This week, both Twitter and Digg released new versions of their services. Digg launched a redesigned version of their website, Twitter released a new iPad app. But the difference in how the two releases have been received by users is remarkable. People are pretty unhappy about the new Digg. People love the new Twitter app.
What’s initially surprising is that Digg has a solid history of beautifully innovative UIs. labs.digg.com has showcased a wide variety of alternate ways to view Digg content. But the work there is pretty separate from the main digg.com. Digg’s blog writes about the new design, with more emphasis on speed, personalization, and social features. But users aren’t very happy. Besides a buggy launch, and usability issues, many users are upset about the change of making social networking a core part of the site — feeling that the site has changed it focus for the worse. Amid all this turmoil, reports the NYTimes, Digg has also hired a new CEO.
Twitter may have less of a history of internally creating innovative UIs, but a variety of companies have used the open api to develop all sorts of unique (and sometimes crazy) apps. And, when Twitter likes them, they may buy them. Twitter’s iPad app is the result of their purchase of the iPhone app Tweetie. Tweetie introduced the idea of slide-to-refresh and, as described by Engadget, “blends functionality, performance, and usability together with a dash of playful quirkiness.”
The new Twitter iPad app is really remarkable. Twitter’s blog describes the new UI features: panes, media, gestures, and no need to login to get started. The result, they write, is an app that’s “really fast and a fun way to read real-time content.” And it’s true — it really is a pleasure to use. The NYTimes has an interesting report on the app. And Engadget gave it a glowing review that concludes: “Twitter’s sliding panels UI is definitely one of the most unique and usable iPad interface concepts we’ve ever seen, and we’re pretty sure it’ll be aped by all sort of other apps in the near future.” It’s a hit.
So why the big difference in responses? The apparent, and sudden, change in Digg’s core values could be a factor. To many users, Digg appears to be “selling out” while Twitter remains more idiosyncratic. But another reason could be the difference between iPad and web users, and the developer communities for each… The web is a relatively established and stable environment. Users there don’t expect big changes. The iPad, on the other hand, is a environment thriving with UI innovation. iPad owners are eagerly looking for new ways to experience digital content. And Twitter’s success is, in part, thanks to the understanding of that audience.
(Speaking of Twitter: if you’re a user, consider following Inventing Interactive: @i_interactive.)