The new Twitter: The quirks

Posted on December 12, 2011

The newest Twitter release introduced some awesome new features. However, like all applications, the features introduce some quirks as well. Here are a few that stand out to me like a sore thumb.

Welcome to "the box"

'The box' in the new Twitter application
‘The box' in the new Twitter application

Every screen in the new Twitter app has a 20 pixel margin around the entire content. In the older version the "wrapper" touched the edges of the screen, but in the latest iteration 60 pixels (left, right, and top) are going to waste without any justifiable reason. It doesn't serve any practical purpose to display the content in this manner. Since mobile devices have a tighter viewport, pixel placement needs to be intentional.

A new hierarchy of content

The goal of the new application is to make things simpler. It makes sense to simplify the tab structure, right?

Twitter used to have five tab views, but changed to four with the newest release. Did the amount of "pages" change? Not necessarily. The content is grouped differently, but navigation simplicity depends how you use Twitter.

If you want to see how users are interacting with you, it is much simpler. However, the direct messages are not a top-level tab anymore. You'll find these under the "Me" tab.

The new Twitter for iPhone hierarchy to view direct messages
The new Twitter for iPhone hierarchy to view direct messages

So is the navigation simpler? Yes and no. Twitter is stepping in and making choices about the direction of the company. Some things we're used to are talking a step back.

The most asinine user interaction (yet)

When the new navigation structure arrived, users that had multiple accounts complained that switching to another account was too cumbersome. Jason Santa Maria shared a secret he found to make this process easier:

Jason Santa Maria: Two Twitter app shortcuts: Swipe up on "Me" for quick access to DMs and swipe left for account switching. Undocumented, but fast + awesome.

A video demonstrating the "swipe to view direct messages" functionality.

Sure enough, it works. But, it isn't very effective or well-designed. Mainly for two reasons:

  1. There are no visual cues that this action is even possible
  2. There are no other applications (that I know of) that utilize a similar feature

This functionality is convenient, but I honestly can't imagine someone discovering this outside of an accident. I've never seen another application with this ability so I would never think to try this.

This technique feels "tacked-on". I like convenient shortcuts, but sliding your finger across the screen arbitrarily to find them is not good user expectation.

Still a solid update

Just to be clear, I still think the latest Twitter update is very good. These are just a couple nagging things that make the experience a little peculiar.