The new-look home page for Twitter.com has generally had pretty good reactions so far and at first I quite liked it too. But on reflection, it looks to me to be a move in the wrong direction. Why?
Well, most importantly it has a general Twitter search box as the most prominent item on the page. Not used Twitter before and/or not sure what it’s about? Then there’s the search box tempting you to try out a search.
And there’s the problem. Doing a general search on Twitter for something you’re interested in is one of the worst ways of using Twitter. It can be handy to see what people are saying on a topic, but general searches throw up all sorts of dross. “There’s loads of stuff and most of it is rubbish” is at the heart of the reasons most non-Twitter users I’ve spoken to give for not wanting to get on Twitter. Want to do a search for information or news on a topic? Most of the time a traditional search engine will do the job far better.
Making the general search box so prominent is leading with one of Twitter’s worst features. There are many great things about Twitter – but they mostly depending on finding interesting people to follow rather than from making general searches. So why lead with a glass chin? Why not lead with a way in to finding interesting people to follow?
I like hashtags, but…
Then there are the popular topics underneath the search box. To be fair, there is some explanation of what they are. But what’s with all the hashtags? I’m a fan of hashtags, but for someone new all the #xyz stuff can look techie, confusing and not for them.
Even the cute trio of icons assumes a certain willingness to stop and think and work out what is being shown to you – and fingers crossed someone doesn’t just think, “no idea what these pictures mean – time for me to move on, than you very much”.
Why only the front page?
And finally there’s the absence of the new design from the rest of the site. I’m slightly surprised that Twitter has just redone the front page and not even rolled out the basic design scheme to other pages, let alone changing layouts or functionality to bring them more in line.
It’s a bit like changing the shop front and leaving the rest of the shop alone. Yes you can do it, and it’s quicker and cheaper – but why do it unless you’re terribly short of time or money? (Who knows, perhaps we should be talking about what the limitations of the Twitter changes tell us about the company’s finances rather than whether the front page itself works well or not.)
So the verdict for me? The sooner Twitter makes further changes, the better.
UPDATE: Eight years on, these points have aged rather well as the features I criticised went again in subsequent updates to the Twitter home page.