Thursday, December 3, 2015

Improving the User Experience on Twitter

For the first time in quite a while, I logged onto my Twitter Account. Let me clarify, nothing special has drawn me back to the app, I'm back simply because I wanted to see if the company had made any product improvements since the last time tweeted. Which turns out, was May of 2015. After a few minutes digging into the platform, I was left severely underwhelmed with any new changes (or lack thereof).

Before going into further details on what I think needs to change, I will make a quick disclaimer and say I have been bearish on Twitter for before, my previous posts on the matter can be found here and here and here. In my view, the company is continuing its trend in the wrong direction. Below I will detail just a few minor changes that the twitter team could implement to make a difference.

1. The "Noise" and Increased Personalization

One of the first things that stood out to me is how much junk there is on twitter. There are plenty of interesting people and accounts out there that I want to "follow" but I also don't want to see 100 tweets from them about the avocado they had for lunch. My timeline, granted I only follow some 200+ people, was filled with junk that I could care less about. Twitter should be able to solve this for me. If I want to follow the Wired Account, I should be able to without being bombarded by 100 tweets that I am uninterested in, only to sift through and find the one thing that I am. Say I have an interest in Renewable Energy, well then I may only want to see Wired articles about new technologies in renewable energy, not about new video games or movies. A different example would be if I was someone into the NFL or Fantasy Football and wanted to follow Adam Schefter. His account has around 30,000 tweets, and once you follow his account, your feed will be clogged with his tweets. As a member since 2006, his tweet total of 30,000 puts him at an average of 15 tweets a day. If you follow 200 people like him, you are looking at 3,000 tweets PER DAY that you will have to sort through. If you are only interested in 10% of what is being said, that leaves 2,700 garbage tweets to find the 300 you actually want to see. 

So there is a classification of tweets. Let's break it down.
1. Tweets that are useful to everyone.
2. Tweets that are useful to me and only me
3. Tweets that are useful to others but not me

For instance, if I am a Jets fan, I may only want to see his tweets related to my team, or if I have Tom Brady on my fantasy team, only put through a tweet about him, save me the tweets on the rest. Cowboy fans may want to see tweets related to their team but don't care about the New York Jets. We both should be able to follow the same account and not have to look through tweets we don't care about. Changing this can benefit Twitter by making the platform more user friendly. When accounts tend to tweet hundreds of times a day, my reaction is to unfollow them just to clear away the junk. But this defeats the purpose of Twitter. Shifting through the "noise" out there and allowing me to personalize my twitter feed content would allow me to follow more people without being overloaded with the unimportant information that I have no interest in.

2. Search your Timeline & Create your Own History

Twitter should do a much better job allowing me to go back in time and see my past tweets. Not only that, there should be milestones and other important tweets that will stand out to me... Twitter is attempting this with the "pin your tweet" idea. So you can choose to have a tweet pinned to your front page. When someone visits your profile they will see that tweet first before your most recent tweet, even if you pin something from 2010. One thing I actually enjoyed was going through my old tweets. This allowed me to reminisce on memories I may have previously forgotten about. It was as if the tweet has forever minted a memory for me, the tweet itself brought back recognition of an experience or time in my life. However, others were embarrassing and I deleted a couple hundred useless tweets. There should be an option to turn a tweet private, similar to how Facebook allows users to post something to a private audience. Twitter should implement something similar, where users are be able to determine if the tweet is viewable only to themselves, or only to certain viewers. I wanted to keep my old tweets for myself but I also didn't want my followers to see them. Yes, you can make your account private, but that still allows your current followers to see the tweets. More personalization and security over the tweets is a necessary step for Twitter. 

3. Moments

This new feature is a step in the right direction and needs to be a continued push for Twitter. I don't have much to say about this. The interface needs improvement, but overall an emphasis on a "what is happening now" page that moves beyond just trending hashtags is positive. 

Twitter's New Moments Feature


The bottom line is, Twitter has to start improving quickly or it risks being overrun by the Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat crowd. There is nothing proprietary about Twitter over any other social media service. 140 characters has run its course, no one cares anymore. Right now, the Twitter platform still benefits from celebrities and newscasters posting information to Twitter, and making a big splash when something silly/stupid goes up. If that's the only reason your platform has traction, something isn't right. Left uncorrected, this could spell doom for Twitter. Celebrities and Newscasters are already moving to Instagram and Snapchat. What's to stop everyone else?

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