Twitter redesigned its profile pages this week, meeting some resistance from users in the form of grumbling tweets.
But in a refreshing break from the past, the unhappy users have so far kept their grumbles under control. Furthermore, while users' criticisms of the new Twitter profiles have been noted by the press, they are not making many headlines.
I say it’s refreshing because normally when a social network updates profile pages, there’s a bigger backlash from users in the form of campaigns and petitions.
News reports get so caught up in these negatives that any kudos the social network could receive for being inventive or for changing the status quo – characteristics that should be embraced within the tech industry, particularly in user experience design – are forgotten.
Facebook in particular has had a lot of trouble in this regard ever since 2006 when its users bemoaned the introduction of a news feed. The main criticism was that it made Facebook appear too similar to Twitter. In some kind of pointless exercise meant as a means of protest, Facebook users signed up to Twitter.
And since 2006, Facebook has frequently changed the look of its user profiles, each time meeting large amounts of protest from social networkers. The new Timeline – even though it was rolled out gradually over many months so people could get used to it – raised thousands of complaints.
The fact is social network users don’t like change, and the more they become attached to something, the less they want it to be altered. User resistance to Facebook and Twitter changes has grown over the years, which is why the fact that complaints over Twitter’s latest redesign have not been made into a big deal comes as a bit of a surprise.
The latest redesign from Twitter has been heavily criticised by users because it makes the social network look like Facebook. Yes, there’s more of a personal focus and some of the simplicity that made Twitter what it was has been removed, but I for one like the new design. I like the new usability features, like the ability to filter tweets and to make your best tweets appear in bold.
Many of the usability updates brought in by social networks are likely to help marketers, which is why users often distrust the changes. And I do understand these concerns. But the benefit of social networks is that you choose what you put out there.
It is important that social networking users voice their concerns, because much good has come from their activism. Social networkers opposed Twitter’s blocking policy last year, which would have changed the essence of what Twitter is about, particularly its openness. Because of their opposition, Twitter reversed the changes. Similarly users of Instagram and Facebook have opposed changes to social networking terms and conditions. Both social networks took note of these concerns, with users successfully acting as a check on the social giants’ power.
Let’s just hope we continue in this direction, understanding new designs on social networks take time to get used to, but continuing to make a fuss about changes that matter. It seems the web world has woken up to this realisation.
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