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The days are growing shorter for many of us. Ragnarök is approaching. The old Twitter is halfway out the door and #NewTwitter marches in with a discomforting inevitability about it.
The Twitter people are very proud of their new product. They've even posted graphics online to show what providence they used when designing it. They're holding the general layout to the Golden Ratio.
Applause. And when new users try it out, most say 'hey this looks good'. But it's another matter to wake up in the morning next to it, see its beer belly or its hair curlers, and be able to say 'I can live with this'.
#NewTwitter not only puts form over function - it clobbers it. #NewTwitter commits every design crime in the book. Here's a short list. The list could be longer but then testers would have to suffer through further use of #NewTwitter and that's not a pleasant task.
- The bar at the top doesn't scroll. This is needed as #NewTwitter demands a window width of over 1,000 pixels. And considering most Wintel laptops have precious little more, this says quite a lot.
- Search is central, not off to right and incidental as it should be. Note that there's no longer a special search to 'find people' - it's all baked into the same thing. Meaning if you're trying to find someone, you have to wade through a mess of irrelevant tweets.
- 'Timeline @Mentions Retweets Searches Lists'. It's like Tweetie!!1!one!eleven! Like tabs but not.
- Trends can't collapse. Not everybody wants to watch trends. The old version let users collapse this area.
- Downward scrolls. Scroll all the way down (even by mistake) and the system goes nuts trying to find more tweets going back further in time. This gets ugly as what you're currently looking at is going to scroll up and away from you.
- 40 pixels left margin. The old Twitter used a left margin of 10 pixels. That's OK. The only justification for using four times that on a window layout that's already annoying is 'it looks better'. Generally speaking, too much space is wasted for flaps and tabs and other features people aren't going to use.
- 'Add your location'. This is dumb. It always has been dumb. People can set this feature in their preferences. It's really bad PR to put this prompt on every page at the top where a single erratic move of a pointing or tapping device...
- Action links aren't right-justified anymore. Things like 'retweet' and 'reply' are too hard to find, nestled in small print as they are and left-justified under tweets.
- Scrolling with the right flap out. This is utterly brilliant. The right flap doesn't scroll - only the main left timeline. The right flap gets its own non-conformant scrollbar instead. So you have two scroll bars looking motley together off on the right. Someone should get an award for this.
- Clicking tweets in the right flap. Driving without a map. You end up where you started from and there are no obvious user feedback clues as to why. There might be defensible explanations hidden in the fine print but it's not intuitive. The backtracking mechanism in the old Twitter was simple and brilliant.
- Your own tweets don't immediately turn up in your 'timeline'. There seems to be a new back end to the system so you only get to see your own tweets when they've been added to the databases and when subsequently the system starts sending out updates to all users. Seeing 'your message has been sent' doesn't cut it.
- 'Sorry! We did something wrong. Try sending your tweet again in a minute.' Probably meant to replace Fail Whale. You. Gotta. Be. Kidding.
- Copying text out of tweets. This used to be easy (and necessary) as the default eejit way to retweet couldn't be customised. Try it now with #NewTwitter: you can't select anything. First you have to click the tweet to get the right flap out. Talk about dumbing something down.
- Secret DM friends. This is so bad. A league of its own. And it's hard to believe something like this would make it into production. You want to send a direct message? Fine - you get one of those sexy black popups. But you can't see your followers. You have to type the first character to see a subset. Teh suck.
- 'Tiny timeline bird'. A small image file used to bottom out views to make them prettier. You. Gotta. Be. Kidding.
- 'Top Tweet'. Things were bad enough with '100+ retweets'. But why can't a system that already collates so much data and already knows the exact number of retweets dish it up for people to see? Are we perhaps thinking big numbers give the cerebrally disenfranchised vertigo? Think if YouTube used 'zOMG this clip has been viewed a lot!!1!one!eleven!'
- Replies to tweets. They don't use the text box already at the top - they of course use another one of those sexy black popups. Of course they do. Clobber it!
- Direct message count. You can't see when DMs arrive. You can't even see if you have any.
That's the shortlist.
Things used to be simple with people at large first using the web. That's probably because it was the smarter people who first adapted to it. They adapt well to things. They're resourceful. They're intelligent.
Then the corporations want to reach that other demographic - the eejits. The eejits who don't know anything about computer science, who don't know much about using computers, who can't find their right foot from their left, etc. They're money too.
And so interfaces get dumbed down to accommodate them. And ultimately it's like David Pogue expressed it: software continues to improve until it reaches the point where it's not usable anymore.