Twitter for Mac
Here it is! The much awaited Twitter for Mac. Many people were resigning themselves on Twitter lately and losing hope in the return of the prodigal son.
Loren Brichter has set high standards on the iOS platform with Tweetie 1 (released in November 2008 - Apple Design Awards 2009) & Tweetie 2 (October 2009) now know as Twitter for iPhone.
In addition to exemplary application flow and overhaul snappiness of both apps, he introduced the pull to refresh feature and democratized the use of hidden buttons under TableView cells a.k.a ‘cell swipe’.
Tweetie 1 for Mac launched on April 2009, a few months after the release of Tweetie 2 for iPhone and prior to Atebits acquisition by Twitter.
Since then, we’ve been blessed with the Twitter official application on iPad which has been a breath of fresh air on the tablet. Every single piece of the UI seems organic and is, in my opinion, one of the most advanced and consistent embodiement of Twitter.
The iPad application clearly has had great influence on the design of Twitter 2.0 for Mac. Brichter and its team (Ben Sandofsky and Doug Bowman) have not only designed a wonderful piece of software, they have also made bold UI choices.
Twitter 2.0 is chromeless. You won’t find an inch of the usual Apple grey gradient wrapping every Mac application you know has. It’s gone. Content is king.
Tweetie original sidebar is still here with its nice animations and easy account and category switching.
Lists and Profile have made their way into the sidebar which has now 6 categories: Timeline, Mentions, Direct messages, Lists, Profile and Search.
The design has evolved a lot and the black sidebar now goes all the way up encompassing Control Buttons that have been customized for the occasion. They have a dark color and are smaller than common Mac apps controls.
The full-lengh balck sidebar is the spinal column of the app and makes it stand nicely on your desktop.
Overhaul, it gives a more serious look to the application and seems to deepen the Tweetie 1.0 original idea.
Animations are snappier than ever and it’s really pleasant to move from one category to another.
Most of the UI sweetness is concentrated in this part of Twitter for Mac.
As on the iPad, the timeline has no top nor bottom limit. The fact that it is taking the full-height of the app creates a feeling of sturdiness and gently suggest the idea of an infinite stream.
The timeline is the interface. The top grey menu bar is gone, and if not being able to grab the window by the top and move it around is a bit disturbing during the first 10 minutes of use, the trade-off seems worth it.
The Timeline rounded corner are a nice touch and the slight fade-out on the top and bottom makes the scrolling experience really smooth.
Page animation metaphor first introduced on Twitter for iPad have been integrated with talent on the Mac app. They’re fast and meaningful. They never get in the way. Pages slide from the left when you switch category and from the right when you’re digging into content (profiles and conversations).
Navigating with arrows and shortcuts is really easy and fast. A great worh has been achieved on the general smoothness of the scroll especially when using the arrow keys. There’s a gentle ease-in / ease-out transition when a new tweet slides into the list. The animation is pleasing to the eye and greatly contributes to the feeling of handling a ‘jewel case’ when using the app.
Many options now appear when hovering a tweet. When Tweetie 1.0 only gave you the ability to reply, a gentle fade-in animation on each focused tweet now lets you operate the most common Twitter actions directly from the Timeline: reply, favorite, re-tweet and even access the conversation related to the tweet.
Options on right-click have also been improved. Blocking users and seeing the tweet on Twitter website are now available from within the menu.
The profile section has also been improved and it is now possible to edit your Twitter profile from within the application. A feature which turns out to be really handy.
Menu Bar icon
It has become one of the central piece of the application at least the way I use it. Whe you spend most of your time with Twitter hidden, you access it by the Menu bar icon whick lets you directly move to your Timeline, Direct messages or Mentions.
The array of notifications options is impressive and tou can customize them for each category: you can highlight the menu bar icon, use Growl or simply a badge on the dock icon.
Clicking a category immediately spings up Twitter main window and focus on the selected category triggering the paging animation and the scroll to bring you directly to the content.
This Menu bar design is really handy and is one of the greatest improvement of the application.
What makes the difference between a great and an amazing app is the attention to details and the little touches that you find here and there showing that hours were spent making sure it was perfect.
- The progress indicator: the custom progress indicator is nice to look at and it’s a relief to see Mac developers trying new things and not sticking with Apple’s strict UI components.
- The Timeline animation when clicking the left arrow at the ‘root‘ level triggers a slight jolt to the right of the list. This is a typical case of affordance animation that strenghten the confidence you have in the application. No feedback is expected. Yet Twitter responds to it in the most gentle manner.
- Tooltips: cutom tooltips benefit from a nice fade-in slide animation and that’s always a pleasure to see them pop up. They’re a good compromise between a labelized sidebar and lazy tooltips as we know them.
- The ‘New tweet’ window animation: the discrete left-to-right slide combined with a quick fade-in both make the ‘new tweet’ animation meaningful and pleasant.
- The alternate ‘Reply’ window: When replying to a tweet, a small arrow is added to the ‘new tweet’ window making it look like a comic bubble or an iPad pop over. This little addition fades away when moving the window around.
Bold UI moves and why it matters ?
Twitter 2.0 doesn’t provide any ‘New tweet’ button. It is nowhere to be found. Sacrilege! No! Developers are right. In 2011, it’s time to learn shortcuts! ⌘-N is not that complicated after all.
Taking advantage of a tech saavy user base and pushing the boundaries of traditional UI is smart.
UI is all about making things simple, intuitive and fast for users. The problem is simplicity and swiftness in many cases are sworn enemies.
Buttons are the easiest way to simplify a user’s life. The drawback being that the way people uses apps doesn’t evolve much and that you quickly end up with an app filled with button and cluttered.
Depriving the user from having an obvious ‘New tweet’ button is a bold choice that makes a lot of sense. Chances are it will democratize the use of keyboard shortcuts and could pave the way to more simplified and uncluttered interface. The Twitter community is the perfect audience to push this through.
As with Pull-to-refresh or cell swipe, Twitter is pushing new behavior for users to embrace by imposing its choice. That’s all the more admirable when the application is made by a service which already has millions of users and does not allow itself to give into classic/ re-assuring UI.
So what’s missing from Twitter 2.0 ?
The only thing lacking is not being able to view the list of you followers and followee within the application and not being able to search through this list. Loren Brichter already confirmed that it will be in the next update.
The risky bet of a fully customized UI for an OS X application turns out to be a success.
Twitter 2.0 is more than well thought, displays an innovative yet consistent UI and is wonderful to use. And it’s free!
Grab your copy on the Mac Appstore and enjoy the ride.