Monthly Archives: March 2010

All We Had Was a Stick and a Button – now too much complication

In talks today someone pointed out that the social media services we use are getting far too complicated. There are too many options, customizations, themes, features and controls that sometimes make the actual tool an avoidance.  Simplicity drives usage.  Twitter is a great example since it just works everywhere and people understand 140 characters.

The comparison item of choice is a device back in the day, to use the term, we enjoyed playing simple, yet difficult, video games with nothing more than a stick and a button (see Atari 2600 for you kids)

Games today have more than eight buttons, triggers and multiple sticks.  Compare that to social networks being developed.  The current most successful ones offer a definite focus with an interface usable by anyone from the first time.  Advanced features might be hidden, disabled by default or in other screens entirely.

So what should the networks today be doing?  Simplifying the user experience with a team of UI testers and designers.  When I do screencasts and talk about new sites and how I think they function, it is often surprising to the developers.  Most testing is done by early adopters and those higher in the social media ranks.  A very slim margin of everyday users are selected, or even dedicate the time, to give constructive feedback.

New social media products and companies should investigate reaching out to the general population more often.  Explore how your non-techie friends would explain it to others.  If they cannot, then you are making it too complicated.

Twitter opts your privacy in automatically

Twitter recently made a change in how it allows people to find you when they are attempting to add friends.  They can search by phone number or email address, as shown in the screenshot here:

Twitter opt-in

The problem is, this is only seen when you log in via the web interface.  For new users, this is a common occurrence.  For power users and more, there are a slew of mobile and desktop clients in use that will never show this change.

How many of you use the phone number that might be known or an email address commonly known?  Most of you do and would say that it shouldn’t make a difference in any case.  But that shouldn’t be true.

I should have to opt in to have this information shared and the boxes themselves should not be checked automatically when I log in.  The default setting should be to disallow this type of search with explanation of what enabling these could expose.

The second portion was the ability to leave the selection to later.  Are these email addresses and phone numbers being exposed anywhere outside of the ability to find and add friends?    I didn’t see anything in the online help system for Twitter and only a few scattered articles.

Either way, get in there and establish your settings by logging in via the web interface.