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On the Ning Platform, you have full control over the size of the header you add to your social network to make it uniquely yours. That being said, some headers are more successful than others and some headers may be seriously getting in the way of your network’s plans for world domination.

Of what do I speak? Gigantic headers.

Why are they a problem? Because they push the things people care about – your network, its latest activity, members and the eye candy of content – way down the page and off many screens.

Do this as an experiment: try viewing your social network on your own or a friend’s small laptop and if you can’t see the navigation and at least 1/3rd of the content of your network without scrolling, your header is too big. If you think in pixels, we’d recommend nothing taller than 200 pixels high for your header.

But, you may say, I need a huge image to differentiate my social network and make it my own. That’s fine, but then we’d recommend a full splash page like what Souljaboy’s done with Tellem.TV instead of a gigantic header:

Let's Talk Gigantic Headers

While the splash page approach may require some domain mapping trickery, the benefit of the splash page is that you’ve got plenty of real estate on a page that loads quickly, it sets a mood and, when people clickthrough to the social network itself, your social network is free to do what it does best without being weighed down by a heavy graphic that is slow to load and may hide the fact that you have a social network way down the page if they start scrolling. This “below the fold” approach of a few networks we’ve seen is just a challenge that you don’t need.

In this specific example, the splash page approach makes entry into Souljaboy’s social network clear, gives him a place to promote his latest and greatest projects and doesn’t run the risk that someone lands on his network and doesn’t know that they have to scroll.

Granted, we’d still recommend a bit less header on Souljaboy’s actual social network (it loads a bit slowly because it is big and takes up about 20% more real estate than we’d probably recommend), but at least the latest activity feed is near the top and loads quickly – letting you get to the latest and greatest on the network without having to wait for the header to load.

The beautiful thing with our impassioned plea for small headers is that you don’t have to take our word for their effectiveness. You can do your own makeshift “Before” and “After” testing to see if your network’s adoption rate and traffic is impacted by the size of your header. Here’s what you can do:

1. Set up Google Analytics for your social network on Ning.

2. Create two headers – one big and one small – and run them each for a full week interval (e.g., run the big one for a week, then run the small one for a week or vice versa). During their respective week, promote them equally to your friends, fan lists or however you’re promoting your social network.

3. See what happens, especially on your social network’s Main page.

While this isn’t perfectly scientific, it’s a great way to see if what we’re seeing across the Ning Platform in terms of networks with small headers performing better than networks large headers applies to your network as well.

Let us know what you discover or if you have different evidence already. We’d love to hear from you.