Breaking News: Twitter’s New User Interface And What It Means To You

On Tuesday, Twitter unveiled a new and improved user interface for its Web site.  Twitter’s new Web functionality is a significant evolution that promises to attract more visits to Twitter.com, improve Twitterers’ interactions with content and each other, and ease adoption for Twitter newbies.  The changes will roll out over the next few weeks, and there are implications for users and advertisers.  (For example, if you have one of those elaborate, custom background images that conveys URLs or contact data, I hope you’re not too attached to it.)

At first glance, the new Twitter.com interface seems to be a minor redesign of the current Web site.  The left column containing the tweet stream is largely untouched, but the right column holding Twitter follower counts and trending topics is much wider. The extra width accommodates a new “detail pane” that improves engagement with tweets and discovery of other Twitter users.

Click on a tweet in the left column, and the detail pane permits viewing and interaction with the content of that tweet. What is displayed in the detail pane depends on the nature of the tweet: 

  • Videos: If the tweet contains a link to a video from sites such as YouTube, Vimeo and USTREAM, that video plays in the detail pane.
  • Maps: If the tweet is a check-in via services such as foursquare, the detail pane displays a map.
  • Pictures:  If the tweet includes a link to a picture posted using services such as Flickr, DailyBooth, Twitpic  and DeviantArt, that image appears in the detail pane.
  • Hashtags:  If you click on a hashtag within a tweet, the detail pane conveys up-to-the-moment search results.
  • Products:  A tweet containing a link to a product on Etsy or other select eCommerce sites will cause a product image to display in the detail pane.
  • Replies: A small icon appears in tweets whenever one Twitterer responds to another.  Click the arrow and the prior conversation is presented within the detail pane.

The detail pane not only improves engagement with tweets but also with Twitterers.  When a tweet is clicked on the left side of the screen, the detail pane on the right displays information about the Twitterer and his or her recent tweets.  If a tweet mentions several Twitterers, the detail pane lists recent tweets from all of those mentioned.  This sort of functionality is designed to help visitors to Twitter.com discover new people to follow. 

In a new Forrester report, “Twitter’s New Interface Will Drive More Reach For Marketers” (subscription required; available after 6 pm PDT on September 14 on Forrester.com) we share Social Technographics and other data that explains why Twitter is focusing on its Web site and why improving the consumption of tweets (as opposed to broadcasting them) is vital for Twitter and a welcome move for marketers.  The report also conveys what the new Twitter interface may mean for marketers interested in Promoted Tweets, but here is what these changes mean to Twitter users:

  • Easier interaction:  Those who interact with Twitter.com through a Web browser will find the experience easier and richer. You won’t have to click away from the site to see pictures, videos or maps.  Profile pictures presented in the detail pane will be larger, making it easier to recognize your Twitter friends. And the new site has been reengineered for speed, making the new Twitter.com agile and responsive.
     
  • More discovery: The new detail pane promises to surface more information about the people you follow and the folks they follow. Along with the recent addition of “Who to Follow” on the Web site, Twitter is making it easier to establish new connections. 
     
  • Many Twitter background images will need to be altered: The new Twitter.com interface claims a wider chunk of the screen, and that means Twitter profiles that now have elaborate backgrounds with pictures and text on the left side of screen will find that content obscured.  The new Twitter.com design favors simpler and more traditional background images.
     
  • Twitter wants you to change the world: The list of partners whose content will appear in the new Detail Pane includes the usual suspects (Flickr, YouTube, etc.) but also some surprises. For example, Kickstarter is a crowdsourced funding site to support "creative ideas and ambitious endeavors." And Kiva is a peer-to-peer microfinance site that empowers individuals to lend to entrepreneurs across the globe in order to fight poverty. 

The new Twitter.com is faster, easier and more engaging.  While any change in interface can cause complaints from long-time users (just ask Facebook), I believe the new Twitter.com will meet with strong user acceptance.  As the new design is rolled out, users will have the opportunity to accept it or return to the original design, but I think many will embrace the intuitive new functionality. 

UPDATE:  Screenshots of the new Twitter.com are below:

 Default Home Page:

Default home page Twitter.com

 

Embedded Video:

Embedded Video on Twitter.com

 

Geo-location check in on new Twitter.com:

geolocation checkings

 

Update Number Two: The Impact on Background Images of Old versus New Twitter

As noted in the blog post, the new Twitter design will have an impact on the background images some people use on Twitter.  Here is my Twitter home page after and before the change to the new Twitter design.  Note in the version on top that the contact info and data I included on the left side of my background image is partially obscured due to the increase in width of the Twitter panes.

It appears the width of the content frames has increased over 275 pixels.  With my desktop set to a width of 1280 pixels, there are just 112 pixels on the left side of the screen for any images, URLs or contact info.  Twitterers will undoubtedly make creative use of those 112 pixels, but many will have to change their background images to accommodate the new design.

Old and new Twitter designs

 

 

Comments

goodbye

easier than the current twitter?

Easier than the current Twitter

Yes, I think most folks will find it easier. For many, the ability to interact with tweets and get additional content (like videos or images) without clicking off the site will be welcome.

brevity elaborated?

A very insightful article Augie..Thanks.

The replies is the best feature incorporated...

However really to me Twitter till nw was abt brevity - from appearance to updates/messages...but with this whole two page screen it goes the regular way of any other social networking site... will hv to wait and see if it can really stand out still..

Ch- ch- ch- changes

There will be some folks who don't like the new design. One drawback is that you cannot scan as many tweets at one time. (Check out the before/after image I posted at the end of the blog tonight.) But, I don't think giving users the opportunity to see images, videos, etc in the detail pane really changes Twitter's core functionality. It's still about the 140-character status updates.

Let me know what you think once you get access to the new interface!

Multi-Account support would

Multi-Account support would have been really nice though.

Competing with Developers

Markus,

As it is, Twitter is being accused of competing with their developer network. Adding multi-account support would've put them one step further into HootSuite and Cotweet territory.

Things, they are a changin'

I'm excited to see how this effects user retention on Twitter. Hopefully it will keep people from premature frustration and abandonment of the social network.

Also, I like these changes a lot more than the recent updates to Facebook. Go Twitter!

Little changes

Thanks for the thoughts, Nate. In the end, these changes are actually quite minor. I don't want to minimize the complexity of the new functionality or the good user design, but in the end this doesn't really alter Twitter behaviors. People who were going to click a link to view a video will still see the video--only easier! I think that's what you're reacting to--it's a big change in terms of technology and design but a fairly minor change in user behavior.

Appreciate the dialog!

Great summary

Thanks for the concise summary of the changes - super helpful. When I first looked at it this morning, I wasn't overly excited, but I pulled up your article and walked through the new interface, I think there's a lot of potential. I do like the way that it's easier to follow conversations and how easy it is to learn more about people mentioned in other tweets. I can imagine I'll be following more people because of that.

Regarding the backgrounds, there are a number of industries that require disclosures on the profile pages...I'm curious what approach these companies will take - if they'll just make it fit in that narrow space or if they will find a more creative approach. I know there's nothing creative about the legalese, but I'm hoping!

Disclosure

Thanks Kathi,

I think disclosure will come in some variation of three ways: In the 112 pixels beside the left side of the Twitter frame, in the bio, and in the profile link. But, you're right, some brands are going to need to get creative!

Glad you enjoyed the post!

Twitter and facebook engagement

Hi Augie,

I absolutely agree with you when you say that Twitter is improving the consumption of tweets.
I would like to ask you few questions (it's for my final dissertation):

-What it is for you the co-creation of value? When there is the co-creation of value for you?

-Do you think that Social Media role is to co-create value or to empower users to create value?

Social Media value

Federico,

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure what you mean by co-creation of value. Social media's role is really to facilitate peer-to-peer connections and communication, but it has also lowered the bar and put the means of broadcast into the hands of the masses. Both of these things empower consumers--they can better influence those they know and with whom they share trust on a one-to-one or one-to-few basis and can, under the right circumstances, influence many people on a one-to-many basis.

Social media value

Thanks for answer to me Augie

my final dissertation is about engagement as a tool for value co-creation on facebook and twitter.

With value co-creation I mean the process in which both firm and consumer playing an active role to generate value.

Do you think that engagement is a powerful tool in that sense?

I liked the new design.

I liked the new design. Sidebar is more productive and the top menu adds nice look to the website. Here is another article about the same http://bit.ly/dmoNl9