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Twitter’s confirmation message is a usability fail

Folks know that I use this blog to call out poor user experiences, and often I’ll get requests from people to discuss a particular usability failure that gets their goat.

Recently my friend Michael Gruen asked me to talk about Twitter’s relatively new design for confirmation messages, a white bar that runs along the top of the page after you’ve sent a direct message (DM) or saved any settings.

I actually hardly use the Twitter website (I use the desktop app Twhirl) so I had to go explore to see what he was talking about.

Here’s an example:

The confirmation message is unnecessarily heavy-handed and poorly placed. The problem is that the bar appears for about four seconds (probably two seconds too long), and in the meantime obscures the top navigation and the Twitter logo (also a navigational mechanism). There’s no way to clear the message once you’ve seen it, or take any action at all before the bar disappears on its own. It’s amazing how long four seconds can feel when you know exactly what you want to do next and have to wait before you can act.

A couple days ago I asked my Twitter network for their thoughts:

Here are some of the responses I received:

So what do you think? Usability fail or necessary feedback?

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  • supaspoida

    To be fair, you can actually make it go away by clicking anywhere on it. That's what I meant by my two clicks comment. Still, two clicks is twice the number it should take for me to complete my objective! Adds up over time.

    • http://blog.michaelgruen.com gruen

      I don't think Twitter had that two-click functionality at launch. Because, at the onset, that's the first thing I would've tried.

      Good that they've 'fixed' it now.

  • http://www.cennydd.co.uk Cennydd

    I was always suspicious that this was a *deliberate* usability fail to protect performance. It's so ham-handed and clunky that I surmised it was intended to prevent people performing the tasks you mention – block the home link and top nav – until the system had a chance to “recover” and be ready for your input. Kind of the same way the signage in the London Underground is deliberately sub-optimal to ensure people take varying routes to the exit rather than arrive in a giant rush.

    Citation needed obviously. Might be completely wrong, and perhaps this it would be even more evil than just poor usability.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog Whitney Hess

      You very well may be right. This could be a performance thing. Still seems
      oddly implemented to me, but I suppose they're doing their best to deal with
      growing beyond the wildest expectations.

  • Renato Feijo

    Providing appropriate feedback to user actions is the design principle (or heuristics) being applied here. This principle isn't easy or straight forward to apply in web applications, due to the technology currently available.

    Twitter's solution may not be as successfully implemented as it is the case in 37signals' apps, but it is a worthwhile attempt, especially considering that it needs to work consistently across the site, in pages such as the Settings page (informing that changes to your profile have been saved). In this regard, it's also easy learn and predictable.

    As for the time it takes for the bar to disappear, maybe it was not designed for power users, who use Twirl or Tweetie instead anyway, but for more novice users, still feeling the waters as to what Twitter is about, and its underlying technology.

    In brief, while Twitter's white bar may not have been particularly well designed, it certainly doesn't deserve being flamed like this.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog Whitney Hess

      Renato, I certainly take your point and agree that at least they're
      providing feedback where many sites do not.

      However, it actually is not consistently applied throughout the experience.
      On the DM page and most of the Settings pages, the confirmation bar appears
      at the top. On the Notices settings page, the confirmation bar appears at
      the bottom. After an Update is sent, no conformation appears at all.

      Perhaps if it were consistent, it wouldn't feel as jarring and I wouldn't
      have had such a negative reaction to it.

  • http://www.mattrobin.com Matt Robin

    Yep – I howled about this one on the day it was launched! 'Where's the 'close' function on this pop-up?' I moaned. I seem to think the 'more' bar is okay, but this new feature is poorly executed. Twitter should re-think this one.

    Also…'Trends' (in the side bar)…hmm, can't we disable it in user settings somehow?! ;)

  • Lisa Rex

    @ Renato, I appreciate that Twitter is providing confirmation feedback to users. We should applaud them for that.

    @ Cennydd, if they are only doing it to slow me down so I don't return to the home page immediately, well, mission accomplished!

    The navigation behind the confirmation bar is always clickable, which is good, but the opacity of the white bar obscures the navigation. It's disorienting, like suddenly driving into a wall of fog.

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  • http://aaronrikower.com Aaron Rikower

    Great question. I’m not sure if I would define it as a fail though.
    I wrote a post about using the colors green and red in confirmation/feedback messages, which I thought you would find interesting.
    http://aaronrikower.com/blog/2011/06/the-messages-message
    Thanks and keep it coming…