Why I will tweet less.

Twitter seems intent on becoming more Facebooky. We will now see more noise in our timelines as Twitter introduces its link summary cards that will now auto-expand URLs so that tweets will include a photo, headline and text snippets from the link included inside a tweet.

UX Blunder

Of course we'll hear how this is designed to improve the user experience by giving us more information about a tweeted URL. However, let's look beyond that very veiled excuse that's actually a nod to advertisers – not everyday users.

First, the Twitter timeline has actually become more cluttered and a rather UX mess with Twitter's many recent product decisions. Besides the increasing ad units and carousal type displays, we get conversation lines, while-you-were-aways, algo driven top tweets (so much for natural serendipity), various sized fonts, auto-play videos that disrupt music while reading the timeline (lesson not learned from Facebook), and cards galore with text above photos sometimes and text below photos other times. I really wonder what power the UX team has at Twitter or what the official view of UX is for the company.

So, now added to this convoluted mess are these new link summary cards. Tweet a URL and now Twitter will embed another card experience, if the publisher has cards enabled on their site. So the experience will be another mixed one since not all URLs will be in this new format – sigh.

What we have is more noise though in the form of photos (which many power users avoid), a truncated headline and cut-off text body.

Because Twitter has become such an automated world and bot over-run, I can expect to also see duplicated content all over the place. Just within the tweet itself, the text will be redundantly used in both the body and card itself because of the way most automated processes are implemented by publishers and marketers. You can see that in the Verge example here: https://twitter.com/verge/status/621101291813642240. Also note this complaint: https://twitter.com/JoaoGrisantes/status/621199830568804352.

The expanded Title and card text are small truncated snippets which really don't add much usefulness. Cut-off text is just not good user experience and one reason many auto-published tweets don't get much traction. In this new card summary, we see an official nod to a bad user experience practice.

The Verge compares this new format to screenshots some users take to expand a tweet beyond 140 characters. Wrong. Those type of screenshots are thought out and only include the text or quote that the tweeter is specifically drawing attention to. They are not truncated in the middle of important content. I sometimes have included a text screenshot too in my tweets, but it is definitely not the same thing as these new link summary cards.

So the only real “feature” here is the embedded photo that tags along with this summary card. Yes, expect a lot more spam. Advertisers and marketers will be jumping on this new feature. Link summary cards are for them.

Second, so much for skimmability. I use Twitter exactly because content is short and sweet. If a tweet captures my interest, I will choose to click the URL. I want to be able to skim through the timeline quickly though like many power users. This new card experience slows that down along with the other so-called features Twitter has added. It's hard enough to find tweets without URLs being shared by users or bots almost exclusively within their tweets. Can you imagine what this is going to look like now? The timeline will require even more scrolling through more noise and more wasted time – not more good UX.

Third, Twitter is less Twitter-like with link summary cards. I get the feeling that Twitter is throwing stuff to the ad wall and if it sort of sticks, it's used. Gone are the days of brief plain text usefulness. URL previews make Twitter just another follower instead of an innovator. By following the crowd, it weakens its brand while forcing users to adopt to the UX mistakes of the crowd. Their corporate mentality seems to be, “Well, everyone else is doing it.” With that mind-set, some users will walk away.

So, I'm beginning to rethink my own tweeting habits. Rather than support a UX I don't believe in, I'll likely begin taking my random content elsewhere. I loved Twitter for it's in-the-moment vibes and usefulness. It's been a bit of a nuisance though watching Twitter make certain product decisions, but eventually there's a tipping point when it's time to look for greener pastures. For now, I expect to be tweeting a lot less.

Whoever becomes Twitter's next CEO, please enable your UX team to protect your product before those of us who walk away become the many and only the bots remain along with the advertisers marketing to them.

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