A case against social media timeline widgets

A case against social media timeline widgets

December 7th, 2019

We get it all the time at my work. "Can I put my Facebook timeline on my website?"

Absolutely not. Here is why.

They are generally inaccessible

At work, we strive maintain websites that are WCAG 2.0 compliant. Most of these timeline widgets lack the neccessary accomodations to make them accessible to all.

They don't blend in with your website's look and feel

They are usually difficult to design around and stick out like a sore thumb unless your site uses the same color scheme.

All it takes is one bad post to steal the spotlight

If you timeline is not always 100% on brand, all it takes is one off-message post or retweet to misdirect visitors who take notice. Not all posts are timeless and age well.

They track you (and are often blocked)

Social media companies look for ways to get to know you better and these widgets are indirectly another tool they use to do so. They are so good at tracking that browsers, extensions and laws are being created to block them from doing so. This leaves a big blank space on your website for a decent number of your visitors, often your homepage where page real estate is important in capturing your targeted audience.

Visitors skim right over them

Visitors don't come to your website for social media content. There have been some usability studies that suggest website visitors don't care to scroll through external content and that if they are interested in a website's social media presence, they connect through outbound links on the website or directly through their platform of choice.

With all of that said, I do see benefits of some social media content within a website.

  • Social media links treated like contact information can be a valuable addition a website footer along with other contact methods.
  • Individual Twitter tweets, for example, can serve as visual pull quotes to supplement related content. Just make sure you capture the tweets separately in case the author deletes it or the embed changes/breaks.
  • Offload visitor commentary/discussion to a platform where your visitors already have an account by "symlinking" a post. Let the social media companies be your first line of defense against spam and abuse.
  • The basics of SEO on the Internet is creating a web of links. Link back and forth to encourage traffic and crawlers.