Jack is back! That is, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s creator and exiled former CEO, is officially returning to the company in an executive Chairman role that will put him in charge of product.This is, in theory, great news for Twitter, its employees, and its users. It seems like Jack Dorsey has a better feel than anyone for what Twitter should be like. Now he has an official reason to make it happen. And because Jack is obsessed with design and user experience, it should result in a better Twitter for everyone.
So, what to do?
Giving Jack Dorsey advice on how to make Twitter work is sort of like giving Mario Batali advice on how to make spaghetti. But just in case he needs some validation, the most important things Twitter should focus on are simplicity, consistency, and elegance.
Twitter is still too confusing.
I tried getting my mother — who has mastered AIM, email, music streaming, the web, etc. — onto Twitter a few months ago, so she could see my stories and photos and whatever else I post. Easier said than done!
Twitter is still a code that needs to be figured out — learning @mentions versus direct messages; that you can’t start a tweet with @username unless you only want mutual followers to see it; a zillion different ways to share a photo, add a link, etc.
It might be less intimidating to new, non-geek users if Twitter were even simpler. And Jack could probably figure out a good way to do that.
Part of this could be re-engineering how Twitter works. Part of this could be through education and tool tips for new users on the Twitter site. Part of this could be through Twitter going to its own built-in photo sharing service. We assume Jack has some ideas.
Twitter is not consistent enough, even after Twitter took over making the “official” app clients.
Obviously the iPhone app is going to look a little different than the Mac app, the iPad app, the Android app, the website, the mobile site, etc. But right now, it still feels like different companies are making them all.
Twitter could stand to be more consistent across the different sites and apps, even if it means stripping out some expert features.
Twitter shouldn’t be at war with client developers.
Especially if Twitter Inc. is focused on making the most elegant, easy-to-use tools for the masses, Twitter shouldn’t be telling developers they shouldn’t make geeky, “pro” clients for Twitter power users, or whatever else they want to make.
The fact that about half the tweets are still sent from non-Twitter-owned clients is in large part a sign that Twitter has failed to make a product that its most important users — the ones doing the tweeting — want to use. Twitter should focus on making its products better before it starts talking about taking away people’s options. People will switch if there is a better option.
That’s not to say that Twitter shouldn’t have some control over these companies, or a way to tax them. Maybe the API just shouldn’t be free anymore. But Jack should know as well as anyone that Twitter hasn’t even entirely figured out what Twitter is doing yet, client-wise. Why cut off a potential source of inspiration?
Twitter obviously, eventually needs to make money. Let’s hope Jack and the corporate bean counters can compromise on what’s best.
Does that mean shoving a “dickbar” user interface “feature” full of trending topics at the top of the iPhone app screen? Or putting ad tweets in everyone’s stream?
This is where Jack’s design and user experience aesthetic could be really useful. But, it’s also where he could feel hurt if worse design gets the nod over better design because it could generate more revenue. This will be one of the most interesting parts to watch, because it’s one of the most important parts in deciding whether Twitter can be a strong, independent company forever, or if it will need to become a subsidiary of Google.
Part of Jack’s product work will be even more basic.
It will be knowing the answers to, and sharing with the rest of the company: What is Twitter? What is it for? How should and can it be used? Where? What people and companies and causes should Twitter be doing business with?
These are answers that Jack knows better than anyone. Now hundreds of people will have to execute on them.