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As your network begins to take shape, an important step in taking it to the next level is customizing the appearance of your network. A quick, easy way to make your social network stand out is to design a custom header.

I decided to make a network on Ning called The Clubhouse, a place where golf aficionados could hang out and talk golf. Making a custom header was simple. All I had to do was choose a theme, find a cool photo, add a logo to it, and upload it to my network.

Choosing a Theme

As a Network Creator you know what your social network is all about. When choosing a theme try to think of a color pallete or design that you can use as the background and body color for your social network. Then, choose a theme from the “Appearance” page and customize that theme. Here’s how:

A. Log into your social network.
B. Under the ‘Manage’ tab, click on the ‘Appearance’ link.
C. Now choose one of over 50 preset themes for your social network

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Since my network deals with golf and the outdoors I chose the ‘Blue Jeans’ theme. The blues and whites of the theme are simple and clean, and easy to build upon.

Adding a Header and Logo

The first thing your members see when they log onto your network is the page header. This is your chance to show off your network theme, add a logo and throw in a clever tagline. Network Creators can easily add their own headers, logos and background without having to program in CSS. Of course, that option is still available for those who wish to do so by simply clicking on the ‘Advanced’ tab in the ‘Appearance’ settings.

Here are some things to think about when making a custom header for your network:

1. If you have a Mac or Windows machine, download an open source image editor like Seashore (Mac) or Gimp (PC). These are free to download and easy to use.

2. Create a header background that encompasses the theme of your social network in one glance. Remember, a picture says a thousand words — you should definitely make this one count. For my golf network, here’s what I chose:

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3. Once you’re done creating a header background make sure it has a maximum width of 955 pixels. A good rule of thumb is to keep your height around 150 to 200 pixels.

4. Create a logo that will be placed on top of your header background. Keep the dimensions of your logo smaller than your header background to prevent your logo from going over any edges. You can export images in .png format to make the background transparent, so the logo blends in with the header. Here’s the logo I used:

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The white text and transparent background work well because your logo will be placed directly on top of the header background. Here’s what my header looks like now:

Here are other examples of great custom headers on Ning:

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Want to make a Background Header and Logo like this one? It’s a breeze!

Making your own Background Header/Logo

A. Log into your Ning network.
B. Click on the ‘Manage’ tab
C. Scroll over ‘Header Background’ and click on the ‘Image’ tab.
D. Click on ‘Upload an image from your computer’. Make sure the image has a maximum width of 955 pixels.

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E. Repeat this process for the “Add a logo” section.

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Here’s what my Network looks like now:

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A little bit of work goes a long way in making your network stand out and look great. Good luck!