If Twitter and #fixreplies is about confusion, it’s a design error.

NB! Riktig post om it’s:learning er her.  Kort- URL: http://bit.ly/learning

@replies aren’t really that difficult to understand. But  Twitter either didn’t explain them at all (on the Notices-tab), and when they did explain it, on their help page, it was way too detailed and full of technical jargon. (Quick fix/suggestions further down)

There is a lesson in here.  And it is NOT the same lesson that was told to Facebook after their recent redesign, i.e. «Listen to your users» or «Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken«.

The lesson for Twitter and other sites is this:

  • Just say it like it is
  • Show them what you mean

Just say it like it is

For instance, why not have radio buttions in stead of a dropdown menu? You could have the same three options, but with a more straight-forward language. The technicalities and details should be in the extended help information, ending up with something like this on the settings page:


Your timelime shows tweets from the people you follow, but they can be filtered in three ways:

  • Quiet Show all tweets, except those that are replies
    No tweet beginning with «@username» will show up in your timeline
  • Standard Show all tweets, except those that are replies to people I do not follow
    A tweet beginning with «@username» will only show up in your timeline if you follow this user
  • Noisy Show every tweet from the people i follow
    Whether the tweet begins with «@username» has no effect

Tweets with your username will not be affected by this.

Compare this with what it used to look like. Not really very informative:

Supposedly, Twitter-users who had the «all @replies»-setting turned on, were more likely to stop using Twitter. Too much noise and information, caused by the fact that they didn’t know what they were doing when opting in.

The explanation for the reply-settings (had to find a Google cache of the help page as this has now been taken down) was really, really, really long. They’re getting really detailed, but that just makes it all the more difficult to understand.


Show them what you mean

This is something Flickr does really well. Not only are they good at using straight-forward language like «Recent activity» and «Organize», when I select how I want my photostream page layout, they show me what it would look like:

This way, it doesn’t really matter if I did not know what sets or collections are. Flickr just shows me.

The same thing could be done with the Twitter timeline. Why hide these settings away, when you could instead let the users see the immidate results of the changes? Explanations combined with seeing some tweets appearing and reappearing according to the option you choose, I so much better than a lengthy help-post.

What do you think?

Is the changes in replies just an excuse because of scalability, or is it about confusion, as the first post said?

And am I making a good point here at all?

I do not know much about scalability, but if they do not make it possible for me to turn back on «show all @replies», I will instead have to follow a whole lot more people to get the same experience. Wouldn’t that be just as hard a strain on the servers?


Twitter says @replies are not coming back, but per-user-settings might be implemented and later some sort of apology, also adressing the «flawed product design».

I also remembered that I read an excellent post about Twitters awful new notification bar.

I first discovered the changes at Pleasure & Plain, who explains the changes very well.

If you want to stay updated on this, I’d suggest checking out Mashable, ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch.

11 kommentarer om “If Twitter and #fixreplies is about confusion, it’s a design error.

  1. You make a good point. «Show, don’t tell» is a simple rule that more web sites should adapt to and follow.

    It’s interesting to see how people react to this move by Twitter, but of course, one can expect more feedback on a service that is all about telling people what you think. I personally hope they listen to their users and #fixreply.

    1. Yes, it’s almost as if they didn’t want their users to understand! The help post is so unbelievably long, and most of all confusing.

      A lot of sites have been getting a lot better at giving you the help when you need it. I should have to go to a help page to understand how it works.

  2. Twitter has no users and no features compared to other social media sites. If scalability is an issue, it’s because a) the developers don’t have a clue, b) they run the entire operation in the CEO’s basement, or c) both.

    Twitter needs to hire people who know how to build a scalable architecture.

    So why did they remove the feature? I have no idea.

      1. Surely it’s more efficient to only broadcast @replies to a subset of your followers, but it shouldn’t be a show-stopper.

        Twitter states that they’re working on new features for letting people find new followers. One way could be, as RWW mentioned, to recommend new followers based on some algorithm. Such a feature is less CPU-intensive, since those recommendations can computed once in a while (e.g., twice per day) and cached. However, I have yet to see computer-generated recommendations that are actually useful. I’m afraid such a feature will fail because it lacks a human factor. Besides, most of the time I don’t want to actually follow those temporarily interesting users. I just want to see the conversation that is «right now».

        As for the premium account, this is interesting. Could this be a means for Twitter to finally make money by offering premium acctounts? Personally, I wouldn’t pay for it, but I’m sure others would.

      2. Embarassing, but yes robinsk.. I actually think I could be able to pay to get all my @replies. Good freemium model.

        But how much is it worth? I don’t even pay Spotify 100 kr a month..

      3. Hmm, maybe a 2-part model:
        * Montly fee: $5
        * Annual fee: $50

        I might actually consider it if prices are low. But they have to be really low, so low it doesn’t feel like you’re spending money.

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