Twitter's new profile design is finally available to everyone, and it's brimming with improvements.
Twitter’s redesigned profile pages were previously available to select users in a staggered rollout that’s been ongoing for weeks, but as of today, they’re available to anyone so inclined to push a button and pull the trigger. The social microblogging network’s new look does indeed, as you’ve perhaps heard, have something of Facebook’s affectations with its newly dominant top-third banner and left-side headshot overlooking a three-column spread, where the central column comprising your tweets occupies about 50% of your browser’s total, width-wise.
Twitter’s covered most of this in a blog post, but let’s step through the new features anyway, and I’ll do my best to annotate.
Twitter hasn’t changed — not really…
It’s still a giant column of pith, stacked in rectangles (mostly), and filled with all your wit and wisdom. It’s still Twitter, that is, with all its eggs in the same minimalist baskets, and none of Facebook’s busy, multilayered distractions.
..but it’s clearly more Facebook-like.
Whoever said “good artists borrow, great ones steal” had it exactly right. I’m not sure I’d call any of Twitter’s tweaks outright stealing, but there’s definitely some borrowing going on. And you could argue, given Twitter’s relative simplicity (contrasted with Facebook’s clutter), that these design choices work better on Twitter: the 1,500 x 500 pixel banner up top lets you add scenery where before your profile picture looked like a postage stamp clapped on top of a smallish picture box. And that banner only nudges the top menu — where it tallies tweets, who you’re following, your followers and more — down roughly an inch.
In short, Twitter’s profile pages now use browser-space more efficiently, fitting more in without cramping your view.
Isn’t the new font for tweets kinda gargantuan?
I don’t think so. Facebook lets you post over 60,000 characters a shot, where Twitter still limits you to 140 characters per tweet. In the new design, tweets that do more business than others (Twitter refers to this as “engagement”) use a font that’s roughly twice as big as before. That’s contrasted against the left- and right-hand columns, which still use a smaller font.
Twitter wants that central column to pop, not be equal to or subsumed by its surroundings. It’s the company broadening its social networking grammar, cribbing a feature from tag clusters of old, as well as telegraphing what it still views as its most important asset — your tweets — in the mix.
You’ll want a 400 x 400 profile photo.
Under the new design, Twitter’s basically taking the upsized version of your profile picture when clicked and making it the default size against its new topside banner background.
I wasn’t sure what size my existing picture was, so I checked: 256 x 256 pixels. You don’t have to upgrade — your old pic will upscale in the new design — but if you want to look smart (as in sharp, focus-wise), take the time to re-crop and upload that old profile shot at 400 x 400 pixels, or just use the design switch as an opportunity to create a new one.
You’ll want a 1,500 x 500 background header, too.
They’re laid out in a way that’s not distracting — that, and if you don’t upload one, you’re stuck with a bland color and message declaiming “Make this space yours. Add a photo!”
If you don’t have one handy, Twitter’s offering an attractive collection of Flickr images to get you started here.
The menu has more data angles, and they’re important ones.
Ever since Twitter added the option to include inline photos and videos, we’ve been accruing repositories of visual content. Under the old design, these were jammed into a lefthand box that, when clicked, swapped your tweet column for a stacked picture/video column. In the new design, picture/video is just another menu option next to tweets and followers. When clicked, it smartly hijacks both the center and righthand side of your view, giving you two full columns to peruse more content at once — another nod to Facebook’s News Feed aesthetic.
There’s some duplication of effort here: Twitter’s left that standalone photos/videos box over in the lefthand column, but it feels like a reasonable compromise between making the box the only way to access your media and yanking it entirely and preventing visitors from peeping your most recent shots.
You can fine-tune your Twitter-stream.
The old design included both tweets and replies in one unbroken stream under “tweets.” The new design defaults to just your tweets (without replies) and lets you opt to view “tweets and replies,” as well as favorites and followers (who now appear, like photos/videos, in a smart, semi-tiled view that hijacks the middle and righthand columns). That added layer of control granularity lets both you or your visitors scroll through your dispatches much more quickly, if desired.
You can pin your best stuff to promote conversations.
As with all of the prior points, this matters only for people visiting your Twitter page on the web — if they use a client app, it’s irrelevant, and it’s not clear when/if we’ll see versions that avail themselves of these tweaks — but you can now pin your “best” tweets to the top of your feed, like threads on a message board, allowing you to flag your favorite thoughts or conversations for passersby.
It’s probably a bigger deal if you’re using Twitter as a business and want to highlight a press release or promotion (or a news site looking to highlight a story), but regardless, it’s nice to see Twitter adding features that add more options to the conversation without bogging down feeds or noticeably interrupting their flow.