Twitter announced earlier this week that it was giving the site a facelift—at least, it’s giving your profile page a facelift. The changes include a distinct makeover, complete with a bigger emphasis on photos and a top cover picture that is eerily reminiscent of Twitter’s toughest competitor, Facebook.
Of course, the basics won’t change: you still only get 140 characters to express yourself, but it seems that Twitter is really trying to expand its reach and appeal with these improvements. Only the newest users (and top celebrities like First Lady Michelle Obama. John Legend and Channing Tatum) will see their profiles made over first, then Twitter will roll out the redesign to everyone in the weeks ahead. Here are the features you should be aware of:
Let’s say you tweeted something that got 50 retweets and 35 favorites. That one will appear larger on your Twitter profile than a less popular tweet. Obviously, as Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff pointed out, this feature won’t matter for brand new users, since they have no followers or retweets at first. But overall, this gives the new Twitter the illusion of more white space and less text—something that may be welcomed by users intimidated by the current text-heavy Twitter landscape.
As Twitter designer David Bellona reported on Twitter’s blog, the revamp lets users choose one of their favorite tweets to “pin” to the top of their profile page. It’s not exactly clear if this has to be something the user has personally tweeted, or if it can be a retweet that they identify with. When you click on the “More” button on a tweet, select “Pin to your profile page,” and that tweet will be the first thing your site visitors see. The point is, pinned tweets are a small way the new Twitter wants you to express yourself. They ask you to pin a tweet so “it’s easy for your followers to see what you’re all about.” This may come in especially handy for anyone with a “brand” – comedians, writers, businesses, churches, even – it gives you another chance to explain who you are outside of the characters you’re allowed in your Twitter bio.
Just announced April 10, Twitter is doing a Facebook play with their real-time notifications feature, too. Rather than receiving a flag on your notifications tab, you will see a pop-up note in your web browser anytime someone has replied to, favorited or retweeted one of your tweets while you’re logged into Twitter.com, reported Twitter’s Michael Ducker. The pop-up, appearing on the bottom right hand corner of the page, works the same way for direct messages and new followers. The best part? “They’re fully interactive, so that you can reply, favorite, retweet, and follow right from the notification,” said Ducker. This feature is coming soon, and you can customize which notifications you receive on the Twitter settings page.
I can’t remember ever doing this, but if for some reason you want to see who you’re following on Twitter, the look has totally changed. It’s no longer just a vertical list—it’s now a tiled board (Pinterest-esque again) that includes not only the names of everyone you’re following but their profile picture, header photo and bio). This probably won’t affect Twitter users very much, but it’s still a noticeable change.
How else would you know what’s going on in the world without Twitter’s handy list of what’s trending? I think we can all agree that “Trends” make Twitter what it is—a great place to follow what’s happening in real-time, and the hashtag was of course made famous by Twitter (then ripped off by Facebook). Anyway, the trends list has moved to the bottom right side of the page in the Twitter redesign from the left side, as has the sometimes pesky/sometimes helpful “Who to follow” box.
When you’re Twitter-stalking—er, researching—you can now filter other users’ profiles. The social network will let you choose to see tweets only, tweets with any visual component (photo and video) or tweets with replies. I can see this being useful for news purposes. If CNN is covering a breaking news event, you can filter their feed for only tweets with photos, for example, instead of scrolling through their feed to find what you want.
Additionally, your Twitter news stream will automatically update every 30 seconds now, so if you’re like me and have to constantly click the notification button at the top to be all caught up on new tweets, your Twitter experience will be a little smoother.
It’s easy to see why Twitter is taking drastic steps to contend in the social media battle for attention. A recent Pew Research Center report showed that 64 percent of Americans use Facebook, while only 16 percent have Twitter handles. But in a way, that’s always been the beauty of Twitter. In my experience, it’s for the hyper-engaged of the Internet who are passionate about sharing and posting important information, not just moms and dads looking to keep up with distant family members. But maybe these changes will shine Twitter in a different light – we’ll just have to wait and see.