Facebook's New Pages: A Hands-On Tour

Facebook Pages
It's Thursday, and that can mean only one thing: It's time for yet another Facebook design change.

All right, I'm exaggerating -- Facebook doesn't actually roll out site changes every single week -- but man, it sure can feel like it at times. The social network has tweaked and fine-tuned its look more times than Elizabeth Taylor, frequently for no apparent reason at all.

This time, it's Facebook pages -- formerly known as "fan pages" -- getting the nip and tuck. Facebook pages are like profiles for public figures: companies, celebrities, even lowly tech writers.

Here's a quick tour of what's changing.

Facebook Pages: A New Look

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The Facebook page makeover essentially makes Facebook's public pages look more like personal profiles, which themselves were redesigned just about two months ago (exhausted yet?). The changes can be previewed and manually activated by page administrators over the next few weeks; all pages will be automatically switched to the new design on March 1.

So what's new? Facebook pages, like their profile counterparts, now show a line of photos at the top of their main wall (see full-sized image). For pages, these photos include any images posted by the page owner. In my mind, this is the worst new feature of the page makeover; in contrast to photos uploaded to personal Facebook profiles -- which tend to show images of the actual profile owner or his friends and family -- photos posted to Facebook pages frequently show products, screenshots, and other random things that don't really make sense when displayed out of context.

On my own Facebook page, for example, the photo bar is currently showing images of the Googleplex, a Jabra headset, a Cr-48 notebook, and two screenshots of websites. Seems like an odd choice to be the first thing people will see upon visiting my page.

Aside from that, page elements are shifted around a bit -- the navigation area, which allows you to toggle through different tabs, is now on the left-hand column of the page instead of the top -- and the posts displayed on the wall are now filtered through an algorithmic process similar to what's done in the "Top News" option on your main Facebook stream. Previously, posts were shown in a purely chronological order.

Facebook Pages: New Features

Perhaps the most significant changes to Facebook pages are the newly launched features for page administrators. The new Facebook page system adds in some basic-sounding but long-missing options for page owners, most of which revolve around the ability to sign in as your page.

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If you have a Facebook page, you'll find a new option under the "Account" menu on the top-right corner of the site to "Use Facebook as Page." Once you activate that, you'll receive in-site notifications anytime someone likes your page, posts on your page, or comments on something posted on your page (see full-sized image). The notifications show up in the upper-left corner of the site, just like they do with a normal Facebook account. You can also opt to receive e-mail notifications to let you know about new page activity.

In addition, you can now browse through Facebook as your page. That means you can visit other Facebook pages, like them, and leave comments on them -- and it'll all show up as being from your page's name. Any pages you like will be displayed in a new widget on the left column of your own page, and you can prioritize those entries in order to control which will be most visible to visitors. You can even access a separate news feed based solely on your page-based likes.

Still missing, unfortunately, is the option to add a much-needed "Indifferent" button to a page. One day, though...one day.

(In case you were counting, by the way, the word "page" appeared on this page a whopping 40 times. That, my friends, is a new personal record. Thank you, Facebook.)

JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the co-founder of geek-humor site eSarcasm. His freshly upgraded Facebook page still has that new car smell; you really must get a whiff.

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