Last January I wrote a post “Will Normal Folks Ever Use Twitter?” in which I decried the service from a “regular” person perspective, including the new user experience, search, etc. It’s been almost two years, we’ve seen change of CEO, product team, engineers, lots and lots of cash, and #NewTwitter, but in my opinion, it’s far from enough. I’m of the mindset that if Twitter cannot get it’s collective product experience together, their growth will flatten, and usage will recede amongst several populations (great post on that over at AllThingsD). Here are some of my thoughts on how to improve the Twitter experience:
Eliminate URLs and @Users from 140 character limit
Twitter announced their official URL-shortener is here to stay, which is fine, but I think it’s a poor experience for all users. Instead, I’d prefer to see a URL and an @User take up a single character each of the official limit. It makes no sense, even in “tight” communication/messaging, to count against a link or a person simply due to character length. Twitter’s system should ingest all URLs and @Users and only count against the usage, not the length. Further, all twitter clients should auto-expand the URLs, and preferably replace them with the title of the target website. Here’s some examples:
whats your opinion on Google+ versus facebook and twitter? do you think they’ll be able to “win”? @harrymccracken @Scobleizer @jlouderb @jlanzone
Is currently 147 characters, and I as a user would probably remove the 2nd half of the question to tie in the names. Instead, removing the 39 characters “wasted” on the usernames would make the tweet legit.
i think this is the most important news of the day, everybody should take a moment, stop what they are doing, and read it. http://bit.ly/p7Ez3c
The above is 144 characters, but of them only 6 were needed to uniquely identify the link, and 14 were a waste. Further, if the above were auto-fixed by a twitter client, they’d know better than to click on the link. Suckers.
Make Search Work
I’m not sure which is more useless, searching on twitter.com for something, or trying to stop getting printed catalogs from Restoration Hardware. It’s been more than a decade since Google figured out search, why can’t twitter?
Autocorrect Error @-Replies and DMs
Twitter only really has two “commands” and both can be done so wrong so easily. That’s like having an iPod that doesn’t always play music when you pushed the play button. Twitter should intercept tweets “gone wrong”. Not only would this improve the product experience for all its users, it would probably save some famous people from incredibly embarrassing moments. That said, perhaps this is just nature’s way of weeding them out?
So if twitter “sees” a tweet like “D @username” or “DM username” or ” D username” or anything *even close* to an almost-DM, the client should prevent it from being sent without a Yes/No pop-up dialog. Same thing when a user starts a tweet with an @, since I still believe even experienced users don’t realize those tweets are fairly hidden.
Offer Multiple Views
Lists are definitely a great way to view tweets, and the media views are good, but realistically they are barely a band-aid on the massive problem: separating signal from noise. Twitter needs to offer a lot of new ways for me to view my twitter streams. For example, how about letting me select a few users whose most recent tweets are simply always in my timeline. Or how about showing me my stream based on which tweets have been retweeted at least X times. I use Tweetdeck to separate numerous topics, but there’s so much more that could happen here.
#Explain #Hashtags #Somehow
OK, so a hashtag lets people tweet about one topic, and really only seems to exist because of the brokenness of Twitter search (see above). But most of the hashtags I see make no sense, and even clicking on them doesn’t exactly “answer” the question of why they exist. How about having users “register” a hashtag for a period of time? Even if multiple users do that, it’d be fine. Then when a new user clicks on a hashtag, they can see all the “terms in use at present” to close the loop on it.
Eliminate Trending Topics
When was the last time a single trending topic was actually useful to you? That’s right, it was never.
Help Manage Contacts
Ever get a DM from someone, try to reply, but can’t because they aren’t following back? That’s not user error, that’s product design error. Users shouldn’t be allowed to DM without following the target themselves. Alternately, at least inform the user they aren’t being followed back… Also, why can’t I easily ingest LinkedIn and other contacts into the people I follow?
The reality is I could keep going. I could explain why 140 characters is arbitrary at this point and should be bumped up to ~200/250 without “damaging” the service. I could talk about how they should fix username squatting issues. I could talk about improving integration with other Web services. I could talk about fixing the RT/Retweet issues. But then I’d have to write more, and that would far exceed my character limits.