You don’t always need a custom application for your Facebook fan page to look amazing. Save yourself time and money by using the Static FBML application instead.
[box type=”error”]FBML and FBJS were deprecated by Facebook in 2012 in place of iframe applications, so the code in this article will not work anymore. This article is being kept here for historical purposes only.[/box]
If you’ve played around with Facebook pages at all, you know that layout-wise, you don’t have a lot of options. It’s one of the reasons some people prefer MySpace, where you can have custom font colors and sizes and custom backgrounds, and one of the reasons I personally have to be paid to logon to MySpace.
A current misconception seems to be that in order to have any custom content or display elements in a Facebook page, such as a custom tab or profile box with a specific promotion or branded look and feel, you need a Facebook application.
This is not true at all, and hopefully, I can save you a lot of time, headache and money by letting you in on a little secret.
There is a Facebook application called Static FBML that could potentially save you a lot of hassle. This application was put out by Facebook, and it allows you to create custom HTML/FBML boxes and tabs on your Facebook fan page.
At its most sophisticated, the Static FBML app can allow you pull FBML elements into a profile box, boxes tab box, or an entire tab, At its most basic, you can use it to create custom HTML boxes in those same places that you can completely design and brand to your liking.
For example, I recently worked on the Facebook fan page for Sunkist Soda. While we do use a custom application to display recent Twitter posts by the Sunkist Soda Twitter account, there is an entire branded tab that is simple HTML. The “Team” tab on this page isn’t a custom application – it’s simply a Static FBML box with custom HTML.
We also use a Static FBML box on the main page’s profile, with a small box that includes promotions for various campaigns.
The general rule of thumb is – if you don’t actually need to use any scripted languages like PHP or ASP, and you don’t need to access the API to get the user’s information for any reason, you probably don’t actually need an application. In our Sunkist Soda tab example, we’re not accessing the API, and we’re not doing anything database-related. We’re just displaying a nice background image and some thumbnails that link out.
The end result is a beautifully designed and branded tab or box that looks exactly the way you want it to look. When you need to update the content, just login to Facebook and make your changes in the Static FBML box.
Times When Static FBML is Enough
As I mentioned, if you’re not accessing the API and you’re not doing anything fancy, Static FBML will usually cut it. Also bear in mind that you can use Mock Ajax and FBJS in these boxes, so you could actually have a fairly dynamic tab/box, including expandable onclick elements, etc – without an application.
It basically behaves like a stand-alone webpage within your Facebook fan page.
Some suggestions on where beefing up your fan page with Static FBML can really help:
- Promotional text/graphics that click through your Facebook application or website
- HTML version of your latest newsletter in its own tab (with signup box!)
- A shortcut to important links on your website
- Any other place where you want a custom look and feel within your fan page
Figuring this out sooner rather than later can save you thousands of dollars if you’re considering hiring someone to help you. A contractor is going to have a vested interest in not mentioning this option to you, because it turns a specialized, several-thousand-dollar project into something any jackhole who knows basic HTML can handle themselves.