Lollicode’s Twitscoop has become my daily source for breaking news, from the Hudson plane crash and earthquakes to Top Chef results. I use Twitscoop primarily through my favorite desktop Twitter client, Tweetdeck. The center column of my deck shows what’s “Buzzing Right Now:” the twitter zeitgeist as ascertained by Twitscoop. A click on any word of interest in the Twitscoop tag cloud results in a page with tweets containing the word, and a frequency graph of the term’s Twitter appearances.
In May, Twitscoop launched changes, becoming a full-fledged Twitter client. These changes posed some discoverability issues for me, in part because I was having a broader Twitter search issue. The people at Twitscoop have been great about troubleshooting with me. (They seem genuinely interested in making improvements to their interface, based on some of the public interactions with users on Twitter, their emails with me, and their ‘About’ page.)
I do have a few suggestions that mostly relate to helping users bridge the gap between what they know and what they need to know to make use of the service.
Current Search Screen
Mockup of Redesigned Search Screen:
1. Sign-in Call to Action: Placement and Wording
Describe the service’s benefits near the call to action. The home page explains “Receive, send tweets, and find new friends instantly, without ever reloading your page.” People may arrive on any page, not just the home page. With the current design, you can use the search page without ever realizing that Twitscoop is a full-fledged Twitter client.
The proximity of the sign-in button to the search results seems to imply it is related to the search, almost as if it is an error message. The top right, where there currently is another Twitter sign-in button is a standard location where people look for login. I think either sign-in button color and font treatment works (the Twitter-branded sign-in or the green, larger button). In the redesign mockup, text describes the richer experience available through sign-in. The user gains control over their decision to authorize Twitscoop when the benefits are clearly stated.
I was concerned when I first encountered the command to “Sign in to your twitter account.” Did Twitscoop want me to give them my login information? Fortunately, however, Twitscoop uses OAuth to manage the connection to Twitter. This means that Twitter manages a list of applications that are allowed to access my account and make updates. I can revoke that authorization in my account settings, and I don’t have to give Twitscoop my username and password. Clicking on the “Sign in…” button calls up a twitter authorization screen:
While many people seem to be willing to share their account information across services, a subtle change in language to “Sign in with Twitter” makes a significant difference to security-conscious surfers who might otherwise bail on the site.
2. Which is the active ‘tab’
Twitscoop offers the ability to observe multiple searches in an ongoing fashion, described as ‘tabs.’ These searches are sticky and tied to your login. If you open a search in Firefox and visit Twitscoop later in Internet Explorer, the searches will remain. This is a great way to keep an eye on topics of import to you—your field, your client, your team, etc. In the Twitscoop interface, tab color is the only indicator of the active tab. If you have only two searches going on related topics, or if you have color vision trouble, it is difficult know which is the active search. Carrying through the actual tab metaphor with an outline around the content makes the active tab immediately apparent. Using visual design to provide interface clues offers users reassurance that they will be guided in using the service. In this case, the outline would identify distinct areas of focus.
3. Navigation placement and an FAQ or About page
There’s a very small ‘About’ link at the bottom of the Twitscoop page with some inviting language describing features and goals. Placing an ‘About’ or ‘FAQ’ link in the top navigation will help build the relationship between Twitscoop and its users. It matters to users that Twitscoop is interested in creating a great app and in getting feedback from users.
In the redesign mockup, I moved the navigation links to just above the tweets. The placement may be too tight, but the idea is that the links be proximal to the content that changes. (The ‘Buzzing Right Now’ section remains across pages.) The current link is orange type to indicate it is active (similar to the active search tab). Moving these links addresses the absence of a page title by placing it where we might look for a heading. (Personally, I think the wording shift from ‘Replies’ to ‘Mentions’ makes a great deal of sense, so I recommend making that change as well. This is visible to logged in users.)
I look forward to seeing what Twitscoop does in their efforts to become “the best online Twitter client out there.” (Hmnnn… What would an offline Twitter client do?) My #1 feature request would be the ability to find the first instance of a hashtag.