Twitter App Update To Make Experience More Visual, TV-Friendly?

Look who is fodder for the digital rumor mill now. Little old Twitter. As the company prepares for an IPO, well, sometime, it is also bolstering its mobile positions in a number of ways. The acquisition of the MoPub RTB platform was openers, of course. But according to reports, the micro-blog service is about to polish up its app in short order. AllThingsD and The New Yorker say a major overhaul of the Twitter app is imminent, probably starting with the iOS version.

Twitter’s thinking about apps has evolved in recent years toward more native experiences, says New Yorker’s Matt Buchanan. “A couple of years ago, Twitter employees -- including Jack Dorsey -- frequently invoked ‘consistency.’ In other words, Twitter wanted its iPhone app to look and work like its Android app. But now the company has come around to the idea that its apps should be custom designed for each and every platform, in order to take as much advantage as possible of what each one has to offer.’



After an iterative update of Twitter to bring the app into compatibility with iOS 7 (launching Wednesday), the company will follow up with a more radical redesign that reflects the new iPhone OS aesthetic. But more to the point, the visual design will eliminate the tabbed menu structure and replace it with four screens that the user swipes across. The main screen will still have a scroll of new posts, and another will have communications with others on the platform. According to AllThingsD’s Mike Isaac, the third screen will focus on Twitter images that are being shared.

Most intriguing is a possible fourth stream that will address Twitter’s power as a second-screen device for TV. Isaac reports that the company is experimenting with various ways of surfacing TV content, including trending TV shows. Twitter has put considerable focus on second screening, both on the product side and ad sales side. It acquired two social TV metrics firms this year and has rolled out ad products that synchronize promoted posts with on-air content and ad campaigns. It certainly is imaginable that Twitter will surface TV trends and content that are synchronized to a viewer's time and place. It is hard to imagine more lucrative real estate than assured visibility on Twitter's second screen during prime time if TV content is baked into the interface.

Most of all the Twitter redesign, which also will take place on other platforms, is about capturing and keeping new users. Many newcomers are befuddled by Twitter’s structure and nomenclature, let alone the tools for discovering data. The redesign is supposed to help newbies get oriented and discover the app's utility. Apparently, only quarter of the billion registered users of Twitter actually keep coming back. It is good to see social media acknowledge this as a problem.

Most social media suffers from ever-changing interfaces and feature labeling that is inscrutable got most outsiders. As companies like Facebook and Twitter become publicly owned and unabashed media concerns, they need to resist their adolescent urges toward cliquish ways. Let the stock watchers wring their hands about whether they have viable ad models, etc. This really still rests on the ability of startups that once catered to a niche expanding their usability and appeal to a mass audience. They now need to work with the simplicity and clarity of an everyday appliance. 

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