Twitter is having to do a major U-turn and revisit UI changes after a major backlash from users. Whilst original complaints stemmed from “accidental unfollows” as Twitter changed the colour of their follow button, more recent proclamations accuse the new design of causing eye strain and even headaches.
It makes you wonder - why change what works?
Why did Twitter change their interface?
Twitter originally hoped to make their app and website more accessible after the 2020 backlash from an introduction of a new feature that simply wasn’t user-friendly, enabling users to “tweet with their voice”. The complaints brought the social media platform into the limelight, challenging them to transform how they operate and think about the consequences of their actions, leading to a new design that was intended to be more user-centred.
What did Twitter change?
While they may have thought they were putting disabled users first with their new design launch that results in “less clutter and high-contrast features”, Twitter certainly weren’t expecting a repeat of last year where tweeters rioted against unappreciated changes. Although it seems that Twitter’s endeavours were intended to benefit users, a possible lack of testing has led to this: more bad press. So what did they change exactly?
1) Contrast and colour palette
The high-contrast change to the colour palette (meaning less blue and more blacks and whites) was designed to “draw attention to the photos and videos you create and share.” However, users with photosensitivity have found the contrast causes headaches as they scroll through their feed.
2) Clutter reduction
Twitter proudly proclaimed their new clutter change made them “more accessible, unique and focused on you and what you are talking about.” They reduced the visual clutter, introducing a simplified appearance with unnecessary divider lines removed from the feed. Again, this was aimed to help users navigate their site and improve the UX, but instead, users now find it hard to differentiate where one Tweet and its thread ends and the next begins.
3) New font
According to CNet, Twitter’s new font (Chirp) is giving users headaches, with thousands of complaints rolling in about a font that “looks unfinished and isn’t satisfactory.” Twitter claimed they had tested Chirp with users who “found it weird at first” but soon adapted and liked the changes. Users strongly disagree.
4) Bye Bye “Fleets”
A few weeks before the big rollout of Twitter’s new UI, they were already discovering that new changes don’t pick up on their platform quite as much as they’d like. Ilya Brown, VP at Twitter wrote a blog saying goodbye to Fleets as “they hadn’t seen an increase in the number of new people joining the conversation through Fleets like they’d hoped.”
The Pros and Cons of Twitter changes
Although there are a number of dissatisfied Twitter users right now - it’s not all bad.
The recent changes and attempts to make their UX more accessible shows a forward-thinking willingness to change and a well-intended goal to put users first. Despite the poorly executed release of the new design changes, it does appear that functionality and Twitter browsers are at the heart of what they do, rather than profit. Instagram and Facebook, for example, have had a dominant theme in their latest changes: improving advert features, shop tabs, and campaign launches rather than addressing the complaint that users are not satisfied with the 2020 Facebook design as they find it confusing.
These frequent changes do confirm one thing: there’s a team in Twitter who are innovative and who are taking baby steps towards understanding what it takes to make a platform completely user-friendly, for all.
While they seem to be making plenty of missteps and stumbles, UX developers can really learn from Twitter’s repeated attempts. They’re not letting anything hold them back, and it looks like they’ll keep trying until they get it right. With a platform their size, they are easily able to generate feedback and (although you can’t please everybody) change their business decisions accordingly. Hopefully, with time, we’ll see Twitter benefit from its mistakes. Perhaps they’ll test features more rigorously - and with a diverse, (including disabled employees) review team in place.
We can celebrate Twitter for how quickly they’ve responded to criticism. Instead of dodging the anger, they’ve already demonstrated with Fleets that, despite how much they wanted a feature to succeed, they won’t keep flogging a dead horse. They recognise when they’ve made a mistake and seem willing to step up and make the required changes - which can be difficult for teams when they’ve spent a lot of time and money developing and adapting the UI.
How can Twitter improve for the future?
If Twitter learn only one thing from this whole experience, they need to remember that “user-first” means not skipping any steps. Rigorous testing and focus groups should include actual Twitter users from a wide range of demographics, including those with disabilities. Similarly, having disabled UX developers on the design team could help Twitter truly understand what its users need from the platform.
What can we learn from Twitter’s mistakes?
There’s much to be learnt from Twitter’s mistakes. Not only is it important to be mindful of the value of testing, but increasing diversity in any working team is guaranteed to help companies increase their mindset and see things from their customers’ perspective. Instead of costly, expensive (and very public) mistakes, getting things right from the get-go by expanding your recruiting and hiring processes could be key to delivering the best customer experiences.
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