A good programmer is a lazy programmer, because he writes minimum code.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

User Experience Lesson from Twitter


I was tweeting on the other day, and amazed by a simple feature in Twitter. The simple design of Twitter is the best evidence that they are not trusting their programmers with User Experience (Ux) design. I believe they have a separate Ux team. Well, I got one more evidence today.

It is well known that Twitter only allows 140 characters in one tweet. Twitter first displays 140 at the right top side, to remind you about this.

As you type in, it shows the number of characters remaining.

When you type in exactly 140 characters, the remaining number becomes zero. That's not all. If you type in further, any idea what happens? I expected that it would stop me and I will hear beep sounds, which I can interpret as "You stupid, you cannot enter any more characters". But that was not what happened. It allowed me to go ahead, only thing it did is the remaining character became negative.

Ok, what's great here? I found this feature amazing because of the following reasons.
  1. Usually the applications display how many characters you have already entered, instead of how many characters you can enter more. As a user my concern is how many characters more I can enter, not the other way. If it was other way, I would need a calculator to find out how many more I can type in.
  2. It will not stop you when you reach the upper limit. A typical programmer would have set the max length for the text box to 140, so that I can enter no more. In worst case, he would have put a message box too. What's wrong with this approach? When I reach the 140 char limit, I am stopped there, and I need to deal with the application right now. My thought process is broken. However, in this case, I can enter whatever I have in my mind, and later I can deal with the application limitation. In the case of a message box, it breaks the entire flow and shocks the user. Use message boxes very sparingly. 
  3. First it displays the remaining characters in grey color. Once you go beyond 140 characters, it becomes bold and reddish. They are using the colors effectively to communicate. Yes, I know that a small percent of total population is color blind, but all others will benefit from this.
  4. The Tweet button is enabled at the beginning. But once you type in more than 140 characters, it is disabled. You can edit your tweet to 140 characters, and then button is enabled again. This stops the user from making a wrong entry. What was the alternative? Enable the button always and when user clicks it, display a message box. But here, they stops the user from making a wrong decision altogether.
All these are advantages of thinking about user, more than technology. Thinking about technology and ignoring the user is the mistake we make quite often.

Kudos to Twitter.

PS: Do you want me to follow in Twitter? Click here.


No comments:

Post a Comment