Product Design Software Twitter

What I want in a Twitter application

After yesterday’s PeopleBrowsr announcement, I started looking around for an “ideal” Twitter client. In terms of features, here’s what I came up with (beyond the baseline Twitter features). They are ordered by importance.


Ok, here’s my dirty little secret about Twitter, I don’t read everyone that I follow all the time. – gasp –. I know, it’s terrible. But here’s the thing, I like everyone I follow and I do read their Tweets some of the time. I don’t want to unfollow them because they are having a bad week and and I just can’t read their feed. Or they represent a company/product I like, but they are getting a little too chatty.

While I agree with Tweetie developer, Loren Brichter, that groups in Twitter would be best handled on the server side, but until Twitter adds this as a feature, any third party app that I use should have grouping.

So far, no iPhone client software has groups (as far as I know), but even if there were, I’m not sure I would use it. Currently, managing groups in a desktop app is an onerous task. Managing groups on the iPhone would be Herculean.

Desktop App?

I love desktop apps. I’m a Mac user and there are all sorts of common conventions that, if you are a good developer (read: Cocoa), I get to use across all applications. From big things (like Emacs key bindings, preferences in the same place, etc) to little things (pressing the up arrow to go to the beginning of a field), there are lots of little niggly conventions that are embedded in my hands, making me faster and more efficient.

Many Twitter clients are written for Adobe Air (are there other Air apps?) and from a development standpoint, Air is great. You can write an app that can access the web, is cross platform, visually appealing and sits outside the browser (browsers can crash when you have 27 windows open like I frequently do). Additionally, you might be able to add functionality that would be hard to add with just HTML, CSS and Javascript.

What sucks about Air is that you get none of the OS conventions that I mentioned above. This might not be a problem if you are new to computers or not terribly advanced, but for power users, it sucks. I imagine that this is something that Adobe can fix, but I’m not holding my breath. Adobe fell off the OS native app convention bus a long time ago.

Web app with mobile version

Now, you could go off and create a killer desktop app for the Mac, but you’ve got two problems there. First, there are more potential Windows customers, so you’re not addressing the whole potential market and second, you’re not solving my mobile problem.

Like Google Reader replacing NetNewsWire for me, having an app that works on the web (mobile and desktop) keeps my world in sync, without syncing anything. Before Google Reader, I thought that web apps were clunky compared to desktop apps (and most web based RSS readers were clunky compared to NetNewsWire), but using two full fledged computers (my Mac and my iPhone) syncing with the web just wasn’t cutting it.

If the app is web based, has a mobile version and has groups, congratulations, you’ve just solved my biggest problem with keeping up on Twitter. I get many of my desktop “conventions” and everything stays in sync, because it doesn’t need to sync.

Note: I’d probably relent on this point if Nambu and Tweetie Mac clients would have a baby (Tweetbu? Nambie?). I tend to read more Tweets at my desk and write more Tweets on the go.

Multiple accounts

I have a personal and business Twitter account. I conceivably could have more, but managing multiple accounts on the web isn’t fun. I’ve limited myself to two, mainly because I use two browsers and I don’t really want to use more.

In theory, if I were married to a Twitter client, I might be able to do without groups and sign up for yet another Twitter account that I exclusively read from, but like many email clients, app designers would need to account for this by making a primary “response” account to go along with my “read” accounts. But so far, this hasn’t happened

Nice to haves

Beyond that, I’m easy. Obviously, I need to be able to see DMs, @replies and non-“@” mentions of my usernames.

Here is my list of “nice to haves.” Get the above features nailed down before looking at this list.

  • URL shorteners/expanders
  • Inline photo/video integration
  • Location links into a web map
  • Saved searches/filters
  • Avatars are nice
  • Preferences in an obvious spot (or even better)
  • An interface so simple I don’t need to find the preferences
  • UI that does not make me want to stab eyes out

Unnecessary features

  • Stocktwits
  • 12seconds
  • Twitscoop
  • All these buttons:


Until then

I use Nambu on my Mac, Tweetie on my iPhone, TweetDeck if I have to use Windows, PowerTwitter in Firefox, (but I usually use Safari). I want to like PeopleBrowsr, but I can’t get past my last “nice to have.”

What about you?

Is it just me? I’m curious to hear what features other people need in their Twitter app. Am I too simple? Do I ask too much?

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