“New Twitter” Kills Custom Backgrounds

If you are an agency, organization or individual that has made use of customized Twitter backgrounds to share contact info, expanded “about me,” Facebook URLs and more in the left-hand side of the Twitter.com profile page, then the roll out of “New Twitter” may  leave you with some additional work to spruce up your page.

In addition to inline media and other features, the new Twitter.com platform refresh takes up greater screen real estate. In doing so, it blocks out the formerly empty left hand part of the background that proved popular real-estate to share additional information, albeit in a static, non-linkable format via a custom background.

This obviously isn’t just a government agency or organizational issue, but one that will affect thousands of profiles whenever viewed on Twitter.com. As @GrafikDepot points out, if a viewer is using a screen resolution of 1600 pixels wide (or larger), most old Twitter backgrounds will look fine on New Twitter. The problem is that very few users have resolution set to 1600 wide or larger (~12% according to MarketShare’s August 2010 report on screen resolutions), the vast majority are viewing at 1024 or 1280.

Here are some sample pages with before/after “New Twitter” views of the background image:

Old Twitter @HHSGov Page

New Twittter @HHSGov page

Old Twitter @NASA page

New Twitter @NASA page

Old Twitter @USGS page

New Twitter @USGS page

Commercial Example: Old Twitter @DeloitteGov page

Commercial Example: New Twitter @DeloitteGov page

Social media news leader @Mashable's custom background is still built for old Twitter.

Updated 9/25/10 @ 9:10 EDT to include link to average screen resolution data

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  • http://adrielhampton.com Adriel Hampton

    Yikes! Great job with the examples, Steve. Have you noticed any adoption yet of custom designs for “new Twitter”?

  • http://GovTwit.com Steve Lunceford

    I have not Adriel, but have had “new Twitter” for GovTwit account just a few hours.

    It was the first thing I noticed, most likely because there was some effort put into the http://Twitter.com/DeloitteGov account I’m helping manage and that background will now need to be re-worked.

  • http://twitter.com/sarahebourne Sarah Bourne

    I say, “Good riddance!” They were never available for everybody anyway. Most third party clients didn’t display them and, since there’s no way to provide alternate text for that image, people who rely on screen readers can’t read them, either.

    If that’s not enough, there’s the aesthetics. I must use a strange screen size, because none of them ever fit right. And the bits I can see just look messy: too much stuff crammed in just because there’s a space.

    We’ll all just have to learn to make the most of the URL Twitter allows us to post. Having a great landing page has to be the new goal.

  • Justin Williams

    I agree with Sarah 100%. I never really looked at them.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottHorvath Scott Horvath

    How about a screenshot of @USGS? I still don’t have #newtwitter yet. I’m sure the USGS one is also cut off badly.

  • http://GovTwit.com Steve Lunceford

    @Scott, just for you my friend.

    @Sarah, @justin – I can see your point, but like it or hate it, the fact remains that many pages (including many gov twitter feeds) will need to update their backgrounds now with little to no warning. Personally I liked the prior use of the space as it allowed you to easily convey additional information.

  • Pingback: Review of the new twitter | Kimondo

  • Sivaram

    I agree but you are looking the background where as if you check the new features its cool, everything under one place.
    Man I can see all my photos and videos from one place itself.
    Another thing I never had a background image 🙂 so i had no issues. Hope someone will come up with something creative about the background.

  • Justin Williams

    @Steve – Good point about accounts being cognizant of the change so that they can change the background once the majority of users are on new twitter.

  • Scott Horvath

    Yep. That’s a little cut off. I guess I know what I’m working on next week 🙂 Thanks for the screenshots…those will help me out since I still don’t have the new twitter.

  • http://www.socialidentities.com Hugh Briss

    I’d hardly say that the new layout has killed custom backgrounds, it simply means that we need to redesign those backgrounds to fit. Mine works just fine for me. http://www.twitter.com/hughbriss

  • http://www.socialidentities.com Hugh Briss

    By they way, you may have noticed that the new Twitter has slightly transparent right side bar when viewed in Firefox or Chrome which opens new possibilities for custom backgrounds to make use of that space.

  • http://twitter.com/jeffersonite J.C.Chang

    Correct me if I’m way out in left field here, but as you mentioned that “the new Twitter.com platform refresh takes up greater screen real estate”, it all depends on the viewer’s screen resolution settings.

    All of the mentioned accounts’ info strip were cut off whenever I viewed them on my tablet (SVGA), and the info panel was at the peripherals when I viewed the pages on a WUXGA screen… And I don’t know first hand, but this pretty much places the info strip in another timezone on a WQXGA screen.

    Point is that I don’t think the new Twitter killed the custom background–they just gave an excuse to get bigger screens! Or, a more cost effective alternative would be to press Ctrl/Cmd & – (minus sign), which increases your browser’s real estate (at the cost of legibility, to some extents).

  • http://GovTwit.com Steve Lunceford

    @hugh agreed it doesn’t truly “kill,” but “new twitter screws up custom backgrounds for those with screen resolutions under 1600 pixels wide and you’ll need to redesign” didn’t seem as catchy a headline 😉

    @JC, you are correct that it depends on resolution settings. But as I mention in the post, only 12% of users have screen resolutions set at a high enough level to view most of the current custom backgrounds without issue.

  • http://www.hojomo.com Howard Moorey

    Good selection of viewpoints all round, but in the real world, people are just going to go on viewing #NewTwitter with what they’ve got! So that makes a great opportunity for background makers to step up or shut up – what’s left on the left will be wasted web real estate if new solutions aren’t available.

    Mine will certainly need some attention: http://twitter.com/hojomo what do you say @twitbacks ?

    Thanks to Steve (and @NikkiPilkington) for highlighting; we don’t have New Twtter here in the UK yet! ;))

  • http://GovTwit.com Steve Lunceford

    Evidently I wasn’t the first to notice this (shocking, I know ;)).

    On Sept. 14th @AugieRay from Forrester blogged about the new Twitter interface including “The Impact on Background Images of Old versus New Twitter”

  • http://www.banyanbranch.com/blog/how-to-make-twitter-backgrounds-for-the-new-twitter-com Jonathan

    Twitter’s new UI changes do not Kill backgrounds, they just make them less relevant. The UI Changes alone make the backgrounds less important because you are no longer viewing user profiles on their profile page; but in the right hand tab instead.

    You can still be creative within the 41-108px that are left to use.

    I detailed how to make one with the changes here: http://www.banyanbranch.com/blog/how-to-make-twitter-backgrounds-for-the-new-twitter-com

  • http://www.ilovestyle.be Tom Verschuere

    @Scott Horvath : your make over works well, what dimensions did you use to put your logo and info in ?
    thanks in advance,


  • http://twitter.com/ScottHorvath Scott Horvath

    Actually, I just did it based upon the screenshot that Steve took above…which is about 110px width on the left-hand side.

    However, I just now got the new Twitter today and I can see that the page actually doesn’t leave much room at all for a background image with more information there is on the @USGS account. In fact, by my measurement I see only 40px on the left-hand side if the window is resized to the minimum possible before the main Twitter area starts to shift to the left…exposing more of the background. I also see about 18px left from the top of the page between the Twitter menu bar and the top of the main Twitter content area. I’d like to optimize for that…but that’s WAY too small.

    I’ll have to rethink what I did.

  • http://smjblog.info @JohnsonStephenM

    I’ve noticed that the right pane… where the actual pictures/profiles/individual tweets pop up after you click them is transparent. I’m currently playing around with the idea of using that area but haven’t been able to upload anything because twitter has too many technical issues with customization right now. But it’s a thought.

  • http://www.wordsellinc.com Brad Shorr

    Even though Twitter is free and users have little room to complain, this redesign is awfully heavy handed. We have a number of clients who have made a serious investment in Twitter backgrounds that are now obsolete for all intents and purposes. This experience will make users think twice before investing in Twitter.

  • Julx

    Well, I care more about the new awesome functions of #newtwitter. But some important functions were gone like the ‘in reply to link’ and you can’t also see who retweets your tweets.

  • http://www.smalltimemarketer.com Mike Storzieri

    I agree with Brad, not only is the new interface not all that helpful, but clients needed information the background afforded and Twitter did not, makes Twitter seem a little unfriendly toward those in business.