Saturday, October 9, 2021

Four Ways Twitter Can Be Improved

It was in 2019 that Twitter rolled out a new redesign. At the time Twitter claimed the redesign is "...a refreshed and updated website that is faster, easier to navigate and more personalized." They also claimed that "Easy Access to Your Favourite Features." To say Twitter users disagreed would be an understatement. Most of them seemed to detest the new design. In the little over two years since the redesign was introduced things have calmed down, but I think one will still find many Twitter users who hate the 2019 design. I know I am one of them. While there have been a few improvements to the redesign since its introduction, I think Twitter could make even more improvements that would make new users more likely to stick around and would please long time users like myself.

Return the Menu to the Top of the Web Version of Twitter

For most of its history, the menu for the web version was at the top. This made perfect sense, as it was easily accessible. Both the mobile version of Twitter and the Twitter mobile app have a menu at the bottom. Again, it is easily accessibly. For some reason known only to its designers, the current web version of Twitter has the menu on a left-hand sidebar. Worse yet, it is more difficult to reach some of Twitter's features on this left-hand sidebar than it was the old top menu. For instance, to reach Moments one has to click on More at the bottom of the sidebar. Now I never have used Moments, but I do know of people who did. It seems to me, then, that Twitter should not only return the Menu to the top, but return it to the way it was before the redesign. It would be much easier to use and much more accessible.

Give Users the Ability to Disable the Algorithm Sorted Feed in Settings

In 2016 Twitter introduced an algorithm sorted feed that it then called "Best Tweets." At the time one could simply disable it by going into settings. As a result, many, perhaps most, Twitter users went about their business reading tweets in reverse chronological order as always. Unfortunately with the 2019 redesign the algorithm sorted feed was renamed "Home" and one had to click stars in the upper right hand corner to switch to "Latest Tweets (the original feed in reverse chronological order). This would prove to be an annoyance, as when returning to Twitter one might find their Twitter feed switched to the algorithm sorted feed (which Twitter calls "Home") and would have to switch it back again. That problem has since been fixed, but if one logs out of Twitter or clears one's cookies in their browser, they will find themselves on the algorithm sorted feed again.

Given many, perhaps most, Twitter users prefer the Latest Tweets feed, it seems to me it would be a good idea for Twitter to give users a way to disable the algorithm sorted feed in settings like we used to have. The plain truth is that when I visit Twitter I do not want to see tweets that some algorithm has determined I am interested in. I want to see the most recent tweets. This is particularly important when live tweeting movies or TV shows. Indeed, if Twitter had been sorted by algorithm from the beginning, I have to think the phenomenon of live tweeting would never have arisen. Of course, another solution would be for Twitter to do away with the algorithm sorted feed entirely. I doubt very many would miss it.

Do Away with "What's Happening"

It was not long after the 2019 redesign was introduced that the Trends sidebar with the What's Happening sidebar. The What's Happening sidebar usually contains news stories and a few trending topics. Quite frankly, I want the Trends sidebar back. As far as I am concerned, What's Happening is useless. Most of the news stories I see on What's Happening I have absolutely no interest in. I would much rather see what is trending on Twitter the way I used to. What I then propose is that Twitter either do away with the What's Happening sidebar entirely or, at least, give users the choice of replacing it with the old Trends sidebar. Either way, I know I would be much happier.

Twitter Should Giver Users a Means of Hiding "Topics to Follow"

The ability to follow specific topics on Twitter is another thing that was introduced not long after the 2019 redesign. Essentially, when one follows a Topic, tweets relevant to that Topic will show up in one's feed. Of course, for this to happen one must be using the algorithm sorted feed (the one Twitter insists on calling "Home") rather than the Latest Tweets feed. For those of us who always use the Latest Tweets feed, then, Topics are meaningless. Unfortunately, when viewing one's own profile or someone else's profile, a block of "Topics to Follow" will show up in the middle of the feed. I find this annoying as I have absolutely no interest in following Topics on Twitter. Given I use the Latest Tweets feed exclusively, it would be useless for me to follow any Topics at all. Twitter should then give users a means of hiding Topics to Follow and never seeing them again.

Twitter is my second favourite social media service after the late, lamented Google+. Unfortunately, I do not enjoy it as much as I did before the 2019 redesign and it is precisely because they moved the menu, replaced the Trends sidebar with "What's Happening," and insist on forcing Topics on me. To be honest, I think Twitter would be better off ditching the 2019 redesign entirely and returning to the old design. I know I wouldn't alone in being happy about that.

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