Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

The Twitter Redesign That Wasn’t

twitterpie380Twitter is dying to make its product look different. But it just can’t pull the trigger.

Look at Tuesday’s mobile app update. Ninety-eight percent of you got the same thing: An update to Twitter search, with a few trending topic bells and whistles thrown in.

But about one or two percent of us (including yours truly) were thrown into little test buckets, apps with a bunch of different, experimental things going on inside them.

Fonts are larger. Fonts are smaller. Fonts are altogether different. Direct messages are revamped. Direct messages get more screen time. Swipeable banner notifications line the bottom of the app.

In sum: It’s not one big redesign, like the one I’ve been hearing chatter about for quite some time. It’s a bunch of little tweaks and flourishes, all adding up to a familiar-yet-different Twitter app.

There’s a good case for this method. It’s easy to test on the Web, where tests can be applied (and unapplied) quickly, but tougher to get experimental inside mobile apps. Pushing out a bunch of different versions to a select group of users is a novel way to test on mobile.

There’s also a case against: It’s another sign that Twitter is trying to test its way into a vision of what it wants to be, somewhat indicative of its years of product problems. Instead of making a hard and fast decision, Twitter wants to throw lots of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.

Even the new features Twitter decided to give to everyone were pushed out sheepishly. The trending TV shows and local discovery options — long objects in Twitter’s testing grounds — were buried inside the discover tab in Tuesday’s update. All the way at the bottom, after a bunch of scrolling.

This isn’t to say Twitter won’t push out a larger, more visually striking overhaul in the future. Before we see it, though, I imagine it’ll come after quite a bit more testing.


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