By Andrew Sparkes
As part of an on-going series, we’ll be looking at the features that top hardware, software, and websites already have and imagining the features it would be logical and useful to add in the next update. Today we’re examining Twitter.
Twitter is an extremely bare-bones site. It’s what you might expect from a service that only allows 140 characters – no more – to a post. However, there are ways that Twitter could be made more useful without adding complexity or changing the nature of the service.
I recently designed a blog with multiple authors for a friend of mine, and we needed to dragging each author’s Twitter feed to a sidebar widget. While it’s possible to do this with Twitter feed aggregation, it’d be a lot better if it was available from Twitter. This was especially true when we realized that including the author’s entire feed would include personal tweets we really weren’t interested in mixed in with the blog-related tweets we were.
Now, group options have been achieved by third-party developers (assuming you prefix the tweet with @groupname, costing you valuable characters.) However, it’s an obvious need for any social network to have “groups.” I’m confused as to why it hasn’t been implemented already.
You could just set up a single Twitter feed and give each person in the group the password. (This is the solution I ended up compromising on for my friend’s blog.) But that’s problematic because the more people that share a password, the more chance it is to fall in the hands of a malicious user. There’s also the question of identity – who in a shared Twitter account posted which tweets?
I think that Twitter should emulate Blogger or WordPress, where a user can set up a group with a username, and then invite other users to participate. Each user has their own personal Twitter feed, but is also able to post group-specific tweets. The URL could be as simple as http://twitter.com/group/groupname – to distinguish it from regular Twitter accounts.
For those reading the group Twitter feed, the design would be the same as a normal Twitter page, with the exception of usernames and avatars appearing before tweets they make. In fact, it would be very much like when you view a Twitter search results page, or when you view your friend’s tweets on the homepage once you log in.
With widgets, we could have a “blogroll” of specific Twitter users the user prefers, rather than a list of all twitter users they follow. Other applications could include a local map with pins showing where other local Twitter users are – useful if a local event comes up, or a “favorite tweets from other users” list using the already-implemented star feature.
As with Blogger, if the public themselves were allowed to write these widgets and contribute them to a database (after moderation and approval, of course), this would go a long way to personalizing a Twitter page, and add to the blossoming community aspect of the network.
While we are currently allowed to change the color/background elements of a page, there is no way to change the whole appearance of a page. I’m not suggesting that we allow WordPress-style templates, where everything in HTML can be changed, but Twitter could open the CSS classes[link to Wikipedia here] to the public.
I know part of the appeal of Twitter, as on Facebook, is a consistent design across pages, but when it already allows silver text on a maroon background with a grey sidebar, how much more damage can custom CSS do, anyway?
Your Dream Features:
If you could add any feature to Twitter, what would it be? And what do you think of the ideas in this article? Comment below to chip in with your ideas!