Twitter unveiled a new home page design on Tuesday with an enhanced sidebar that displays images, video, and user profile information without leaving your news stream.
The changes are notable because Twitter.com is still the most popular way for people to use Twitter: fully 78% of all users access the service through the site.
Though site redesigns are often underwhelming, the new Twitter.com is tantamount to a fundamental relaunch of the popular microblogging service’s Web-based interface.
Mainly because it introduces a new interface build around a second viewing pane in which users will be able to see all kinds of content – from photographs and videos to user profiles and geolocation information.
Twitter CEO Evan Williams said that the new version of the site is available to some users immediately, while others will see it implemented in the coming weeks.
The basic idea behind the new design, Evan Williams told a packed house of technology journalists at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, is to make the service easier and faster to use.
“It’s going to increase the value that people are getting out of Twitter, so in less time you can get more information and value,” Evan Williams, Twitter’s co-founder and chief executive, said in an interview.
He had the idea for the redesign and has spent much of his time in the last few months working with Twitter engineers on the site. He has said he was surprised that so many people use the service — 160 million — given how difficult its Web site is to navigate.
He also explained that 78% of active users turn to Twitter.com to access the service rather than using one of the many third-party applications available on mobile and desktop environments.
Asked if the expectation is that the redesign will drive even more users to Twitter.com, Twitter Director of Products Jason Goldman said, “I think people will come back more often to the Web site because of the experience it represents.”
Clearly, Twitter has been listening to feedback about its home page, even as it grows at astronomical rates. The service is adding about 370,000 new accounts per day, of which about 16 percent are done via mobile devices, Williams said.
But as Twitter has matured, it has angered many of those developers by building similar tools itself or acquiring the start-ups that built the tools, limiting opportunities for competing app developers. Last spring, for example, it bought Atebits, which made a Twitter iPhone app called Tweetie, and turned it into the official Twitter for iPhone app.
Other start-ups worry that if Twitter builds its own tools, they will go out of business. Indeed, mobile Twitter users now reach Twitter through the company’s own iPhone and BlackBerry apps more than through any others, according to the company.
“We’ve made it pretty clear that we are going to create the best experiences we can with all our clients,” Mr. Williams said. “We made it clear to developers that it’s great for everyone if we make it as good as possible, because that will create more successful Twitter users.”
At its most basic, the new user experience is built around the idea that no one should have to navigate away from the main view of tweets presented on the home page in order to look at other kinds of content.
Until now, clicking on a user’s profile or a link to a photo or video would result in an entirely different view. But now, looking at any of those sources of content will simply open them in the pane on the right side of the page.
In addition, the redesign also does away with some of the longstanding Twitter.com shortcomings, such as limits to the number of tweets that would show on a single page. With the redesign, users will be able to scroll infinitely through their timeline.
The point, Williams suggested, was to make discovery a much more seamless experience on Twitter.com. Rather than forcing users to navigate away from their main view, they will now be able to continue to see their timeline on the left, even as they look at different kinds of content on the right. That, the CEO said, should make it much easier to get value from the massive amount of content flowing through the site, without inconveniencing users.
Another big part of the puzzle–especially for anyone who’s gone through any of the countless numbers of Twitter outages–is that the new Twitter.com front end has been completely re-architected using the company’s own APIs. It’s not clear, of course, how that will impact the site’s uptime, but Williams seemed to indicate that stability was a big priority in the re-launch.
As part of the redesign, Twitter struck deals with 16 media companies–including Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, TwitPic, and others–that will allow content from those services to display in the new viewing pane. Apparently, no money changed hands as part of those deals.
Though the new Twitter.com is launching Tuesday, Williams and other Twitter executives said the company had been experimenting with it internally–and with small groups of external testers–for months. And while some of the features are similar to Twitter’s new iPad application, the Web redesign was started first, Williams said. [New Twitter via Mashable, TechCrunch and CNET]