Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of the New Twitter iPad Application

Posted on September 20, 2012

The new Twitter apps for iOS, and particularly that for the iPad has received a lot of criticism from the tech press since their launch yesterday. Is this really founded, or are there good features introduced into the Twitter application?

Some Background

The applications that were released by twitter for the iPhone and iPad were actually purchased from the developer Loren Brichter who had previously released them under the name “Tweetie”.

Brichter’s iPad application in particular garnered a lot of positive reviews due to its introduction of the sliding panes concept which has been reproduced in many other applications. Sliding planes were great for twitter when they were introduced. It allowed you to rapidly tap on a tweet and view, with no additional taps, any images or webpages linked to in the tweet.

Brichter's Sliding panes iPad Twitter appl

Twitter left the application as it was for over a year, not fixing bugs or moving the concept of sliding panes onwards. Now some users did not like this concept, and if there are any real criticisms of it it would be the learning curve is existent and the timeline can feel visually cramped.

If you use twitter essentially to replace RSS fields and converse, the sliding planes does make a lot of sense, but twitter wants to be more than a replacement for RSS…

Twitter’s Direction

Twitter has, arguably, an important imperative to begin to monetize its audience. And this is no mean feat, it needs to make a lot of money per user to meet its valuations from investors, and the company’s desire to be a big player.

Hence, Twitter feels that it needs to control the user experience as much as possible to ensure they see what Twitter and its customers (advertisers) want users to see.

To all intents and purposes, twitter seems to be moving from wanting to show links to content, to having that content displayed inline in the timeline. One would imagine this would allow them to measure more, help advertisers spread their message and show more engagement and value to these customers.

The Genesis of the New Timeline

The new iPad applications have therefore had their timeline modified to accommodate this behaviour. Gone are the sliding panes and in its place is a much more conservative timeline of tweets. Tap a tweet and it expands to show some of the content. Tap a link and rather than a pane sliding in, the whole screen is taken up with content.

This has drastically changed how the Twitter application presents the timeline and gives access to the content that it presents.

Twitter's new iPad application with inline content

The Disadvantages of the new timeline

Hell hath no fury like a tech press that looses its favourite toys. Oh yes, the twittersphere is not impressed by the changes to the application. Here are some of the arguments raised:

Loren’s Sliding Panes were innovative, the new timeline is anything but.
Sliding panes were much faster requiring only one tap to open new content, whereas the new timeline requires two
What a waste of space in landscape mode on the iPad. There are bands not used on the left and right of the screen.
Not Optimized for iPad there is a feeling that the app is just a copy of the web timeline and that for the Android, and not optimized for Apple’s tablet.

These are all valid points from a usability standpoint, but when you look at what Twitter is trying to achieve, you can understand why these decisions have been made.

The Advantages of the new timeline

Despite all of the valid criticisms above, there are some good ideas introduced into the iPad application:

More white space makes the browsing experience more agreable, especially for normal people.
Better engagements with tweets leads to more focus on the tweets and a better twitter experience, especially with respect to retweets and replies. This may lead to more engagement on twitter.
Inline information might end up being more efficient rather than opening a larger article

What’s Happening with Twitter?

What’s really got everyone’s goat is that Twitter is closing down access to third party twitter applications that the tech press is heavily using and they are annoyed about it. Again, this is with good reason.

However, the normals that twitter is trying to attract and monetize are not bothered by this and may end up being much happier with the new design than the existing one.