What? Nice things about change?!?
Settle down. Yes, the Differ screams louder than anyone when we think Twitter is screwing something up – like ReTweets for example. We’ve even resorted to plagiarism and forced rhyme (sorry again Dr. Zeuss). Love is like that. But this time, we’re willing to put the Crit aside, because while it ain’t perfect. The new Twitter.com interface is really really good.
In case you haven’t see it. Before I get to the 10 reasons to like the new Twitter, you probably don’t see it yet. Here’s the word from Twitter on why, and how you can get into the New Twitter cool kids as well. For now, you need to download and use their new iPhone or Android app – which is how I got in. But if that’s not for you, here’s a good summary.
1. Classy new icons.
I’m starting with the most superficial-seeming change not because I think it matters, but because it actually does matter. The new top bar icons are lovely and they just make sense.
Okay, not just that. They make sense and they are playfully different – particularly the whimsical little bird house and the little feather they inserted into the Compose New Tweet button. A clear signal that the bird is back.
They main ones are also left aligned, as opposed to having an empty “Search” box at the left. This means the home button is actually where you expect a home button to be – as well as doing what average users expect it to. But more on that later.
2. It’s not for me.
I don’t mean that I don’t like it – I’ve already said that I do. I mean that new Twitter is not designed for power users like me or Gizmodo, it’s designed for those ordinary people who sign up for an account, and their first few Tweets look like this:
“Trying out this Twitter thing!” “Not getting the hype.” “Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?”
Seriously, you remember your first time? Unless you already had a tribe of active Twitter friends, the experience was pretty cold and dark. The new interface means that a couple of exploratory clicks will reward even the most green Tweeter with real, rich content. This is bound to improve the all important new user retention factor by giving people a reason to stick around.
3. Main section 1: Home
Once you click on that little birdhouse, this page has all the same stuff as the old “Home” button but the big change is that, as with all the new pages, the left navigation makes the whole thing make more sense as a home page.
4. Main section 2: Connect
The best part of this is the ability to distinguish between “Mentions” – who’s using your @ handle – and “Interactions” – the mentions plus all the followed / retweeted stuff that has recently been clogging all of our timelines. Love the ability to opt in or out of these.
The worst part is that DM Messages don’t appear here, which is what you’d expect. Instead they’re under the profile icon on the right hand side.
A better way to organize this would be to have the Connect page have Mentions as the default (since that’s what most people open our Twitter pages to see), then allow people to add or remove Interactions and Messages from the left hand navigation. Three options with Simple Check boxes should do it.
5. Main section 3: Discover
This is the main net-new section of the new twitter, and it is BRILLIANT. On the right you’ll see the different elements it brings together. All of which were in odd, non-intuitive places in the old interface. But now they’re grouped as one place to dig into Twitter beyond your own current followers, follows, and streams.
The stickiest part for me right now is Stories – which contains clips of media news items and blog posts that are selected for me based on my interests and how much discussion they’re generating.
But I also instantly found more value in the Activity, Who to Follow, and Find Friends sections.
6. Left hand navigation.
This will make many hard core Twitter faithful angry. But remember, this change not for us. Me, I swallowed my initial urge to Tweet about a massive user interface “FAIL”, and I suggest you do too. It only took a couple of clicks to get used to the new arrangement, and before I knew it, I was no longer looking for things. The one sure sign of Web design success.
7. In-line media.
Pictures basically pictures and movies can now appear right within a Tweet – and this is important – if you want them to. Twitter has been tinkering with this for years, but now it’s here in spades. And best of all, seamlessly in context (see the embedded Tweet in point number 10 below).
8. Brand pages.
I liked ’em on Facebook, they’re growing on me in Facebook, and I love what I see on the pages of the 21 lucky uber brands that got in on the ground floor.
No, it’s not because I’m a branding and marketing guy, it’s because brand pages help me distinguish between ordinary mortals like this guy and brands like Coke or Pepsi (and yes, they’re both there competing again for your taste-test).
For brands, it gives them a bigger incentive to invest time, staff energy, and money in their Twitter presence, which means they’ll need to keep humanizing themselves – because that’s what works for the community.
The best news for Twitter fans is that they finally seem to have figured out how to make money at this game without annoying users. The new brand pages, sponsored Tweets, and better multimedia will all add up to a more sustainable free app. Which is good.
10. Embedding Tweets and buttons.
Not for the average user, but for bloggers like me, it means I can more easily share Twitter content. For example, check out this page to create custom buttons and widgets, like this one for an Ottawa holiday party next week:
Or, you can embed a Tweet like the one below, and it’s real live content with intact links and context, and not a screen grab. This means tweets are even easier to share, discuss, and publish across platforms. Like this:
— Tonia Ries (@tonia_ries) December9, 2011