When Lightning Strikes Twice.
A few months ago, I wrote a post titled “Twitter Live”. In the post, I went into exploring a potential product design direction for what was then a coveted project within Twitter codenamed: “Project Lightning”. Since then, lightning has struck as “Twitter Moments” and I must say…it’s pretty awesome.
The team behind Moments did an amazing job and it really shows in the fit and finish of this product. At the same time, a lot of people have been giving them shit for taking “this long” to come out with the product, but anyone who knows anything about what it takes to ship a product like this (not to mention on every platform simultaneously), knows how much work would go into making a product of this caliber.
So why is this post titled “Redesigning Twitter Moments” if everything is great?
Well, I’ve been playing around with Moments for these past few days and I love it for what it is, but it doesn’t fit my vision of where I thought they would be going with “Project Lightning”. Something just doesn’t feel right…In the mean time I’ve been thinking more deeply about some of the concepts I proposed in Twitter Live and decided to further refine them to a more polished product.
There’s probably no group of individuals more qualified in thinking about this product than the team who spent a year creating it, so just to get it out of the way, my aim is not to disqualify their work. This is not a better, but a different, take on how they could have approached Moments.
This is not a better, but a different, take on Moments.
With that said…let’s get into it!
At the moment…
Although the execution is solid, I think the ideas behind the premise of this product are fundamentally flawed.
Twitter’s masked vigilante, Startup L. Jackson, articulates it pretty well in his recent post on Moments. It’s a great short post that you should give a thorough read if you’re interested, but to save you some time these three quotes pretty much sum it up:
Twitter’s major problem:
“Twitter’s fundamental problem is that it is not big enough…Advertisers need them to have more users, which means Wall St needs to see them grow.”
The premise of Moments:
“Moments is an attempt to take the content that makes twitter appeal to addicts, and package it up in a way that appeals to Buzzfeed users. It’s something that if it works could make your mom finally say, “Wow, Twitter is pretty cool. I love the neat stuff I find there.”
The major flaw:
“Moments is in a sense a big bet that’s not big enough. They’ve added a tab that doesn’t offend the core user without removing the pieces that alienate the new users.”
If I could sum all of that up in one word it would be: Unfocused.
That major flaw permeates in the design of the product and I’d like to explore that before I get into my version of Moments.
1. Twitter Moments lacks focus.
Let’s try to look at it from a design perspective as both a core user and a new user. Refer to the two screenshots below…
As a new user: This appeals to me. But then again I could probably get more content of this type on BuzzFeed or some other flavor of it that is popular at the moment. Is the content here better than BuzzFeed?
But I doubt it. BuzzFeed and Co. has been doing this shit since it became BuzzFeed and they do it pretty well.
As a core user: There are way too many topics/stories/headlines to choose from with no consistent thread amongst them. It feels a little all over the place.
Show me the two or three most important things that are happening today, or the two that just happened yesterday. Why am I being presented a Buzzfeed style buffet of topics that have no interest to me? Save the “Giant Pumpkins” and “Veep cast on vaction” and show me the important shit that’s happening in the world and/or is relevent to the people I follow. You already know I’m into tech & sports (I check the ad analytics dashboard for my handle). Show me some of that stuff.
Speaking of sports, let’s see an example of a moment…
Say I’m a Baseball fan and I use Twitter to catch up on the game I missed out last night. Here is the experience right now:
As a new user & core user: I actually think they do a pretty good job at this. I get a few key highlights. I see the score here and there but I’m not getting anything I can’t get from say…opening up the ESPN app and watching the 1–2 minute highlight reel of the game. In fact, I could argue that ESPN is giving me a more rich experience since it has been edited by professionals. I also have the added benefit to nerd out on other information like stats and more specific analysis.
There’s so much great insight and opinions being bounced around on Twitter right now regarding the game, and all I get is some typical and obvious tweets from the official Mets account.
But more importantly…
I haven’t caught the core essence and feel of the game.
Which leads me to the next flaw…
2. Twitter Moments is trying to be everything but Twitter.
The whole point of a full-screen media rich experience is to give me a perspective I can’t get by just reading text. It should be immersive and make me feel like I’m there within the game. However, that perspective doesn’t come from taking a picture or GIF and aspect-filling your iPhone with it…it comes from within the context the content was created in.
This is probably a good time to bring up the uncanny resemblence to Snapchat’s Stories product. Yes the UI and UX of Moments was probably partly inspired by Stories…but there’s no shame in adapting a good idea and giving your spin on it if it works.
Everyone knows the famous Picasso quote that Jobs said:
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” — Jobs or Picasso(maybe?)
What I believe Jobs was trying to say was that if you’re going to copy something you’d better do it in a way where you become known for that idea. That is usually a direct result of doing that thing you copied better than the person you took it from.
I believe Twitter missed the secret sauce.
Here’s why I think Stories works so well for Snapchat:
Instead of going top-down to build the story starting from the event that’s happening and seeking content that fits that event…they instead go bottom up by building a story around the content that’s generated.
They put a heavy emphasis on location and context and cleverly disguise it to be fun and value positive by giving you a cool looking filter that you can’t help but overlay your picture or video before you share it.
As a side effect of sharing with your friends, they gently give you the option to share with the bigger network around you by just tapping an extra button before you press the share button.
Because the content is generated first with the intention to be shared amongst the user’s personal network, it makes it really easy for the user to not only share their location and context, but give you a raw unfiltered perspective that would be heavily edited if shared somewhere else.
In return, the curators at Snapchat have a richer pool of content to choose from that also offers a unique first-person perspective from people participating in the moment as it’s happening.
Twitter does not have this luxury.
So where’s Twitter’s edge in all of this?
The Billion Dollar Question
Part of the allure of Twitter is that you follow people who’s opinions you actually care about. You want to hear what they have to say when a paritcular event is happening. Their opinion matters to you.
These can be your friends, but most of your friends are on Facebook and not Twitter so more often than not these are thought leaders in a particular vertical or topic. They exist in every vertical from politics to fashion and span from world famous celebrities like Kanye West to niche pseudonymous characters like Startup L. Jackson.
The magic of Twitter is that it offers you a unique look into the minds and thoughts of these people you choose to follow. You want to hear what these people have to say and most of them usually have something to say when something relatively important is happening in their vertical.
There’s also a whole slew of these people who are thought leaders in a vertical you’re interested in, but you have no idea they exist because [list 100 reasons Twitter fails to do this here].
Also, you’re just intersted in the what the world has to say in the first place. It’s always fun to gauage everyone’s reaction to an event we’re all experiencing together. It’s like you’re tapping into the pulse of the world.
But here’s the kicker: I believe that people join Twitter to find out what’s happening in the world and stay on Twitter for the conversation.
These people are the secret sauce that provide the kool-aid for you to drink to become a Twitter addict but I don’t think they do a great job at providing that value as soon as you sign up. There has to be something else to hold you over while the kool-aid is being mixed.
So here’s the billion dollar question:
How do you get the next 300 million people to join Twitter?
I’m not really sure. But I think a lot of time has been spent on trying to surface the right people to follow rather than surfacing the right content to follow first.
When you sign up to Twitter today you are automatically dumped into a flow where you are presented a combination of the most followed people and those who fall into the categories that you had selected that interest you. The emphasis has always been on following people.
Notice how I used the word “right” rather than “new” in regards to surfacing content. You can find new content anywhere and that shouldn’t be focus the way it is now in Moments. I want to find the “right” content. And what’s right for you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for me, but there is certain content that most likely is relevant to both of us and at least the rest of the country. There is overlap. This content is usually time sensitive and super macro. This is the basis for what I think should qualify as a Moment.
From this Moment on…
The idea of the “Moment” is poorly defined, and is probably the main reason for the lack of focus in the current product. So let’s clearly define what exactly constitutes a Moment.
Right now, let’s say that a moment can only fall into these three categories:
Why these three? I strongly believe in the notion that anyone (or any company) should double or triple down on their strengths and not try to compensate on their weaknesses. Currently, Twitter really shines when it comes to these three categories. If you look at hashtags as a proxy for what people are talking about on Twitter, you’ll find that they mostly fall into these three categories. I don’t have the data, but I can bet that the engagement metrics fly off the charts around a huge moment that falls into one these categories.
Now let’s get even more specific…
At any given time, a Moment needs to be in one of these three phases:
1. A Moment has to have been scheduled in the past for sometime in the future.
Example: The Democratic Primary Debate in 2 days, The Yankees vs Red Sox Game tomorrow at 7:30, The season premiere of Game of Thrones in one month.
There’s one huge exception to this requirement: Breaking News.
Currently, you go to Twitter to find out what’s happening in the world. Now you can go to Twitter to find out what will be happening in the world. Which in theory, should bring you back to Twitter again, when that Moment actually does happen.
This is possibly a huge new use case of Twitter.
Maybe Twitter can be marketed as the TV Guide to upcoming events in the world?
Which brings us to our next property…
2. A Moment needs to be happening right now in real-time.
This is probably the most important property of a Moment and directly taps into the real-time DNA of Twitter. This is where Twitter really shines and can surface you information thats time sensitive and instantaneous in a way every other platform fails to do so. Right now that real-time nature is raw and unharnessed. I think Moments currently does a good job at addressing this issue, but I think from a design perspective it puts too much emphasis on the actual content within the moment, rather than the moment as a whole. I’ll address this further in my design.
3. A Moment needs to have just happened.
So “just happened” is pretty vague. Is “just happened” a minute ago, a day ago, or a week ago?
A good quesiton to ask would be: “Is the Moment still relevant?”
The answer is: it depends on the moment. The curators at Twitter need to make a fair judgement to when a Moment has went stale. A good way to do this would be watch the metrics around certain keywords and conversations the pertain to the event. For example, if the Moment is the playoff game between the Yankees and Red Sox, it probably shouldn’t be featured longer than a day. On the other hand, if the Moment is a breaking world event, it might be developing throughout the course of a few days. I trust that Twitter can do a good job at this.
So now that we have a better idea of the criteria of what qualifies something as a Moment let’s open up our newly updated Twitter app and see how that looks…
As soon as you open up the app, you are presented with the “Top Moments” at that given time.
What makes something a “Top Moment”?
If it’s a Moment that will happen (the Moment with the “Follow” button): It could probably be a combination of the amount of people “Following” it, and how soon it will go into “Live” mode.
If it’s a Moment that is happening (the Moment with the “Live” badge): It could probably be the amount of people currently engaging and viewing the Moment right now.
Also note how every Moment has a hashtag(s) associated with it. This gives you as a user more context to the Moment and serves to power a feature you will see shortly.
If it’s a Moment that just happened (the Moment with no badges or buttons): It could probably be how popular that Moment was when it was “Live”, and a combination of how soon it just went out of “Live” mode and it’s relevency right now.
Also note how every Moment has an “X” button on the upper left hand corner, and how the “Top Moments” card itself has an “X” button.
This is there to serve two functions. Pressing “X” on a card you don’t like signifies to Twitter that you are not interested in that Moment and dismisses it. Also, after enough times of closing cards, Twitter can begin to form a pattern around what type of content you like and be able to show you more personalized and relevent moments. This is in stark contrast with Moments today where it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of content that has no personalization built into it. If you’re a sports fan, you’d probably would want to see more Moments that have to do with sports. Twitter can now surface better content that resonates with you.
Pressing “X” on the “Top Moments” section itself, will tell Twitter that you’re just not interested in this feature enough to appear on your home feed.
That’s alright as well. Maybe you just want to use old-school Twitter and don’t care about this feature. Now you have the option to tuck it back into that tab where it sits today.
Let’s see what happens when you press on that tab:
As you can see here you have Moments broken down into the three categoies mentioned earlier:
Plus the Top Moments section that was featured on your main feed.
And you are able to scroll through them in carousel format. Note the difference between this feed and the feed currently found in the app right now. Here are a few key ones:
- There is less to choose to from — quality versus quantity.
- They are large and in your face to signify their importance.
- They have short, focused, and consistent titles.
- They encompass hashtags.
- There are only three categories to choose from.
Alright great, now let’s check out a Moment…
Let’s check out the “Explosions Hit Turkish Capital” Moment…
The first thing that should jump out at you is that this looks familiar to the Twitter experience you are used to today, but with some key differences as opposed to the completely foreign UI and UX in Moments today.
This is important to note because if we subscribe to the premise that Moments was created to be a trojan horse that onboards new users into Twitter proper, it should probably look similar to the rest of the app. This is how you teach conventions and keep the experience consistent.
Let’s break down what you see here…
At the top you’ll see a header with all of the video/image content for this Moment. Tapping on that will bring you into what you see today when you tap on a Moment — the full screen immersive media rich experience.
The next thing you should notice is the segmented control on top indicating two modes: Timeline and All Tweets.
Remeber earlier when I said that the hashtags attached to a Moment will be used to power a feature. This is it. The “All Tweets” mode is exactly what exists in Twitter proper right now when you follow a hashtag.
I strongly believe it’s important that Twitter stays neutral and transparent in their platform. This is here to balance out all of the curation and editorial work Twitter is doing in Moments.
I strongly belive it’s important that Twitter stays neutral and transparent in their platform.
This is a great way to do it while giving new users a peak into the firehose that exists today and the safe option to always go back to the curated experience if they don’t like it.
Let’s speak more about that curated experience…
This is the key defining feature of this version of Moments.
Just take a quick look at it right now to get a gist of how it flows vertically. Don’t worry too much about what everything means. We’ll break down the key defining features shortly…
It’s the Twitter we all love right now but super focused on a moment with the added support of context.
Currently, following a Moment involves a beautiful full-screen experience, but I believe it actually overpowers the overarching purpose of why you’re looking at this content. I think Paper by Facebook actually suffered from the same problem. It was beautiful but it was too overly designed for the average user.
The key difference with consuming a Moment with this version is that you get a contained experience that is familiar and almost zoomed out to emphasize that time is a critical factor in a moment.
The timeline serves as the backbone of the moment and everything is attached to it. As you scroll through it you are scrolling through time and experiencing the reactions as they happened. Compare that to the experience right now where the timeline is almost downplayed to a naked 1 pixel horizontal scrolling indicator at the bottom.
Let’s take a closer look at the defining features of the Timeline through the three phases of a Moment that we established earlier:
- Will happen — future.
- Is happening — live.
- Just happened — past.
Every Moment will start off with a section titled “Moment Summary”. It’s exactly what it means. You get a short bit about what exactly this Moment is about with some special context that is specific to the type of Moment. This falls directly in line with the premise that a Moment should hold more importance than just a headline. Headlines exist everywhere. Moments are more special.
A future Moment Summary for say a sporting event could be the time and date the game begins.
A live Moment Summary for say the Democratic primary debate could be the participants in the debate.
You’ve probably noticed them in the previous images but every Moment will also have something called Moment Insights scattered throughout the Timeline. The key thing to note, is that just like everything else in the Timeline, they are relevent to the specific moment that they appear in the Timeline.
They serve two important functions
- Context: Think of them as the glue between the various Tweets used to describe the Moment. As you experience a Moment you can get lost in the flow of what actually is happening and Moment Insights are the guides that make sure the experience flows well.
2. Interactivity: How awesome would it be to watch the debate and see the live reaction of people to what a candidate just said, by just looking at your phone? Now you can do that…
3. Just-in-time information: You’re watching the game and Lebron just dropped 3 buckets in a row and he’s on fire. As a sports fan, you’re a stat junkie so you want to know what this means for your fantasy team. Turns out Lebron just got his 30th Triple-Double and you found out about it without having to go on ESPN to check the stats.
As I mentioned when I began this post, I think Moments as it is today is really awesome. Like SLJ said in his post, it would have probably made a lot more sense for it to be a stand-alone app with loose ties into Twitter proper but Twitter obviously felt that it needed to be included in the core app.
I think the reason for that is to guide people along into Twitter proper, but I think the product as it is today fails to really achieve that. I really hope I’m wrong but if the goal is to bring people back into Twitter proper, I think my version of Moments tries to tackle that in a more focused way that is unique to Twitter.
Regardless, I think it’s refreshing that Twitter is finally taking the steps to be back on top of their game. I really really love the product, and I’m definetely not the only one.
The limelight is on them right now, and I trust they will seize the moment.
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Who am I?
I’m an engineering-minded product designer and a design-minded iOS engineer from New York City. I also happen to be looking to join a team of passionate people to work on some great products. If that interests you, lets chat: email@example.com or @danielrakh