UX Week: Creating Engagement on Twitter

by Luke Wroblewski August 24, 2011

In their presentation about Creating Engagement on Twitter presentation at UX Week 2011 Mark Trammell & Jesse James Garrett walked through the concepts underlying the redesign of Twitter's sign up process. Here are my notes from their talk:

  • The gap between people who have heard of Twitter and those who understand the value of it is pretty wide. -Biz Stone
  • Unless you have been using Twitter for a while, a lot of the content you find in a standard tweet doesn't make sense (@ replies, hastags, etc.) Twitter has a steep learning curve. It is like learning a new language that you need to read and write. In many ways Twitter is very opaque even for people who have been using it for a long time.
  • If someone hits a barrier in their first use of Twitter and they don't come back after seven days, they were very likely to never return.
  • Twitter has hundreds of thousands of new users each day that come in, look around, and never come back again. The value they could get from the service was not immediately apparent when they signed up.
  • Rather than talk to people who get the service or those who don't get it, the research team on Twitter's sign up redesign talked to people who signed up, hit a wall, then later came back and became active users. Figuring out these people's experience could make the first time use experience better for everyone.
  • This group thought Twitter was about celebrities, friends, news, and for them to tweet. But why do I need Twitter to follow celebrities when I have entertainment and news sites, Facebook for friends, and (lastly) why would anyone care what I have to tweet?
  • But the group of people that realized they could use Twitter to connect to celebrities, news, friends, news, local, brand, and passions understood the value much more quickly.
  • The perception of value of Twitter evolved as people used the service more. What kept people there was not what brought them there.
  • In the new sign up flow, Twitter replaced a suggested users list with a set of categories that allowed people to find the interests they cared about up front.
  • Martha Stewart now gets 503 new followers a day, she used to get 2,998 in the old sign-up flow based on popular users. But they are higher quality followers. Felicia Day now loses 50 followers a day, whereas before gained 2,874 followers per day. She is still included in new interests-based sign-up flow. Ben Folds was not in suggested users before but now gets 462 new followers a day. Used to get 88 a day before. Erik Spierkermann now gets 330 new followers a day, he used to get 13.
  • The new process is now three steps and more time consuming. But it has a 29% increase in completions and the people who complete the flow are much more engaged. While building the product, Twitter was using it which gave them more confidence that it was the right solution.
  • Changing the prompt from "What are you doing?" to "What's happening?" made the process of posting on Twitter more approachable. This is an example of micro-copy in action.
  • "Success hides problems" -Ed Catmull, Pixar. Positive growth can mask larger issues so don't be afraid to dig in and see what's actually happening.
  • User experience is an ongoing process not a project you complete.

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