Saturday, 17 June 2017

Changes Twitter Should Make

Twitter made a few changes this week. For the most part these changes were cosmetic. They changed the icons (for instance, "reply" is now a word balloon). They changed some of the typography. Perhaps the biggest change was relocating one's settings. I don't know if these changes upset any Twitter users, but from my standpoint they were all so minor that I can't see how they would.

That having been said, I do think Twitter really should make some major changes. To me the Twitter interface has not been particularly user friendly since 2011. That is when they combined the tabs for retweets and mentions under a single "Notifications" tab. Recently Twitter somewhat improved this by placing a link under Notifications for only mentions. The problem is that still leaves likes and retweets mixed in with mentions under the All link. Personally I would like to see individual tabs for retweets, mentions, and likes. Twitter could still place these under the heading of Notifications. As it is right now it is difficult to sort likes and retweets from mentions. Indeed, this is why six years ago I switched to HootSuite for most of my tweeting.

As to Twitter's look, I really don't quite understand why they changed the icons. While I have no objections to the new icons, I didn't have any objections to the old icons either. What I do have an objection to is Twitter's colour scheme, which is among the absolute worst on the web. The Twitter bar at the top and the column containing tweet and the sidebars are all a blinding white. The background colour is an awful hospital blue. What I would like for Twitter to do is to give users back some customisation with regards to their Twitter experience. At one time we could have our own background images (I always used the Union Jack). I would like for them to bring back background images or, at least, let us choose our own colour schemes for Twitter. As it is, while I rarely use the Twitter platform itself (as I said above), for those times when I do I installed a userstyle that, well, paints everything black except for the text (which is white).

I won't even go into the changes I would like to see to profiles. Suffice it to say that I preferred them before Twitter ruined changed them in 2014. They would vastly improve things if they simply went back to the profiles as they were before May 2014. Ditch the cover image and bring back background images!

Of course, one major change Twitter made is that mentions no longer count towards the 140 character limit. While many people might like this change, I have to say that for me it was totally unnecessary. I never had any objections to mentions counting towards the 140 character limit. What I do object to are links counting towards the 140 character limit. Twitter is regarded by many as a news source, so that links to new stories are often tweeted. Unfortunately, due to the number of characters in links, it is often difficult to create a "headline" for any given link. If links are no longer counted towards the 140 character limit, that problem would be solved.

As to mentions no longer counting towards the 140 character limit, it did create one problem that I can see. Quite simply, in many cases when replying to a tweet, one does not want to reply to every single person mentioned in a tweet. A perfect example of this are "Follow Friday" tweets. I would like to be able to thank only the person who made the tweet. In the old days one simply deleted the mentions except for the individual who made the tweet. Now one has to click the reply icon, then place one's cursor in the tweet box that pops up, then click on the "Replying to" link, and finally uncheck the names in the box that pops up. This is a lot more steps, so many that I would actually be happy if they announced that mentions once more count towards the 140 character limit and returned to handling replies the way they once were!

Another change I would make is to give users the ability to hide inline images. At one time there was a way to hide inline images, although that was taken away sometime ago. I have a userstyle in place to hide inline images, although I would much rather be able to go into settings at Twitter and simply turn them off. 

There are two more changes I would make to Twitter and they are much of the reason I still don't use the Twitter platform. The first is that I would do away with the "While You Were Away" feature or, at least, give people  a way to permanently disable it. I find it more annoying than useful, as it disrupts my feed. The second is that I would do away with "Who to Follow" (which should be "Whom to Follow") within the feed. Having "Who to Follow" not only disrupts one's Twitter feed, it is also redundant given there is the "Who to Follow" sidebar on the right.


For the past few years Twitter has had trouble attracting new users. Over the past few years they have made quite a few changes in an attempt to attract new users. Personally, I suspect many of these changes not only drove any possible new users away, but may have driven old users away as well. In the end I think Twitter's best hope may be to go back the way it used to be, way back before 2011. I know that was the last time I regularly used Twitter's platform.

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