Twitter nailed a few important things in their user experience compared to alternatives like Facebook. Posts are public by default, so there aren’t debates or surprises about privacy. Streams are built out of subscriptions (“following”), not “friendship”—a word that loses meaning when your friends are 500 strangers. And the 140 char limit gives the stream of updates a distinctive rhythm.
But some serious flaws are holding Twitter’s usability back. A collection of hacks that were initially cool and clever among the geekset have turned into de facto features. Why should users have to know what a URL shortener is? Why does attaching a photo to a tweet require third-party tools and diminish your character count?
Twitter’s recent redesign doesn’t address these fundamental user experience problems. Twitter would be easier to use, easier to explain, and easier to expand if they focused on their hits. Following is better than friendship. Public by default is better than public-by-surprise. 140 chars keeps things sharp and rhythmic. A true redesign would separate these genuine insights from the clever geekhacks and make Twitter simpler to use and easier to understand.