Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweeted Thursday that the company is losing the QuickBar it introduced in a recent update to the iPhone application. The Quick Bar originally sat on top of your tweet stream within the app, and scrolled as you did, unshakeably resting at the top of the screen. A later update eventually changed the Quick Bar’s behavior, making it just stick at the top of your stream without scrolling, but even that apparently wasn’t enough to appease disgruntled users.
The update that removes the Quick Bar from the iPhone app is live right now in the App Store. In an official blog post on the matter, Twitter Creative Director Doug Bowman noted that the plan for future use of the Quick Bar included in-app notifications of new mentions, direct messages and other activity, but that after determining that the feature “doesn’t improve the user experience,” the decision was made to remove it rather than to continue tweaking it as it currently exists.
CEO Costolo originally seemed to be very much behind the idea of the Quick Bar, according to his tweets around the time of the feature’s launch, but recently, Business Insider reported that, in fact, he wasn’t a fan of the idea at all, and that it was actually a product of internal organizational structure confusion. Following the announcement of the Quick Bar’s removal, he seemed still to support the basic idea behind the feature, noting, ”[T]he engagement data is through the roof but we ultimately agree trends are ‘too far away’ and out of context in that position.”
Ultimately, this seems to come down to a question of user experience vs. a tentative early step towards profitability. It goes to show that even when you’re already a firmly established player, messing around with risky UX decisions can potentially carry brand-damaging ramifications.
Jeremy Bell of Toronto design firm Teehan+Lax shared some additional thoughts about why the Quick Bar failed from a UX standpoint. Specifically, according to Bell, the Quick Bar encountered resistance because it foregrounded one of Twitter’s weakest aspects — trending topics. While he felt that Twitter improved the situation a great deal by removing the scrolling aspect of the Quick Bar, the feature still ultimately suffered from the same flaws that affect trending topics in a much broader sense, and brought them front and center in the Twitter app user experience. Bell maintains that “trending and how it’s displayed in general is flawed, since it provides no understanding of the context of topics or why they might be important to [a user].”
It’s also worth noting that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey confirmed Monday he has returned to a more prominent role at the company as head of product development. Dorsey spoke Tuesday at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he said he sees “Twitter as a pure utility, like electricity or water.” Dorsey’s return, his statements regarding Twitter, and the removal of a feature that many saw as detracting from usability while serving profit all seem too well-timed to be simply chalked up to coincidence.