The new Twitter.com approaches that question seriously, if cautiously. It’s made some thoughtful UI tweaks, and the team rebuilt the website’s entire technology stack in order to make things easier to update going forward.
The navigation icons have migrated to the left and the compose box—forever prompting “What’s happening?”—is now front and center, above the stream of tweets. You can now save your tweets in bookmarks, for referencing later on. On the right, the search bar features more prominently above a list of trending topics.
“People use Twitter a lot on desktop to look for information, and it tends to be around their interests,” says Jesar Shah, the web redesign’s product lead. “So we’re trying to make that easier for people, and leverage these new spaces we’ve created on the site and compliment their primary browsing experience.” It’s surfacing the search and explore tabs in a more obvious way in an effort to signpost what Twitter is for: finding your internet tribe.
There’s a new profile button in the left sidebar, and it’s easy to switch between accounts. “There was a lot of global feedback around that,” says Shah. In Japan, one of Twitter’s largest markets, a lot of users were creating different accounts for different interests. “So they’ll have an account for food, and then another account for travel, and another account for TV shows, or maybe even a specific TV show. Being able to access that easily, regardless of what device you’re on, is something we’ve heard about a lot, and it’s been one of the top feature requests for a long time.”
Twitter’s website is now more customizable, too. You can change the size of your text, choose from one of several accent colors, and turn on one of Twitter’s new dark modes. “Personalization and customization—that’s something we hope to start bringing out throughout the product,” says Ashlie Ford, the product designer who led Twitter.com’s redesign.
Twitter has considered bolder ideas—like removing the metrics from tweets, for example—and earlier this year it introduced twttr, a prototyping app for these and other experiments. But the web redesign is focused mostly on building the “foundation” for a future Twitter. And taking it slow is important. “When we first started running experiments, we had it be opt-in,” Shah says. “We’re just making sure we feel confident in the experience we’re putting forward. One of our principles is ‘be rigorous, get it right.’ That’s around experimentation. Given that we’re a global company, it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re understanding everyone’s needs.”
To that end, Shah, Ford, and the team created a survey for Twitter users to give feedback on the design. It received over 200,000 submissions from around the world. Ford spent entire weeks parsing them, using translation services to get to the ones that came from non-English-speaking countries. “People definitely don’t think we’re reading them, but we are,” she says.
Arielle Pardes covers personal technology, social media, and culture for WIRED.
As proof, she points to one of the new features: a tool that puts an emoji keyboard in the desktop composition box. “In the beginning, I thought, we don’t need an emoji picker right now. There’s a workaround for this,” she says. “But that was the No. 1 piece of feedback we heard about what people wanted, by a landslide.”
Features like those might seem like small potatoes. But for Twitter, bringing some of the whimsy back to the website’s design was a central goal.
“Internally, we call this project ‘Delight,’” says Shah. “One of the things we’re trying to do is make sure this is a delightful experience for users. We want to make sure people come back to it often and can achieve what they want to achieve on Twitter.com.”