Why New Users Find Twitter Incomprehensible

Twitter’s tools below a tweet.
  • The first icon is the one that the vast majority of other sites and apps use for “comments,” the ‘speech bubble’ seen in comic strips. But Twitter uses it for “Reply.” To their credit, at least they explain that it’s ‘reply’ in a rollover/tooltip.
  • The second icon is retweet, which I’m familiar with and am pretty sure is what I want to do. But I’m more interested in learning, so I press on.
  • The third icon is just to add one’s vote of approval to the tweet. No surprises there.
  • The fourth one sure looks like I’d be forwarding the tweet into an email. But the tooltip tells me it’s Twitter’s direct message function. OK, I understand; if I click that, I’ll be trying to send a direct message to… um… the original tweeter or retweeter, Sam or Julie (in the image). I click the icon. And up pops this dialog, where I’ve erased a lot of the info intentionally:
Direct Message dialog, with info erased for privacy
  • Here’s where Twitter’s broad theme of usability problems really show. I can’t tell why these names are showing. It says Recent, but I don’t know these people. Are they scammers who infiltrated my account and defrauded (hacked) Twitter to send me direct messages? Or worse, defrauded (hacked) Twitter to act as if I (!) direct messaged someone? Or are they “recently” dm-ed by someone completely unrelated to me? To try to figure out what’s going on, I type characters into the box at the top. I deliberately put in characters that I see in the names on the screen… to see if the box is what’s called a ‘filter.’ The dialog responds by showing names completely different from those in the list below.
  • (Just a bit more of the details before I diagnose.) I try typing in the name of a person who follows me, so I can see if they show up in the list. It isn’t until I type their entire (!) handle that they show up. This is not the behavior that one expects of a box that responds on the fly with each character you enter. If people are applicable for me to direct message, I expect their names to show as soon as I type enough characters to retrieve them from my list of followers.
  • Its screens don’t provide little blurbs that explain the novel functions that are unique in the tweeting world.
  • It uses icons alone — that mistakenly use other notions — for novel functions when it should use icons and text.
  • I uses existing constructs but doesn’t implement the expected functionality.
  • I uses labels like “Recent” but doesn’t add “from or to whom.”




Usability and other stuff

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Going Gray in Tinsel Town: The Insta-Fame

What Your Tweets Reveal About You

Living Online; A Skeptical Perspective on Social Media

4 Times Video Storytelling Made A Huge Impact

The dark side of the like!

Instagram Advertising Strategies

Social Media Addiction

Tech Therapy Check-Ins

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


Usability and other stuff

More from Medium


How to Avoid Collaboration Chaos

Ideas: A UX Perspective

Future of User Interface Design