Is #NewNewTwitter just a pretty face?

Thu, 12/22/2011 - 11:56


Just over a year ago, Twitter had launched #NewTwitter, a major redesign of the Twitter interface and logo. Major features included the introduction of the new two-panelled look and image, audio and video embedding. The company had also acquired Mac and iPhone client Tweetie, an acclaimed Twitter client, renaming it to Twitter for iPhone/iPod/iPad.

Mobile apps, without DMs
Just a couple of weeks ago, Twitter launched #NewNewTwitter, a total revamp of its interface across all platforms. It's gone as far as completely changing the way the platform is used, with the aim of appealing to the masses.... and marketers, according to Head of Twitter UK Tony Wang - "How many people are there in the world?.... seven billion, so that's how big Twitter's growth can be."

The original tabs consisting of 'Timeline', '@Mentions' and 'Retweets' have been renamed, with the biggest shock being the removal of the 'Messages' tab. Now users will see 'Home' '@Connect' and '#Discover' on both the web and mobile versions of Twitter. Apparently less is better, and a pretty design is enough for many; "There are plenty of people happy with the new Twitter, myself included. I love the birdhouse icon. What can I say? I'm a sucker for witty design choices", said CBS's Chenda Ngak.

Broken delete graphic (from Daring Fireball)
The interface is shaped to suit the current trend of sharing memorable and personal moments (don't miss our post on this) in a minimal interface, like Facebook Timeline and Path. Of course, this also means staying close to the brands you care about, as company pages are now more distinct and allow customisable landing pages. This is all backed by nice little touches, like how the intro URL is fly.twitter.com, embeddable tweets and how the Home icon is now a birdhouse. It's also important to note how much faster the website now loads, which is refreshing (sorry, no pun intended).

Twitter Stories
So why the hate?
Twitter now has an attractive and consistent interface across all platforms, which is great. "At the very core there are fewer places you have to click and less you have to learn," said Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. It's also pleasing to see the company's ambition to be as accessible as possible, especially since it's helped turn people into 'citizen journalists', notably in the Arab Spring protests this year.

But is the new look a hit with some of its most influential and active users? Not so much, for now. The attempt to simplify the menus means sticking 'everything else' into unfamiliar locations. The biggest victim of this is the Messages section. You can no longer access your private messages with a single click/tap as it now requires two clicks/taps, doubling the effort and length of a previously quick process. "If you frequently use direct messages.... I don't see how you can view this... as anything but a step back" (Daring Fireball). TechCrunch EU Editor Mike Butcher was also quick to tweet "The new Twitter site design is a total UI fail. Can't click on a profile in DMs. And the rest..."

Mobile users with multiple accounts face even more UI obstacles, such as the number of sub-menus you have to navigate through, and the fact that the button is now located on the bottom right instead of the conventional top left, like in most (if not all?) Twitter apps.  It's also a little annoying that tabs can't be customised, the #Discover tab is here to stay, even if we might not ever use it.  Some small things such as the delete button on mobile apps initially brought up a graphical glitch (this has since been fixed), and missing are the gestures to retweet and copy and pasting on the Android version, but these can be fixed through updates.

What's to come?
The new look makes Twitter look friendlier, prettier and sleeker, but this means re-adapting, which has inevitably annoyed many long-time users. For example the positioning of certain functions on the apps occasionally break conventional layouts, making navigation a pain for 'fast' users and reminding us of how simple the last client (aka Tweetie) was - "If anything, Tweetie offered a better, more clearly-defined presentation of Twitter than even the Twitter.com website itself."

Many of the small features, such as the gestures, can easily be changed on the mobile apps through future updates, but the biggest additions are here to stay. On the previous interface, the 'Who to follow' tab wasn't essential for daily use, especially compared to direct messages, so it will be interesting to see how its usage will change. 'Stories' are arguably glorified trending topics that are a nice addition, but how many times will we use it until we go back to simply watching hashtags? 

The company's new focus is very clear: social discovery. It's about keeping up-to-date, sharing and finding new people and conversations. Twitter wants to change the way we use it, so criticism is going to always come early on and in time, we will probably look back and laugh at the time when Twitter didn't have a #Stories tab. 

Feel free to leave a comment below! We'd love to hear your thoughts!

comments powered by Disqus