Sean Sperte

Twitterrific 2

08 May 2009

twitterrific2.jpgThe old pair of sneakers just got a new soul. Twitterrific, the first-to-market iPhone Twitter client with a lickable UI, has been updated to version 2. And what an update!

The previous version of Twitterrific fell short of being perfect because it lacked many of the normal user functions that make up the Twitter experience. You couldn’t follow/unfollow, search, view conversations, use multiple accounts, or basically do anything beyond view and post tweets. With Twitterrific 2, you get all those and more.

As with the previous version, the main or default timeline view lists tweets from your friends, any mentions of your @username, and direct messages – all color-coded. They’re beautifully displayed in one of three themes: Raven, a light-on-dark theme (default); Snowy, a soft and light look (which resembles Tweetie’s default theme); and Basic, a flat but appealing, plain theme. Helvetica is used throughout.

Here’s where it gets good, though. The timeline can be viewed in one of three different sizes, selectable by a prominent button located in the top-right. The default view is the medium state, which shows an avatar, a real name, how long ago the tweet was posted, and, of course, the tweet itself. The larger view size displays a larger avatar and includes which client the user used when tweeting. The smaller size drops the avatar altogether, and displays the text in a smaller size. All three view states are nicely designed, and you can tell each had a lot of thought put into them. (A nice feature in all three states is the timestamp displayed in a different color for new or unread tweets.)

Tweets on the timeline are selectable with a tap. Once selected, an “actions” button gives you access to all kinds of functions you can perform with that tweet. You can view an associated comment thread, view the author’s profile, search the author’s @username, retweet, post a link (to the tweet), add it to your favorites, mark it, email a link (to the tweet), and, if the selected tweet is one you sent, delete it.

Additionally, the “compose” button becomes a “reply” button when a tweet is selected on the timeline. A nice feature.

A tweet is deselected by scrolling the timeline.

Composing a tweet

The compose screen is my favorite part of Twitterrific 2. You get all the normal functions – such as the ability to add a photo, your location, shorten URL’s, etc. – but there are some cool, unique features available as well. For instance, there’s a “Peak” button, labeled with an eye, that toggles a view of the timeline, so you can quickly reference a tweet. While in “Peak” mode you can instantly copy links and @usernames to the tweet you’re composing by tapping on them. Also, there’s a “Compress Text” function that attempts to shorten URLs and certain words as well as remove unnecessary spaces.

twitterrific2b.png

Depending on context (whether you’ve selected a tweet before composing or not), you get three different inverted tabs for composing your tweet. One is for a normal tweet, one is a pre-populated reply pane (with the @username), and the last is a pre-populated Direct Message pane.

Preferential treatment

Version 2 comes with a boat-load of preference options, too. It supports multiple accounts with timeline preferences for each; notification preferences, with cute bird sounds and vibrate options (no background notifications yet); scrolling options for how the timeline behaves when new tweets arrive; a left-handed controls option; photo compression settings; auto-refresh settings; display preferences (for highlighting your tweets, using screen names rather than real names, showing avatars etc.); shortcuts for double- and triple-taps; instapaper support; privacy options; … and a ton of other things!

It’s got search, it’s got saved searches, it’s got trends, it’s got per-account icons, it’s got in-app browsing, it’s got URL shortening, it’s got …

Twitterrific 2 comes with so many settings and preferences you can get lost inside the Settings screens. They may have gone overboard with the customization options, I think.

Behavioral economics

Besides the ghastly amount of preferences, my only real critique with Twitterrific 2 is with its basic behaviors. Michael Mistretta took the words out of my mouth tweet in a reply to Gedeon Maheux, one of the designers of Twitterrific:

[…] Just saying that for many first-time users, a tap = something happening. Not just a selection (like Macs).

The behavior of tapping a tweet in the timeline, then tapping a button, then tapping an action, feels like a larger behavioral investment than should be required. Obviously there’s no way to present all the potential functional options to the user without somehow adding a menu or screen, but I can’t help but feel as though the catch-all action button is sort of a cop-out. Couldn’t there have been a better way? I’ll give you a for-instance.

For instance, the Reply, DM and Profile buttons could appear inline with the tweet when selected. This does two things: (1) gives the illusion that an action has already been performed after the tap, which lessens the perceived investment; and (2) saves an extra tap for the three most likely actions.

With all the polish and design-sense that’s evident throughout the rest of the app, I wonder how such a lazy solution was justified. That sounds harsh, but I suspect there was some major internal debate over that “Actions” button. I hope my opinion just gave one side some additional ammo.

Filtering the timeline

Another debatable feature is the Filter button, which allows you to select a view that includes only @mentions, DMs, favorites, your tweets or marked tweets. Since the default timeline includes all of these as inline tweets, decipherable by color, it’s nice to have the filter option.

For me the debate comes with how the filter is accessed. Again, it’s just a button. (And, in my opinion, it’s not a very good icon for the button.) I would have rather seen a page-curl type interaction like the Google Maps app has.

That’s no big deal, though, because the filter screen itself is beautiful – as are the colors and icons.

(A quick aside about marked tweets. Apparently there exists a need to mark and be able to reference a tweet outside the Favorites feature, because Twitterrific includes it. The unfortunate reality is that marked tweets are only useful to Twitterrific on the iPhone, and aren’t synced with any other app or service. Strange feature, I think.)

No devil here

The level of detail in Twitterrific 2 is outstanding. There’s no question that it remains the most beautiful Twitter client. The user profile screen is downright gorgeous. With the exception of the aforementioned two, all the icons and buttons are outstandingly designed. Glows, shadows, gradients … I could go on and on about the UI. It’s all so good looking.

There’s a level of attention to detail in the app that is just plain exciting; has to be experienced to truly appreciate. I guess that’s why I’m so confused with some of the design decisions that were made.

If you want to see some of the app in action, without installing it, check out their “tweetorial” videos.

Get it

Twitterrific 2 continues to be a free app, and a Premium version available that removes the in-timeline ads. The Premium version is now only $3.99 (down from $9.99), which is a steal. That they offer a free version is just sickening. Aren’t there laws about giving away this much Good?

All in all, I applaud the Icon Factory guys, and Craig Hockenberry, for this great update to a great app.