It’s fair to say that for many mainstream users, the Twitter experience is pretty broken for anything other than celebrity stalking. It’s way too easy to make mistakes with serious consequences (DM for the fail), @replies are wonky, and #hashtags #really #OMG #canwekilltheseobnoxiousthings #JimmyFallon #JustinTimberlake #FTW. Real-time translation is nice, but it’s the sprinkles, not the cake. Here are my simple fixes to the Twitter experience that I’d love to see happen:
Fix media tweets.
Why on earth is there a link, highly visible, to the exact page the user is on? This makes, literally, no sense and contributes to a cluttered interface. Fix this: removing all awkward links.
Eliminate character use for @mentions
Personally I’d question the 140-character limit at this point – it’s arbitrary and while limits are a good thing, maybe 200 is better? Maybe 250? Who knows? Frcing txtspk on nrml ppl is rlly annoying if u want their attn in the long run. Kthxbye. Either way, using characters in communications means the system discourages people with longer twitter names from conversations, and further discourages users from having engagements with multiple people simultaneously. So @ESPN is rewarded, @BleacherReport is punished. And those poor @Kardashians. Fix this: each @reply only counts as a single character each.
So now I could write a tweet that could include @all @three @kardashians but those 22 characters would be reduced to 3, and I’d still have tons of space for telling them how amazing they are and make the world a better place. I mean, I don’t actually know what they do, but they wouldn’t be so popular if they weren’t somehow contributing to the greater good, I assume.
Ditto for hashtags and URLs
Before I go into whether or not I think #hashtags #make #sense, again if we want to see more engagements with more people on more topics, Twitter should encourage their use (and links), as opposed to discourage it. Even with a URL shortener (next topic), linking out takes up far too much of my precious character space. Fix this: each #hashtag and link only count as a single character each.
Auto-fix ALL link URLs with sensical content
I don’t want to see a bit.ly or an ow.ly or a t.co – ever again.
Why do we have to see these things? Beyond the possibility for malicious links, it’s just not necessary. Fix this: The twitter “client” (web or mobile app) should replace all these links with either the full destination URL, or better yet, the Title tag of the destination page.
Eliminate “mistakes” in DM or @replies
In every medium but Twitter, mistakes are correctible before sending. Sure you might have meant to BCC your colleague instead of CC’ing them, or you accidentally hit reply-all, but these mistakes are in plain sight prior to hitting send. In Twitter-land, since one can create a DM via the Create Tweet button, it’s far too easy to make a mistake.
Similarly, I’d make a big wager that even highly proficient Twitter users are unaware that tweets starting with an @reply are NOT seen by their followers in their own feed. So when someone wants to go on a “@brandname you destroyed my life” rant with the intent of public visibility, then wonders why there’s no retweets happening, they should be able to figure it out. Fix this: eliminate the ability to craft DMs other than by the “DM” button, and add a pop-up informing the user about their attempts at either manual DMs or @replies so they understand the consequence of the Tweet.
Fix Search & Hashtags
I am not an expert at search, but I accept that trying to search a colossal data feed that’s constantly moving and updating sounds like a big problem. And hashtags are just plain ugly. But either way, it is increasingly true that neither manual search or following hashtags is an effective way to get information out of the Twitter stream beyond a lot of noise. Fix this: you’re kind of on your own here, but you employ a lot of smart people – make this a priority.
Improve the Game Mechanics
Last I read the average Twitter user (who even Tweets, at all) has about a dozen followers, most of whom are likely just bots informing them about deals they could get on new iPads. There’s literally no way to “catch up” to people who started a few years ahead of them, and because follower count is so prominently displayed across all aspects of Twitter, the game mechanics inherently discourage becoming an active user. Fix this: there are tons of ways to improve the find & follow experience, which must become part of onboarding and daily use.
I could go on a lot longer on little tweaks here and there. Twitter still has, in my eyes, a lot of interesting potential in so many different fields – but it just has to focus focus focus on product and user engagement. Trending topics is increasingly annoying, the new user experience is still mostly a disaster, etc. Maybe I’ll write another post, or leave it to you to comment here and add your thoughts. Then we can all tweet about it with hashtags and such!