Twitter’s Testing a New Layout for Replies, Focused on Improving Engagement

So as you head into your long weekend (in the US), have a think about this:

Twitter is experimenting with a couple of new variations for tweet interactions, and they’ve asked users for feedback on these mock-ups.

To clarify, none of these are anywhere near final yet – Twitter’s only testing different options for now. But they are looking at these, and other related options, which are designed to better emphasize tweet engagement.

The key elements to consider, based on the current mock design, are:

  • Threaded replies to individual responses, making it easier to see who’s responding to what within tweet reply chains
  • Colour coding for responses from the original tweet poster and yourself, highlighting key replies (purple for responses from the original tweeter, blue for you)
  • Green dots on profile images within chains to indicate when a user is active and spark more real-time engagement (users would have the option to switch off)

After Twitter product manager Sara Haider posted the mocks and asked for thoughts, various users provided other potential options and additions:

  • Make replies scrollable, with the original tweet remaining pinned at the top of the chain for easier context
  • Make replies to each collapsible, potentially behind a ‘See replies’ option
  • Establishing number of replies which can be shown in a chain before starting a new one for clarity (and more than 10x replies to a single tweet could start to get messy)
  • Add visible timestamps, as are currently available, on replies in chains
  • Add typing indicators to indicate engagement
  • Change the ‘Tweet your reply’ prompt to ‘Join the conversation’ in chains

It’s an interesting experiment, and it provides some great indicators as to where Twitter is looking, and how they’re seeking to boost engagement on the platform.

Definitely, adding a level of clarity on tweet chains would help in many cases, though it will also, no doubt, annoy traditionalists who would prefer to keep things as is. Threaded replies like this are already available on Reddit, and they generally work fine, providing more clarity. Each person will, of course, have their own views, but such a change would make a lot of sense.

The green dot, active indicators would also boost real-time engagement – if you knew that the person who tweeted was active when you went to reply, that would likely make you more inclined to engage.

This could be particularly relevant with the implementation of Twitter’s algorithm for tweet sorting – one of the key criticisms of the algorithm, which has helped Twitter continually boost engagement rates, is that often tweets will show up in your timeline hours after being posted. But what if that tweet showed up hours behind time, but you could also see that the user who posted it was active when you read it? 

There are obviously a range of considerations here, but it is a good move for Twitter to consult with users first. While it may not even take any of the recommendations on board, one of the criticisms Twitter always gets with changes is that it’s not listening to users, that it’s not consulting with ‘power users’ (whatever that means) and letting them have a say. Even if Twitter went ahead with the change as they liked, internally, by opening the discussion up to public comment beforehand, they may be able to quell some of these later grievances.

And you can expect that something along these lines will come into effect – for Twitter to invite comment, that would likely suggest that its a fair way along the chain for such options. My guess would be that unless there’s significant opposition, or a really obvious flaw that they hadn’t thought of, we’ll see something along these lines coming out very soon.

Watch this space.

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