New Twitter: Almost There

by Leslie Poston | September 27, 2010

Recently, Twitter unveiled it’s new Twitter.com user interface to the public in a splashy press conference. They are rolling it out completely randomly to the masses, so don’t be upset if you don’t have your fresh, hot #newtwitter look and feel yet. Even myself and my fellow Twitter for Dummies co-authors didn’t get ours right away.

There are a lot of blog posts already out there weighing in on how awesome the new interface is, and giving an overview of the new features and navigation. You don’t need me to repeat that (also, you can always read about it on the Twitter for Dummies user site, where the three of us constantly update readers on any changes in the user interface that may affect parts of the book – we like to keep you current).

What we’ll talk about today are a few things this first stab at a completely new user interface is missing, and how you can work around it to still have an effective Twitter experience. Twitter has been adamant that this is simply the first part of a two part extensive user interface roll out, though they are being cagey about when part two will show up, so the assumption is that once they roll out to everyone without a major crash or other incident, they will start making fixes and improvements.

First on the list is Twitter RSS feeds of profiles, hashtags and lists. RSS is how I get some of my most important lists delivered to me. If you have an existing RSS in your feed reader of choice, they won’t be broken. However, if you want to start a new RSS, you could have a problem. The RSS button has been removed from profile pages, list pages and hashtag streams. Most people think “No problem, I’ll simply click “View Source” in my browser and grab the feed using the lists code”. Not so fast – that code is missing also!

Is there a workaround? Jesse Stay found one, so the hat tip for the lost RSS feed fix goes to him. Hopefully, Twitter will reinstate the RSS feature soon – but with their new focus on grabbing eyeballs who don’t want to interact and being a news destination instead of a conversation platform, I’m guessing it’s not likely unless there is a great outcry from users who miss it. Regardless, if you – like me – still subscribe to things via RSS so they are delivered to you when you are too busy to hop from site to site, you will need to log out of Twitter, go to the user’s profile or list page while logged out, then subscribe to the RSS feed, which shows up now only when you are logged out. I know – total pain, right? See Twitter reply to Jesse’s article at this link.

Next on the list of missing features I’ve noticed: List Updates. Another feature that seems to have been only partially rolled out, I was hoping #newtwitter would give us 1) more lists (20 is flat out not enough), 2) longer lists (500 names on a list is also not enough, especially with only 20 lists and thus, limited expansion for those of us who use lists to sort large groups of people), and 3) searchable lists across Twitter by keyword. Come on Twitter, you gave us a new toy that got us excited, now let’s make it even better!

A better way to see nested or threaded tweets. Twitter started down the road to this with the pop out window that opens when clicking the right arrow on an individual tweet, however, the entire conversation isn’t shown, and it isn’t immediately intuitive what you are looking at for many users. Twitter could do a better job here.

Missing (or just difficult to find) third party client information. I realize that this one may only matters to the early adopter set or the tech geeks, however; I think it’s important, and I’d like it to be back in the main stream instead of pushed over to the pop out/detail windows only. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, tweets used to say at bottom what client the user used to post the tweet: Twitter.com showed up as “web” and all else showed up as a linked application. If you were looking for new tools to try to solve an interface problem, this was handy, especially for mobile devices and desktop clients. However, since Twitter removed it, effectively, you can go to oneforty (made by Dummies co-author Laura Fitton) and find a searchable database of all things Twitter related.

Missing Direct Message Notifications. I don’t have any way to know if I got a new Direct Message right now unless I obsessively click on the link at the top of the page. It should change color, show a number – something. Some of us get a lot of DMs.

Marketers lament the lessening of background image space for extra info that doesn’t fit into the small bio area, but I don’t think that’s a huge deal. Make a better landing page link and 160 bio, that should solve the problem there.

Overall, I think Twitter did a great job. The #newtwitter interface looks a little MySpace to me, but it is definitely more efficient to use overall and has some nice features. I like the rearrangement of the buttons and links to put them closer to page center, and be more efficient, I like the window sizing and avatar sizing, the inline photos and videos and many other features. I think once you get it also, you will like it as well. Good job, Twitter!