Every time Facebook changes its design, there is a collective outcry from the addicted masses bemoaning the site’s new look. Facebook Timeline — the new profile design that’s rolling out this week — will be no exception. But Timeline is different from previous updates, and users should have fewer reasons to pout: Timeline lets them be a designer.

The biggest change in Timeline profiles is the giant photo that goes at the top of your profile, separate from your profile picture. It’s called a cover, and it’s the most creativity that Facebook has ever permitted in its mostly rigid design. So, now with your profile picture and your cover picture, you’ll have two decisions about the best way you present yourself to the online world. Here are some tips for compiling your Timeline.

Your cover is the first impression of you a user will get when he or she goes to your page. As you sort through your photos, think about which snapshots best represent you, whether it’s an image of your family or something totally abstract. Humor is always welcome, and for advanced Timeline users, there are ways to make jokes about the actual design of the page. Check out how these clever designers have transformed their pages.

Too often, people change their Facebook photo to a photo of someone or something other than themselves — their child, their dog, a beautiful vacation photo. Those photos can now go in the cover, instead, freeing people to return their profile photo to a self-portrait once again. Writes Jill Duffy in PC Mag: “ I have no problem with creative profile pictures, but there actually is a breakdown in the mechanics of Facebook when you can't identify your friends by sight; several of Facebook's authentication procedures require you to identify your friends. I've failed them on several occasions by staring blankly at pictures of infants, groups of people on a stage, and cartoon images of dogs.”

The cover is a huge space, so a high-res photo will look best. Be prepared to crop and manipulate your image to make it look great. You can drag your image around the viewer space, but you can’t crop or resize from within Facebook.

Sites such as MyFBCovers and SiteCanvas will give you the tools to design a creative cover with your own images. For those who can’t choose just one image, SiteCanvas will help you make a collage.

(The Washington Post, Maura Judkis, 12/16/2011)