Twitter Topics – a new lens to help manage the noise

Last month, Geekwire was kind enough to publish my guest post critiquing Twitter’s recently launched “Moments” offering, an attempt by the company to broaden its appeal for new users. You can read the full post here, but to summarize, I found the feature somewhat lacking. While it has its virtues— a visually engaging design, effective use of short-form video, and curation to surface the most news-worthy content— I don’t believe it will attract the new users Twitter needs. There are just too many competing alternatives.

A solution that scales

A more effective solution to Twitter’s growth problems would be one that scales both in broadening appeal and in reducing the cost of production. Perhaps Twitter’s biggest asset is that virtually all of the content on the internet flows through its platform. Equally important, Twitter has all the markers to construct an exceptional algorithm to determine the best content for users across a broad spectrum of interests. Imagine a Twitter that knows your interests and then applies likes, retweets, follower counts, velocity, and other data points to bubble up the best content, personalized for you, on every visit. Such an offering could truly deliver on the promise of the best of Twitter, but in a way that leverages Twitter’s assets, scales beautifully, and creates a uniquely valuable experience.

As UX professionals and Twitter users, we couldn’t stop at such wishful thinking. So, we challenged our UX team to design a new lens for Twitter—one that would put personalization in the hands of Twitter users and be of sufficient appeal to address Twitter’s anemic user growth. Naturally, we wanted to involve users in the design process. So, to inform our thinking, we started with a survey of Twitter users.

Surveying the Twittersphere

Most of our respondents were long-standing Twitter users, on the platform for at least two years, and checking Twitter multiple times a day. While many lauded Twitter for its speed and network effects, even the most ardent fans did not rank it highly for helping them find high quality content of interest on a consistent basis. The most common theme echoed our own experiences—managing the noise. Armed with user data our vision started to take shape. Enter our solution ‘Twitter Topics’ —a new offering intended to empower the community to define what interests them.

What interests you?

We started our design exploration with what’s undoubtedly one of Twitter’s most important pages in attracting new users: the logged out homepage. We integrated a simple “What interests you?” search field into the body of the page to engage new users. Twitter has already been working to broaden its appeal by curating content on their signed out homepage. With this exercise, we’re proposing they go further, letting users tailor their homepage to their interests without having to create an account first.

In this new search field, as you type your interests, you’re given suggestions for matching topics, powered by hashtags, and a count of follows to help you find the best term. By adding this feature, pre-selected topics are instantly replaced with those you care about. In addition, Twitter could similarly enable users to follow Moments too—imagine a new Twitter homepage comprised of the news and content across the topics that interest you.



With their account created users can proceed to their new customized topic dashboard, curated by user data. The topics themselves are organized in a fashion that places the topic with the most timely and valuable content toward the top. Within each topic the best content is bubbled up in a clear hierarchy. New suggested followers are similarly elevated within each topic area.



Each topic has its own page where users can immerse themselves in deeper content from Tweets and Vines, to live broadcasts on Periscope, to events near them. Each topic can also be managed in-situ via the gear icon or expanded as users drill down to see more. And, of course, they can share their thoughts via their own Tweets.



While presenting our designs in a desktop context gives us a large palette to showcase our work, we’d be negligent if we didn’t also consider how Topics might reduce when in app form.



Twitter Topics is arguably a pivot on Twitter Moments. It’s an extension of the notion that Twitter is an interests-based network, as coined by Daniel Rakhamimov, but builds on Moments in three ways:

  1. The community should define what interests them.
  2. Twitter should enable users to save their interests for future visits.
  3. Twitter should curate and package the best content for each returning visit.

Is Twitter Topics alone enough to save Twitter? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, a similar offering could go a long way to harnessing the power of Twitter without alienating the base and broadening the appeal for a new audience.


Twitter Topics was a collaboration of three Fell Swoopers including: Director of Strategy & Analytics, Alex Berg, User Experience Designer, Rich Robinson, and Visual Designer, Chelsea Xavier.


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