An interesting essay entitled “Experiment: Twitter Usability – A new users first experience” has been bubbling up on my twitter timeline today. It raises some interesting usability issues on twitter, particularly regarding new users.

On face value, these could be a problem but they aren’t and let me tell you why.

Firstly, the “new user” phase of someone’s engagement with twitter is fleeting. You are only a new user for the time it takes you to:

  • Sign up
  • Post a tweet
  • Follow someone for the first time.

From then on out you are a user. You want to keep up to date with your friends, let people know what your up to and to start building up your network.

Over time and through accretion you become an expert user. You learn to optimise your typing style to adapt to the restrictive 140 character limit, you use a shorthand vocabulary that would make doctors seem as if they are speaking in plain English.

Twitter understands this and that’s why the site is designed to support users and expert users. Sure, they could make the sign up for a little easier but you’ll only fill that in once. You will, however, use the update control, and timeline as your primary view of the twitter platform constantly from then on out. Which is why they are the most prominent features of the site and easy to learn.

Here’s the rub – twitter is a messaging platform, one which most people engage with through other tools. A quick scan down my timeline shows that no one is using the website to post messages. They are using: Tweet Deck, Tweetie, HTC Peep and countless other clients. So the “clunky” nature of the website is irrelevant to most users of the twitter platform.