11 Excellent Twitter Improvement Ideas

Mar 13 2009 by Jacob Gube | 29 Comments

Last week, I wrote about 10 Features That Will Make Twitter Better – the response was astounding and many people contributed their own ideas in the comments.

What became clear was the need to write a follow-up article that discusses even more user interface suggestions that can improve the Twitter web experience. To provide a well-rounded mix of ideas, the article would have to be from a combination of authors that contributed to one article.

What follows are ideas by ten professionals from different various spheres of expertise.

1. Location, location, location: the Twitter @Locals tab

Jason Finch, Blended Networking Evangelist, The dotSno Project / @dotsno

One of the greatest benefits of Twitter is being able to connect in real-time with conversations going on between those you follow, enabling you to become part of a global conversation on topics in which you have a shared interest. Any time of day or night you’re able to jump into the conversation. Imagine the power of combining this with local knowledge and conversations with local people who you have yet to discover. Think about who is around right now, on your block, talking about the stuff in which you’re interested, the strangers in the coffee shop a few blocks away tweeting about the very subjects that fascinate and engage you and who could easily become your friends. Run along, go meet them!

Locals tab.

Introducing a @Locals tab to Twitter would enable you to connect immediately with those around you in the physical world. Clicking it would show the tweets happening around you, right now, wherever you are; integrating the tweets with a 3D virtual world would enable you to ‘walk through’ conversations happening in your neighborhood; it would enable Twitter to show conversation "hotspots" where ideas and thoughts are developing; it would start your journey into blended social networking, creating a seamless connection between your online conversations and your offline relationships, whether business or personal.  As social animals, we find the human web to be a great place, but nothing can replace face-to-face contact. The @Locals tab would blend everything by combining "time" and "place".

Twitter’s existing location awareness is poor and even third-party applications can rely only on the data presented by Twitter, with some people providing only their city or their country. By enabling us to accurately specify our location, and by providing the security of allowing us to provide exact location without it being revealed publicly, Twitter could provide us with so many more services on a local basis. The guy on the next block really needs two extra bottles of vodka for the party and you can join in too if you bring one! The business owner around the corner desperately needs some flyers printed before this afternoon, you can have the work if you deliver the order to her door. Traffic is getting backed up thanks to a traffic accident near the location of your next meeting, you can avoid it simply by checking out the local tweets.

We don’t need to be precise about our location, broad localization can still bring people together, enabling serendipitous discovery of new friends and relationships. Like the farm-hand who looks for the needle in the haystack, only to find the farmer’s daughter, so we may find extraordinary new relationships on our doorstep simply by clicking the @Locals tab and interacting with our neighbors.

2. Time Shifting Prime-Time Tweets

Arley McBlain, Web Designer / Developer, Debut Creative / @ArleyM

Setting prime-time.By Arley McBlain

The concept of Time Shifting tweets is a simple one and has been used throughout other broadcasting media for decades. It is my opinion that Twitter, like anything else has Prime-Time. For example, one of the first web developers I started following was @boagworld. He is currently in GMT (+0.00), and I am in EST (-5.00). From my perspective, as an office employee his Prime-Time will be his 9am – 5pm. I am following him and many others to see how the giants of the industry work. Sadly, when I get to my computer in the morning he’s already going for lunch! I am not dedicated enough to see what those I am following have been up to for the morning, so onward the day goes. Before too long he has gone home and is tweeting about his free time while I am still working away. While there’s nothing wrong with his "non-prime-time" tweets, I am following him because of his expertise in the field. Wouldn’t it be nice if when you got to your computer you were seeing everyone’s "hello world" messages in the context of your day?

The benefits of this are obvious: seeing more of what makes the rock-stars of this industry tick, seeing what your friends from around the world are doing in context of the day. This feature is not without it’s problems though.

For one thing it only works for people you are following East of your location. So what do you do about users to the West? The easy answer is "too bad". For me, someone like @dburka from the West Coast (PST -8.00) would have to be either set to -21 hours (which is arguably way too long in the twitterverse), or have some kind of rotating time scale where the balance of the 9 – 5pm day wraps-around the next day. This is disorienting and only works for people using Twitter from 9 – 5. Naturally @replying to any time shifted tweets would be senselessly out of context for the followed, but by clicking their tweet you could go to their profile page to see the message in context.

Tweets in context.By Arley McBlain

Brainstorming this feature raises a lot of questions. Would you set the Prime Time by the followed user, or globally for time zones? Could I as a Twitter author choose to shift my tweets for those who follow me, or conversely would I have the option to decline time shift? Who knows, but I love the extreme example of kids years from now setting Prime-Time to -20 years to follow the pioneers of the internet in the context of their days.

3. Add Pagination with date select to search through archived tweets.

Charity "Shelly" M. Colvin, Multimedia and User Experience Design Specialist / Texas Dream Designs, @Texasbrat

Calendar overlay. By Charity "Shelly" M. Colvin

Currently tweeters often get frustrated when they need to locate a tweet from someone they are following.  Twitter prides itself on the idea that less is best, and on this theory, the best solution to reduce the convolution is to incorporate pagination.  Since tweets are organized by time stamps incorporating a calendar drop down with pagination will enable users to pick which date they wish to view tweets.
This will provide users with a quick and simple method of searching through their archived tweets.  This also practically eliminates the need to press the dreaded “older” button a hundred times.

Update.By Charity "Shelly" M. Colvin

 Since Twitter is already using pages to catalog tweets, implementation of this feature shouldn’t affect the results as far as SEO (search engine optimization).

4. Follow these tweeps!

Adam Pieniazek, Co-founder – Writer, Consultant & Host, The 42nd Estate / @AdamPieniazek

At one point or another nearly every Twitter user asks the same question: who should I follow now

Twitter could and should utilize our existing connections and interactions to recommend additional tweeps to follow. There’s already an application, WhoshouldIfollow, which suggests users to check out, but integrating this feature into Twitter’s web interface would ease the transition to Twitter for newcomers and help all of us find good users quickly and easily. 

Follow these tweeps! image.

For example, say you go to mommyblogger’s profile and choose to follow her, a small field right below the follow button could show who else her readers are following. After clicking follow, a box would appear stating: Tweeps who follow mommyblogger also follow IamMom, iTwitmykids, and howtomothermytweeps, with links to those users’ profiles. Twitter could also list mommyblogger’s closest contacts. After you click follow on her profile, Twitter would list the three users she most often tweets with or about.

Twitter could also implement a you should follow feature in the sidebar that would combine the data from our current relationships and communications to list a few users you would enjoy following. As you choose to follow or not follow tweeps from the sidebar, Twitter would pick up on your tendencies and then analyze which data set is most likely to suggest someone you’d actually end up following, refining itself over time. 

The addition of user recommendations to Twitter’s web interface would significantly lower the barrier to entry for new users and keep veterans up to date on the latest people they should follow. The one big unknown is the effect the extra data and analysis would have on Twitter’s servers, though much of this data is already there. If the Twitter team could implement these features without compromising speed and stability, it would greatly improve our ability to find users we should follow.

5. Mark Tweets as Seen

Japheth Thomson, Web Developer, Japheth Thomson / @japh

Monitoring your tweets between all the different avenues available can be quite challenging at times.  At home I use TweetDeck, in the office I use TweetDeck, in between times on my iPhone I use Tweetie, and occasionally I’m in a spot where I need to use the web.

With so many different platforms, and so many tweets streaming past all the time, it can be difficult to keep track of which ones you have an haven’t read.  TweetDeck has a feature to mark tweets as "seen", but as this doesn’t actual carry between installations, or to other applications, it’s actually not as useful as it could be.

Mark Tweets as Seen - screen shot.

I admit this may not be as useful for the web interface as it would be across applications.  Having it added into the Twitter API would enable the various applications to utilise the feature, and make for a much more seamless Twitter experience, however you choose to use it.

6. ReTweet Button

Ted Graf, Front-End Web Developer, TedGrafx / @tedgrafx.

For the longest time the need for a "ReTweet" button has seemed obvious to me.

In my opinion it should be a simple, small icon nestled neatly near the "Favorite" and "Trash" icons.

My vision is simple, and would work like this:

Once a user clicks the "ReTweet" button, it would automatically place the entire message you’re re-tweeting into the Update text box like so: "RT: @username user’s message" – giving the user the option of adding their own bits to it. This would save the user the hassle of copying/pasting this every time. I wouldn’t know of any reasons why this may hinder this feature’s implementation.

Retweet pagination - idea.By Ted Graf

*NOTE: As I’m writing this I noticed a tweet from @mashable about PleaseRT.me.

7. Newer / Older + Pagination

Ted Graf

I’ve tweeted @twitter about this in the past and it seems to make sense – at least to me.

I can only speak for myself here, but when I sign on in the morning, I usually want to catch up on what I’ve missed overnight.

So, my practice has been to go "back" to the page that had my "goodnight" tweet and read on from there, which usually takes me back 5-10 pages.

It would be terrific to have the "Older / Newer" navigation at the TOP of the list as well as at the bottom.

Retweet pagination - idea.By Ted Graf

And while we’re at it, why not add some page numbering (pagination) to that navigation as well? This would save the user time by not always having to scroll to the bottom of the page to go back or forward – buy only one page, mind you. Again, I wouldn’t know of any reasons why this may hinder this feature’s implementation.

8. Search users by tags

Joerg Pfennig, Internet Product Manager, Preisvergleich Blog für Deutschland / @websitejoe

What’s still missing is a tagging for the users themselves.

By allowing users to tag their profile with keywords that they’re interested in, you will have the option to not only search for tweets with some relevant content in it – but also for user profiles containing these keyword tags.

This is a web 2.0 feature you can already find, for example, on business networking platforms such as LinkedIn, where you usually tag your main competencies

In Twitter you could use your profile tags to describe, for example, your main interests or hobbies, with which you want to be found by others. That way you can find users with whom you share the same interests without waiting until they drop "the keyword" in one of their tweets.

Maybe you are a real cat’s lover – but do you use "cat" in every single tweet because of this? See.

To prevent misusage/spam the profile tagging should be limited to a small number like 3 to 5.

9. A notification system of relevant tweets

Cesare Rocchi, RIA Designer and Developer, Studio Magnolia / @funkyboy

Twitter is a great source to find smart answer to smart questions.

Many have proven the question-answer scenario: ask a questions a get replies almost instantly and this can be considered the top feature which fits your quick question needs.
There’s more. Twitter is a sort of river of thoughts where many people pass by and drop some tip.

If you are interested in a field I think twitter is the best way to have an almost up-to-date knowledge of that field. But sometimes you don’t have enough time to sit down by the river and look when an interesting drop passes.

A notification system can be really helpful in such a scenario.
Say I usually am able to keep track of what I am interested in on Twitter. Say for a week I am out of office (e.g. to a conference) and during the day and busy talking and gathering new clients.

For sure I have no time to check out what’s happening on twitter, and during a week many thoughts pass by in the twitter river.

This can even lead to some frustration. I could do a quick check in the evening but I might be already overwhelmed by tons of emails.

I suggest to implement a functionality that allows me to set periodical searches over twitter (by string or by pragma, e.g. #swsx) and receive the results on the channel I prefer (email, sms or even im). This way I am sure that someone will collect the stuff that I like and I will receive it the way I like it.

Of course there are potential problems in the implementation of such a feature. For example databases might not like too frequent searches. Real time notification over IM (or push technology to dekstop applications) can be even more challenging. In any case
I think such a feature will enormously enhance the fruition of Twitter drops.

10. Ability to Mark Direct Messages as a Favorite

Invoice Ninja, Guest Writer, SugarPatch / @InvoiceNinja

A new feature that I’d most like to see Twitter implement is the ability to favorite direct messages. Obviously the whole point of DM’s on Twitter is to have conversations privately without them appearing in your feed, and likewise, I don’t mean that DM’s should have the ability to appear in the publicly available favorites tab.

What I mean is that within the DM’s screen, I’d like to have the ability to star them as well, and have a separate tab to view them. Twitter has various uses for everyone, and for me, it gives me the means to keep in touch with long-distance friends who are always online but can’t call me. It’s made it possible for me to turn my tired old cell phone into an instant messaging client of sorts – they can DM me, and I can receive them and reply at any time wherever I may be.

It’s a wonderful thing, but the end-result is hundreds of DM’s saved up, and a good handful of them are those special ones where they’ve really made me laugh or brightened my day. By being able to star them and pull them up separately, I could reread them without digging through countless pages, and I’d be sure that I never accidentally deleted them or anything. I’m inclined to think that it’d be very simple to implement, and I can’t really see any drawbacks to it, especially since it doesn’t affect the actual feeds whatsoever. It’s always a good thing to be able to get a little more organized!

11. Easier way to post links to tweets.

Maija Haavisto, journalist and medical writer, Fiikus / @ DiamonDie

Easier Tweets.

Twitter users sometimes post tweet links to other users’ tweets. Currently the only way to do this is to copy & paste the URL of the tweet and you may also have to use TinyURL or a similar to shorten it, because the URLs are rather long.

Many websites use easier methods of posting links to content on that site. DeviantART, for example, allows users to post thumbnails of a particular Deviation (piece of art) by using the syntax :thumb########: where the #’s denote the number of a Deviation. Similarly Twitter could allow us to post a link to a particular Tweet by using the syntax :########: where the #’s denote the number of the tweet, already visible in the URL. So you could write :12345678: and it would translate to a link to tweet number 1234578.

To make things even easier, the web interface should include a button (similar to the Reply and Favorite buttons) for linking to a particular Tweet, which would automatically create a link using the aforementioned syntax.

Got more ideas?

Share your thoughts on how Twitter’s web interface can be improved, in the comments.

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29 Comments

Chris Wallace

March 13th, 2009

I’m not sure why Twitter employs anyone, they should simply have the community design and develop the application. hehe

Shaun O'Connell

March 13th, 2009

Maybe this is possible already, but I’d really like to see both ends of an @ conversation, especially if the user I’m following is chatting to someone I don’t follow.
(Think “wall-to-wall” in Facebook)

It’s tough having to looking up the respective voices in the conversation, and then try match up their responses in time order.

Darragh Curran

March 13th, 2009

I’d like to see short urls expanded – so at the very least when I hover them I see where they’ll link to (similar to search.twitter.com). Help save wasted time clicking a link just to see what it is.

My api and firefox plugin does this. http://www.longurlplease.com.

insic

March 13th, 2009

this would definitely made twitter more awesome. adding a retweet icon is really a nice idea.

silentgirl

March 13th, 2009

These are really excellent ideas. I used to think the same for #4 too. it would give you extra idea of how or where your new followers come from.

Dragko

March 13th, 2009

Good article some good ideas from your readers.. Regarding time shifting I agree for some professional feeds that might be nice. But twitter is really a communication tool more than a broadcast tool and therefore is much better in real time. I accrually fond it quit stimulating to hear tweets live.

Jean Heffernan

March 13th, 2009

How about a “screen” option, in between “follow” and “remove”? “Screen” would allow 10 (or a number you select) tweets maximum per day from each of the people I follow. If something big was unfolding, I could revert to “follow” and get all tweets.

Adam Pieniazek

March 13th, 2009

The location awareness is a great idea and one I’m 99% sure Twitter is working on and planning to release soon. The Boston Police department recently began using twitter to release public notices (for instance, fire at 99 fake street, avoid the area) and combined with location awareness it would be an amazing tool to fight crime and help citizens navigate the city.

Love Arley’s idea. Twitter could also use to set our own prime-time (so the people who keep night owl hours can time shift correctly too) and then when you follow someone give the option of time-shifting their tweets.

Ted’s idea for a ReTweet button is crucial for those of us using Twitterific on our iPhones as there is no copy & paste and no RT function! Simple but extremely useful.

I like Cesare’s idea a lot too, but it would likely be better if it was implemented in the API to reduce database calls. Still, it’s a wonderful idea that I would begin using immediately. So many tweets fly by us that it is impossible to keep up with all the useful information.

Thanks to all the writers for sharing their great ideas. Loved reading this article!

Matt

March 13th, 2009

Check out tweetpary.com – a great solution for DM’s on twitter.

inerd

March 13th, 2009

i think you have missed one thing very important.
A better notification for direct messages, its like twitter as a messaging system, so i think at least a “new DM” note can catchup an eye. currently i know about dm only from my email inbox.

Sean Hurley

March 13th, 2009

These are great updates if only they did a better job of mobile support. Only a selected carrier allow use of twitterberry which is sms updates. Is there other mobile software out there for twitter updates?

Matt

March 13th, 2009

I think twitter should sell. They obviously don’t have the skills to make any changes. Now Facebook is just like twitter, and will probably out-twitter twitter. They need to sell before their value goes down to zero. Right now everyone’s talking about twitter, it’s the perfect time.

Adam Pieniazek

March 13th, 2009

I like that idea Jean. I have a few people who I want to continue following but don’t want to hear everything they say. Hmm, but that leaves the chance that you’d miss out on something interesting they tweet, which is the big draw to twitter anyway.

Yuri

March 13th, 2009

I like the simplicity. If anyone wants more complexity go on Facebook or create a blog. I’d rather not see Twitter become overly complex. This ‘improvement’ idea is like a sub prime mortgage. Less is more. Why do people keep forgetting that?

Sibylla

March 14th, 2009

I’d really like to see tagging and grouping functionalities added to Twitter, to organize following/followers in categories. The more I use Twitter, the more i expand my networks, it becomes difficult to navigate in that flow of constant tweets, only on the basis of time reference. I follow people/organisations out of certain interests: web development, marketing, IA, medias, friends…). I found the tagging/grouping tools to facilitate my twitter experience here: http://www.twittangle.com

Sam Allen

March 14th, 2009

Would love to be able to upload a list of contacts exported from Outlook or Entourage to find new people to follow.

Would also like to search my Facebook friends for people also on twitter.

Maybe also import my latest tweet as my Facebook status automatically.

Bronson

March 14th, 2009

Some really fantastic idea in here. Timeshifting and the Newer / Older + Pagination are my favourites.

Blugger

March 15th, 2009

I’d often like to have the possibility to find out wether “Name Name” is following me. “Search in followers”.

And I’d like to know how long XX is using twitter. First posting.

Ulrike Langer

March 15th, 2009

I’d love to be able to sort my followers and friends by alphabetical orders of username and real name instead of the chronological order.

Jason McElweenie

March 17th, 2009

The Retweet function is in this Firefox plugin along with a lot of other cool features such as viewing Twitpics and youtube videos in the tweets

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/9591

Great plug in for those of you still using the archaic browser version of Twitter

Tony Durham

March 17th, 2009

Keep Twitter simple. Let the community create tools which add these features – as they already have, in some cases.

Danh ba web 2.0

March 18th, 2009

Nice post. Thanks you very much !

Jason Finch

March 18th, 2009

Really great to read the comments by everyone with even more ideas on how to make Twitter better.. and also interesting to see how Facebook is ‘competing’. I wrote the piece on localization that appears at the top of the post and I guess Facebook has a bit of a head start in that sphere, but I really think that a killer app would be Twitter with localization, not Facebook with localization.

Keep your ideas flowing everyone, it’s good to see what topics are important to people!

Ted Graf

March 19th, 2009

@Adam Pieniazek – thanks for the support. i primarily use the web interface (no iPhone yet) but it’s good to know that feature would help on mobile devices as well.

@Jason McElweenie – thanks for the addon suggestion, i’ll have to try it out.

Janet

March 20th, 2009

I would like to be able to sort friends and followers. Right now, I can’t even browse them properly.

Scott Wright

May 8th, 2009

I follow a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. I have to get ruthless with unfollowing – more than I’d like to. It would be good to be able to remember whom I used to follow. The feature could be called “Follow U Later”, or the domain name could be called “Followulater.com”, so you could sort and see the Tweeps (and their tags, as suggested above) you had to drop because their content wasn’t your highest priority at the time, but you still might need to follow them at some point.

Scott (@streetsec)

Jason Finch

May 26th, 2009

Further to my comments that I wrote in my opening piece for this feature, I’m now working on a project looking at localizing global conversations – http://gmeet.com – not even at beta stage, prototype will be launching soon for interested people to try.

Jayneel Ramjee

October 24th, 2010

How about the option of audio tweets? Instead of writing your tweets, you record them. The follower can then listen to them. Surely this would lend extra appeal in actually being able the hear the voice of the celeb you’re following? And if you’re the shy type, you can still use text-tweeting.

ArleyM

March 17th, 2011

Nearly two years have passed since this was posted – seeing the retweet button and local tweets in action is really rewarding. In hind sight my idea seems silly.

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