Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Social Divergence

Twitter and Facebook are essentially very similar social networks these days. The only real thing separating them  is for which social groups they are used for.

So it is no surprise that their Android applications are close to identical in many respects. The desktop widgets are in fact identical, aside from a few aesthetic differences.

For both, each status update or tweet is sectioned off in it's own individual box. The profile pic for the original poster is in a column on the left with their name to the right along with the body of the post and any additional information, such as time it was posted and number of comments of likes (in the case of Facebook), at the bottom.

Now as you are probably already aware of it's very common for things like pictures, videos and URLs to be the main contents of a post, and it is in how they are treated that these respective apps differ.

Twitter treats it almost like you would expect a web page to work - tapping a person's name takes you to their profile, a URL to the respective web page (or application in the case of things like the Youtube app).

It also has a drop-down menu of sorts on the right that allows you to do standard Twitter actions such as @reply or retweet.

Facebook on the other hand, does something slightly differently. Instead of individual elements the whole box is one area that can be tapped on. A single tap takes you to the status update itself where you can comment on it if you want. A long press pops up a menu with a list of options related to the status update. For instance, any URL included in the message is given it's own selectable item in the menu.

This is much better than twitter's method, as the text is so small, my giant fingers often have difficulty tapping on URLs - especially if they're directly underneath the tweeter's username as that is also a link that takes you to their profile.

Unfortunately Facebook breaks it's own rules as any photos shared with the status update must be tapped directly if you want to look at them, and they're not included in the long press menu. So points will be deducted for breaking consistency here.

I think Facebook definitely have the right approach here - touch screens can't be designed expecting a high fidelity input. Large clickable areas should be the order of the day.

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