to me, overly packaged personal backgrounds often come across as pretentious — especially those with large photos of the user identical or similar to his or her profile picture a few pixels away.

I’m a fan or more subtle personal backgrounds — especially large landscape or cityscape photos — that serve a design function and reflect the user’s personality but let his or her tweets, profile bio and website link speak for themselves.

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