Nick Bilton on the New Twitter UI

Nick Bilton:

You can look at the changes on Twitter similarly to the advent of a graphical user interface that made its debut in early-1980s computers. The design was called WIMP and stood for “windows, icons, menus and pointers.” Before WIMP, the only way to use a computer was by writing code, something most people couldn’t even comprehend.

After this major change in computing, programmers could still interact with the computer by writing code, but mere mortal humans could now interact with the computer through a graphical interface that wasn’t as intimidating. Twitter’s new design does the same thing for users who are afraid of the @ and # symbols. They still exist for people who want access to them, people who don’t understand these tools can completely ignore them.

Simplification may well be the publicly-stated goal of today’s new Twitter UI. But I don’t buy a word of Bilton’s analysis. The new Twitter UI doesn’t hide @username mentions or #hashtags. They’re all still there. Two of the big icons on the four tabs at the bottom of the screen are “@” and “#”. I totally agree that the way many people — most people? — use Twitter comes across as gibberish. The way people whom I follow use it, though, is what’s actually simple: just write short ideas concisely and clearly.

Maybe today’s new Twitter UI is better for new Twitter users. But even if that’s true, it’s not because it hides @ and # symbols the way that the Mac did away with the code-driven command line. And frankly, I don’t buy that’s simpler at all. In the old Twitter, you saw only what you asked to be shown (by following people). Now, they’re showing you all sorts of things you never asked for and can’t control.

Thursday, 8 December 2011