I've been addicted to Twitter for quite a while now, but my background has always been nothing more than a repeat pattern I found somewhere online. It was pretty, but it didn't say much about me - and Twitter doesn't offer much to help you introduce yourself. So as more and more people come to know me through Twitter without having met me in person, I felt like it was time to give my background image some attention.
I had a few goals. I wanted my background to be simple, and I wanted it to tell people where else they could find me. I'm not a marketer trying to get 1,000 followers so I can spam them with crap and get more site traffic... I just want the small group I do have to be able to follow me elsewhere. Twitter isn't meant to replace social networks, so I had some hesitations about hacking the system to put some personal links (like my portfolio, LinkedIn account, and the Inspire blog) in the background image. For one thing, they'll never be clickable and that feels weird. But more importantly, I felt like I might be breaking some Twitter etiquette by going all Guy Kawaski Twool-ish with it.
In the end I decided that a photo and a few links added value without being too obnoxious. I whipped up a quick template, designed within what I considered to be a safe area on the left, matched my avatar up with the new design, and customized the limited color options found under Settings. To keep from disorienting people, I stuck with the lime green color scheme used in my old wallpaper style.
The result isn't groundbreaking, but I do think it was worth the effort.
Depending on your goals, there is actually a lot of room for creativity. I found some great examples online at http://twitterbackgroundsgallery.com/. A few of my favorites:
scottclark uses a retro aviation theme. I love the little details, like putting his LinkedIn address on the pilot license. I notice he also includes his Twitter URL, which seems kinda silly since you obviously already know that... but maybe he's using this image elsewhere.
betterinpink has a great illustrated background that closely matches the work in her portfolio. A quick intro paragraph on the left tells you she's a designer and includes an email address. Great approach if you're a freelancer trying to drum up business.
Designmeme and mayhemstudios use the headshot/bio approach I went with, which seems like the most direct approach for a personal account.
Whether you just add a tiled background or delve deeper and get super creative with it, customizing your Twitter background makes you look more legit. So as more and more spammers show up on Twitter, it makes sense to spend a few minutes distinguishing yourself from the crowd.
Design your own
To make life easier for you, I've uploaded a ZIP file with my PSD template. I grouped together all of the elements you're allowed to change through the Settings panel, including the sidebar, text, and links, so testing out new color schemes is simple. Use your own judgment on how far to the left and right you want to carry your design, as well as the height. Your background image can be up to 800k, but who wants to wait for an 800k background image to load? Keep it light - I recommend 300k max.
You can download the template here: http://clients.viget.com/blogposts/templates/twitter_template.zip
Oh yeah... wanna follow me on Twitter? I'm graphicsgirl. Why I didn't use my actual name is beyond me.
There are a lot of left sidebar haters out there, so I thought I'd share some examples that don't use a sidebar at all. Take a look at these lovely creations:
chrisspooner goes retro
kpiper uses a fun illustration with a great color scheme
thrivan shows us his chalkboard notes
jsmibert creates a cool and subtle background out of famous logos