Twitter discussed some recent design tweaks to tweets today, under the banner of "innovation through experimentation". The company put up a blog post discussing how it experiments and tests variations with numerous new features (not unlike Google or many other companies).
"After recent experimentation, we introduced a slight redesign to every Tweet that flows through your timeline on Twitter.com," explains Twitter Director Othman Laraki. "A Tweet may be our basic unit of communication, but it also contains a universe: each one has an identity with a username, real name and avatar; a 140-character message that includes text as well as metadata like time and language; some context (replies, favorites and retweets of that Tweet), and perhaps media (photos, videos or links)."
The specific tweaks Laraki is talking about are that users will always see reply, favorite and retweet functionality in the lower left-hand corner against a grey background.
"If the Tweet contains media, you’ll also see specific options like 'View photo' or 'View video'; otherwise, you’ll see the option to 'Expand'. You can expand any Tweet in your timeline to see inline context like favorites or retweets from other people, or additional Tweets from that same conversation," Laraki adds. "You can also click on any Tweet’s timestamp or 'Details' to see that Tweet’s permalink, the unique web page for that Tweet."
Laraki says these changes were made because they showed increased engagement, based on the experiments.
When companies make changes to features, there is often a great deal of backlash from users. Ask Facebook. Ask Netflix. Sometimes even small experiments can strike a nerve. Ask Google or Wil Wheaton. The point is that when people use a product a lot, they get used to it and comfortable with the way it is. Change can rock the boat, even though it's often for the best, and even critical users will eventually get used to the changes.
It's this user sensitivity, however, that makes the experiment process Twitter is talking about a smart way to make changes. It gives a company a chance to get feedback and to get a feel for how things go over with users. It's better to upset a small subet of users than to upset the majority of them.
Even with its major redesign last year, Twitter gave users a long time to get used to it before switching it over for everyone. They made it optional for a while. Facebook did this with the Timeline as well. There will always be complaints, but giving users options tends to go over better than suddenly forcing things on users.
Experimenting is another way to feel out the potential opinions of the larger user base before jumping in with both feet.
Do you like these particular adjustments from Twitter?