New Twitter: nice design, but no Hootsuite-killer

The redesigned version of Twitter unveiled on 14 September is – as of yesterday – now fully available to all users.

You’ve got a few weeks grace to flick between old and new, but after that it’s the updated Twitter or nothing.

The good news is that it’s certainly an improvement over the old version, whose limitations pushed heavy users of the service to third-party applications like Hootsuite and TweetDeck in order to manage the ‘firehose’ of conversation they encountered.

The bad news, for Twitter at least, is that it does little to entice those users back.

Sure, it’s better looking and more user-friendly than before, but it doesn’t do enough to wrest control back from the likes of Hootsuite and position its own homepage as a destination for all those (promoted trend viewing) eyeballs.

So, no Hootsuite-killer. On the other hand the new large preview pane and wider central screen do a few interesting things.

For a start, when not previewing a tweet or fellow user, you can at once see your following/follower counts, favourited tweets, the number of times you’ve been listed (including where you’ve been recently listed), Twitter trends and those wholly-unnecessary Twitter definitions. Even on my laptop all that information can be see in one screen with no scrolling down needed. So Twitter.com no longer feels like a cramped little site.

This also means there’s plenty of room left in the preview pane to either shuffle things around and potentially add in widgets, buttons … even advertising.

It’s now much easier to switch from your timeline to your @mentions, retweets, saved searches and lists than before, though it doesn’t do this quickly enough for eyes conditioned to Hootsuite’s multiple columns of segmented conversations. The instant ‘mentioned in this tweet’ when you click on one to open it in the preview pane is nice, and the display of pictures (via Twitpic or Yfrog) gives the feeling of postcards from your followers, comparing favourably with Facebook’s picture stream.

But for me the big plus point, and the thing that will actually get me to go back, is the ease with which you can see who your new followers are and whether you want to follow them back.

However, it does require a touch more effort now to block people, something I feel obliged to do when a follower’s biography reads something like ‘I make $$$ selling aardvark spit and you can too!’.

That said, if the aardvark saliva market really is as buoyant as they say, do let me know.

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