I don’t count myself as a large social media person, despite having two Twitter accounts and being pretty frequent on both. But, I do enjoy the various streams of thoughts which come from Twitter and those trends and people I follow, so when there is an app which can makeit better to do so, I will take a gander at it. On my smartphone, that has been Different Tack by Fluid Interaction. It’s not Gravity, but in terms of enjoying and retaining whatever I am reading, it works well. Fluid Interaction poked me some days ago about the iOS version of this app, called twheel (v1.0.0), and I have some thoughts after going about using it for a few days on and off.

I will just let this one sit as a stream of thoughts, both on impressions and thoughts for something different:

  • Because I have been used to using this on a 3.5in screened mobile (the Nokia N8), seeing a very similar interface kind of caught me off guard given the 9.7in screen of my iPad. The fonts are flat out huge.
  • Seems like twheel can’t decide sometimes between being gesture or tap-oriented. Sometimes, the gesture of marking a tweet as a fav would happen, but undoing that wasn’t happening with the same motion. I would have to tap into the tweet, then tap the star to unmark it
  • There is no portrait mode, even though the iPad and app seem to realize there is an orientation change.
  • I wish the wheel was pushed a bit more to the right (or left for left-handed folks). In the middle, it feels like it takes too much work to scroll around it. In contrast, the mobile app keeps everything at your thumb, making it easy to navigate.
  • Twheel loses the color designations which the mobile has; I actually like the visual indicator of both the center circle and the fan blades showing you where you are in relation to the rest of your timeline (am partial to spatial UI approaches)
  • The border around the avatar is tacky
  • The screens where you can type into a text field just don’t look like they are part of the app. Buttons are squared off, etc. (in contrast to mobile app where buttons, text fields, etc. just follow the branding quite well, albeit with some performance hits at times)
  • Twheel doesn’t use the iOS’s integrated Twitter accounts, and that limits me to only having one account in the app (limiting personally), and kind of takes away from being able to do things like tweet a link/image/etc. w/twheel versus the official twitter app
  • While the wheel UI works great, when a screen, like the setting screen, goes away from it, it feels like you left the app
  • Would love to see gestures used, for example, when a web page is opened by clicking the link, to use a gesture to swipe away the page and go back to the stream. The buttons at the bottom right are too far out of view and finger positioning
  • With DTack on my mobile, there is a fan blade for newer/older tweets, this isn’t present in twheel and therefore makes it harder to page backwards to tweets after clicking the ‘new tweets’ button
  • Would like to see the ability to edit an item when you choose to retweet it
  • Oh yea, where are the visual stats (seeing who/what was retweeted) that was in DTack
  • When you click on a link, it opens the fan, then you have to click on the fan blade for the link; instead of clicking on a link and it goes right into the browser
  • Browser mode seems much faster than Safari (nice!)

Now, I had similar thoughts of a tablet-version of Different Tack/twheel that I sketched some thoughts using Paper some time back. These are just ideas, but perhaps work towards some of what is going to happen in future iterations of these apps:

Some commentary about this design exploration:

  • My thinking here, much like the mobile app, is that you don’t want navigation getting in the way of reading
  • There is a conversational view automatically exposed whena tweet has additional component to it; this leaving of the main tweet at the top left also leaves room for media (pictures, video) to appear in the space below
  • Instead of a fan/fan blades, I am using color-coded, concentric wheels where each level of wheel is a different stream for what you are reading. Based on where you put your finger, that is the stream within your Twitter timeline that you will be looking at (icons to new followers in center, your tweets and places you are mentioned in 2nd level, your timeline in 3rd level (default), saved searches/hashtag in outermost circle)
  • Ideally, settings would be left/right-handed for the wheel, and then tweets appear on the other side. To retweet/reply, you would tap on that tweet and the RT/reply dialog would appear in the space under that tweet
  • I see this UI also usable for my RSS reading; the circles would have different functions of course

So, you can probably tell that I like this app, and think that it is well on its way. In terms of consuming content, then making it useful outside of that service (in this case Twitter), the context of a tablet requires similar but different modes of thinking. I think that Fluid Interaction is right on the way with twheel, and that a few changes in Different Tack could also hit better goals. Of course, I am a couch-UX guy, these folks have the psychological and UX background to this. If my comments here can help their efforts, and everyone gets a better experience, then I think we all win out well here.

Twheel is available for iOS devices, and Different Tack is available for Nokia’s Symbian and Android devices.