Concerned About Twitter, Concerned About Design

I am concerned about Twitter. I write this as someone who loves the service, but lately, I can’t say the same for the product. I know people lament about Twitter every three months, but it’s different when it’s coming from me — that’s because I literally filter the entire web through Twitter, and I have for the past six (6) years. I also tweet — a LOT. I’m closing in on 60,000 tweets. That means I’m “all-in.”

Yet, I’ve caught myself tweeting a variant of this line often lately: “I don’t use any native Twitter products.” That means, specifically, I do not use the mobile (iPhone and iPad) nor the website (Chrome browser) that Twitter produces in-house. Instead, I use TweetBot for all iOS, and on the web, I use TweetDeck in the browser, which I know Twitter HQ manages now, but still, it’s not normal, regular web-based Twitter.

There are myriad concerns about the company overall. I won’t go into all of them here, other than to suggest that while Wall Street and public investors push Twitter to grow their user base, I don’t think Twitter is a mainstream product in terms of absolute users — instead, I think Twitter should focus on extracting value from the users (like me) who are wholly addicted to the service. Sell me things, point me to apps I’ll buy, or tickets, or items. Allow me to pay for premium services and even ads. Anyway, back to native products…

The native products made by Twitter just don’t work for me, and I think they’re going to change even more as the company searches for growth. As a result, the visual design of the website, for instance, is nearly unworkable for me. For instance, if I search for a popular term, my feed consists of the following, in order: a promoted tweet, a random tweet related to the search term, a collage of 4-6 large photos, and then, after scrolling through an entire screen on my laptop, I then finally see what I’m looking for. That’s no bueno. On their native mobile apps, the sliding screens and buried functionality makes it hard for me to go through, not to mention that preloaded images, while annoying on the web, are really bad on an iPhone. If I come across two tweets with images, it can take me three phone-screen’s worth to get to the next non-image tweet. No bueno, tambien.

I don’t know what the solution is. I’d guess the simple answer is that, right now, the end result of the design just doesn’t work. An editor-in-chief, focused on design, might not be a bad idea.