I'd like to allow people to change the order of sections on their profiles. The idea is that if a person X has an impressive "Experience" section, while person Y has no experience but an interesting "Hobbies" section, then they can each change the order that sections are displayed to have their preferred section be above the others. (i.e. X could have Experience be the top-most section, Y could have Hobbies).

For the profile-makers, this seems good as it gives them more control over how people will see their profile (plus they put lacklustre sections at the bottom). But for the profile-viewers, it seems like they might be irritated by the extra time it takes to identify which section is which.

Are there any sites that implement this idea? If so, does anyone know what user opinion is on it?

Here's a visual of the example above from the perspective of a profile-viewer:

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  • Interesting question about consistency versus personalization. I've edited slightly to remove the polling aspect, which would be off-topic. Oct 18, 2012 at 21:33

11 Answers 11


The social network myspace allowed customization of nearly every part of the profile page. Users could build their own profile pages with the help of html and css. This led to many pretty awful designs, because many users seemed to be overstrained by so much freedom. In the end the customization features are supposed to have caused the crisis of myspace. Many users changed to facebook with its clear and uniform design. See discussions here:

What are the reasons for the failure of myspace?

MySpace's UX induced death

The horrors of myspace

... and some general notes on customization in Jacob Nielsen's alertbox.

However, if you only allow to change the order of the sections in the profile and nothing else (like colors, backgrounds, borders, heights and widths of page elements), than you won't get the same problems like myspace. However, it can serve as an intimidating example: you obviously should not allow users to edit html or css.

I would rather suggest to allow dragging and dropping the sections in order to change their order. As far as I'm informed this is now possible in LinkedIn:

Some of the upgrades include in-line editing, a new sidebar for adding profile sections, higher-resolution photos and the capability to drag and drop profile sections so users can organize them according preference.

See also this article.

Edit: Here you can find it on youtube: "Rearrange the sections on your LinkedIn profile"


A perfect example of a site like this is Vizify. They're a profile site that focuses on having the user create a beautiful profile page with information from all of their other profiles, and still allows them a fair amount of customization.

I think Vizify does this really well, and if you focus on the content the user publishes being personal, I think the viewer of the profile will realize this. People have gotten super creative, and I think where Vizify stands apart is that it's well designed, and while it doesn't allow personalization on the scale of the old myspace, profiles - through differently organized content - can still all stand out.


It's not exactly what you asked, but I think it may be relevant to consider that any organization will be as easy to check as any other one if you provide a table of contents in the page.

Doesn't matter the order, if I can read clear titles/headings/points in a list, I can click on it and read what interest me the most and later read the rest.


I think it depends on your website content, if its a job profile website than it would be ideal to allow users organize their contents, but lets say if its a game profile of a user, then consistency should be maintained. It depends on the content of your website. Providing flexibility to user to organize their profile content is good, but flexibility does also have a cost which is losing consistency


You need to clarify the purpose of the page/site and the purpose of the ability to reorganize the content.

If you use the job application scenario as an example, then every job applicant have their own version of a CV. The employers are not unfamiliar with the concept of "mixed content" when they read trough the pile of job applications. In fact, an unique CV is one of the most important things the applicant has to stand out. Just google "amazing cv examples" (or something like that), and you'll see that the whole CV-thing is a big deal.

BUT! If the employer is the "main user", and the purpose of the page is to make it easy for various employers to browse and compare potential candidates, then you should consider to have equal templates for every candidate.

(This was meant to be a comment, but it turned out to bee too long. It's not an attempt to answer your question.)

OK. So I have to put in an answer as well...

Usually, you will get lots of lots of sections. And many of these sections are irrelevant for may users. Jut think of the sections "Books you have written", "Portfolio", "Awards", "FOSS contributions" etc etc.

So... unless you have a very homogeneous group of users, and unless comparison of profiles is the purpose of the profiles - you can consider reorganization and customization to be a good thing. The reader would benefit from customized profiles and the profile owner would be happy to reorganize the content...


It depends on the answer to the question: are users coming to the CV to find a specific piece of data, or to assess the whole piece of content?

If users are coming to find a particular point of info - that is, if they're comparing candidates on a particular metric, or they're looking to answer one specific piece of info about candidates (e.g. "find employees with PhDs") - you can support that behaviour with consistent sections.

If users are coming to assess the whole piece of content - that is, if they want to read the whole thing to get a sense of the candidate holistically - then letting users put more relevant data first helps the employer.

If users are doing both, you can allow the candidate to order their own CV but provide separate, consistently laid out metadata to the viewer (for instance, a 'summary pane' that shows the years of experience, highest level of education and current salary).


One possibility is to give each section its own strong personality (style) with it's own background color, label font, maybe a graphic symbol, etc. The user cannot change these styles, i.e. all experience panels would have the same style, as would all gallery panels, etc.

With just a little exposure to profile pages people would associate the style with the kind of panel so the varying sequencing wouldn't be as confusing. Of course coming up with the varying styles that are distinct enough but not too visually distracting would be a challenge.


IMHO, customizing is as good or bad as (spare the analogy) dress-code in a work place.

When it exists, people will be looked at in the same way, as equals, we're comparing apples with apples. What we wear is out of the equation and the only thing behind it is only our personality traits, it makes us focus on what's important and not be distracted with other stuff.

When it doesn't exist, the baseline for comparison gets gray, you start comparing apples, oranges, apricots, pineapples (er, I think you know what I'm saying). In this regard, people will start noticing if you wear shorts and sandals vs pants and shoes, instead of noticing what you have to say.

Giving people to customize will make the baseline for comparison gray, will make users stressed about not finding they need where they expect it to be; it assumes (badly) that everyone has the same good communication skills and that everyone will be perfectionist about the way their profile looks, and well this is not possible.

A workaround that would allow users to customize without you compromising experience is doing something like the cover photo in facebook. Facebook has been (debatable) clever about this, and introduced this feature gradually. It made users request it before they would automatically switch, this way, if someone wanted to customize his/her profile, the first step was to request it, and the second step (inherent) to the process, was to customize it. All of the profiles that used the cover photo at the beginning would be customized. Now it's very difficult to find profiles without a cover photo (but they still exist and look ulgy). Customization is small, it is uniform, allows users find what they want in the expected places, but gives a huge sense of embedded personality to the page.

Facebook Profile Comparison

  • @downvoter why? Can I do anything to improve this?
    – edgarator
    Oct 26, 2012 at 0:11

I think it would be a better idea to let the users, who visit the profiles, specify in which order they wish the data to be. Maybe even the representation.

All people like to find informations quickly, but often they want it at a different form or ordering.

For example, some people like to see the birthdate first, some like to see it as age, probably some people even like to see it as a barchart or in relation to their own age... dunno.

I hated it, when I have to search for some information on a page, even if its just because it moved 10cm down, or stuff :\


This is not an answer but a request for more information.

Will all profiles contain exactly the same sections?

Must all sections contain some content or can some sections remain empty?

An answer to Jimmy's and Jorn's question about the purpose of the profile is necessary too.

Without knowing more about the purpose of the profile, getting a solid answer to your question is unlikely.

Here is an example of why more details about the purpose of the profile is needed.

Assume you want to sell your house. It is a abnormally small house with a spectaclar yard. You create a listing for an online real estate service. Your listing emphasizes the yard and barely mentions the size of the house. This house profile suits your needs because you are the seller.

I'm looking for a house. During my search, I will view over 100 house profiles. I need to compare square footage, yard size, location, etc. across all of those houses as easily as possible. The house profile layout for 'as easily as possible' is a consistent layout for all houses rather than a unique layout for each of the houses.


There are few sites which have done, example Linkedin.

My Opinion :

Users like customization, but when it comes to consistency one have to give up on customization. Now there is another option,where you balance Consistency & Customization both.

Now the problem is what should be customizable & what not. I will always like to see others profile in a way which it would not confuse me. So things that should be consistent.

  1. Users Info in brief.
  2. Looking at your particular example I will keep Gallery also non customizable.
  3. Place from where user can get help(i.e Help Options)
  4. Placement of advertisements(If you have any).

You can add to this list. Remember one thing you will always few things to change after few rounds of feedback from users. best of luck. :-)

  • 1
    @downvoter, care to reason?
    – Aman J
    Oct 26, 2012 at 4:09

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