Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Twitter's Death Wish

If you are on Twitter then you might already know this. Sometime yesterday Twitter did away with background images on their web interface. On my computer it has been replaced by a sickly looking blue-green (it reminds me of a hospital), although others have said their backgrounds have been replaced by a blindingly bright white colour. For now, at least, one can temporarily restore his or her background image by going into the design section of "settings" and hitting "save". Unfortunately that is only a temporary fix. If one leaves Twitter, one will find his or her background image gone again.

Needless to say, Twitter users are not happy. A search on Twitter for "Twitter background" will reveal tweet after tweet of users who are unhappy that their backgrounds are gone. Some are complaining about the background Twitter chose to replace background images ("blinding" seems to be a recurring word in these tweets), while others simply complain about Twitter being boring without the Twitter images. Regardless, I have yet to see any Twitter users happy about the change.

Indeed, a Chrome developer has even gone so far as to create a Chrome extension that will restore one's Twitter background. Unfortunately, this fix only works on Chrome. As far as other browsers go, for now at least many Twitter users can go into the "Design" section of "Settings" and hit "Save" to restore their backgrounds, but the fix only seems to be temporary. If one leaves Twitter, he or she will return to find his or her background image gone again and will have to go through the whole process again.

As for myself, I have to count myself as one of the many people who are unhappy that Twitter has done away with backgrounds. Indeed, I am particularly unhappy that they chose to replace it with a rather hideous background colour (blue-green--really, Twitter?). Of course, to me this is only one of a number of missteps Twitter has made in the past many years to actively discourage users from using the Twitter web interface. Among the first of these missteps was combining "retweets" and "mentions" under one tab currently labelled "Notifications". Previously "retweets" and "mentions" had their own tab each. Another misstep occurred in the fall of 2013 when Twitter changed the way it handles conversations, making them harder to follow. Around the same time Twitter made another misstep in displaying inline images in the feed, giving web users no way to disable them. Yet another misstep occurred when Twitter changed user profiles. Not only did they rob user profiles of most of their individuality, but they started varying the size of the fonts of tweets so that one's profile feed is now harder to read.

Indeed, it is almost as if Twitter has a death wish where its web interface is concerned. None of these changes have made Twitter easier to use. In fact, they have done quite the opposite. They have made Twitter more difficult to use They have made Twitter so much more difficult to use that it almost seems as if they were designed to drive Twitter users away from the Twitter web interface and to such Twitter clients as HootSuite and Tweetdeck. If they don't have a death wish for their web interface, then they certainly don't be seem to be trying to keep it alive!

If Twitter does not want users fleeing to Twitter clients or, at the very least, to the mobile version of Twitter (which can be accessed on the web), then I believe they will want to restore background images as soon as possible. It probably wouldn't hurt if they back-pedalled on some of their other poor choices as well. I rather suspect many users would be happy if they returned to the old profile, not to mention gave "retweets" and "mentions" their own tabs again. Most of all, they should give web users the ability to disable inline images, perhaps the biggest single complaint (until doing away with the background images, anyway) among Twitter users. If they did all of this, they might actually have a chance to keep the Twitter web interface from becoming an also-ran when it comes to Twitter clients.


Carissa Horton said...

You're making me very happy that I never actually took the final step in the Twitter sign-up process. No Twitter account for me and I like it that way.

Silver Screenings said...

I didn't realize this had changed, so I just logged into my account via computer just now.


When you think of the time everyone spent looking for background patterns...! What a blatant disregard for everyone's time!