Mark Jardine Stories July 11, 2012

Twitter reveals how it painstakingly overhauled mobile Web client [Photos]

Twitter recently released an update to its mobile effort, and rival client Tweetbot followed the frenzy by making its public alpha for Mac available today, but the microblogging service is not ready to share the limelight.

Coleen Baik, a designer at Twitter, took to the network’s blog this afternoon to fully detail how it meticulously overhauled mobile.twitter.com.

“We had about nine weeks to design, prototype, develop, test, and calibrate mobile.twitter.com for launch. There were a handful of challenges we took on,” wrote Baik.

A few of the challenges included:

  • Support more than 13 different browsers on thousands of different devices, each with their own rendering idiosyncrasies
  • Accommodate input methods with dissimilar requirements
  • Build layouts with pre-CSS3/HTML5 standards
  • Optimize for browsers with javascript turned off
  • Scale gracefully from resolutions as small as 240 by 240 pixels all the way up to widescreen views on the desktop
  • Minimize page sizes for slower networks
  • Make it look and feel like Twitter, even without images.
  • Pave the way for even more feature consistency with other twitter.com clients

The design team sketched plans for primary views and navigation, “fleshed out details like the Tweet anatomy and interaction flows for tasks like tweeting, searching, and writing direct messages,” and then delved into HTML/CSS wireframes. They even collaborated with Twitter’s mobile engineers to “build out main views like ‘Home,’ ‘Connect,’ ‘Discover,’ and ‘Me.'”

Twitter eventually tested three different versions across 300 devices before making a final decision. After two months of work, the pristine version finally rolled out earlier this week. It immediately met a slew of positive responses.

“Change is always difficult because it means, among other things, having to relearn what was once comfortable and familiar,” Baik contended. “But we hope that the initial pains of readjustment quickly lead you to appreciate this faster, more comfortable and easier-to-use mobile.twitter.com on feature phones and older browsers.”

Visit the Twitter Blog for the entire redesign breakdown.

Tweetbot on the Retina MacBook Pro
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We reported late last month that Tweetbot for Mac, a desktop version of the popular third-party iOS Twitter client, would likely come soon after the company’s graphic designer, Mark Jardine, tweeted an image of the client running on a MacBook. Today, Tweetbot developers decided to make things official with the release of a public alpha, and we recently got a chance to play around with it. (Blog post here.)

The Tweetbot alpha, which at this point runs on 10.7+ and 10.8 Mountain Lion, has a lot going for it despite warnings of “Bugs! Lots of them.” According to Tapbots, the main goal of the alpha was to replicate the core functionality of the iOS client. Like tapping a tweet in the iPad app, hovering over a tweet in the Mac client provides you with the same Reply, Retweet, Favorite, Share, and Actions button to get access to details, conversations, retweets, and etc.

In addition, like the iPad app, you will find a button to quickly switch lists in the upper right, while a Lists button on the left sidebar will let you manage and edit your lists within the app. The app also bakes in the familiar “Mute Filters” for your main timeline. However, only the ability to mute “Clients” appears to be an option now—with the option for muting keywords greyed out. You will also get Twitter, bit.ly, CloudApp, and Droplr URL shortening options, and all the same image and video-uploading options as on iOS, including: CloudApp, Droplr, img.ly, Lockerz, Mobypicture, Pikchur, Posterous, Twitgoo, TwitPic/TwitVid, and yfrog. Syncing options only feature Tweet Marker currently (iCloud coming soon), while all the Read Later services are present such as bitly, Instapaper, Pinboard, Pocket, and Readability.

We have had a lot to say about the Twitter experience on the new Retina MacBook Pros. The official Twitter for Mac app is unfortunately not Retina-ready and almost unusable on the new Retina displays. Fortunately, we have a Retina update to Twitterific to tie us over, but the Alpha Tweetbot release today is also built for the new Retina display. We have no complaints. It looks great, but Tapbots said further improvements are coming…

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