How Twitter’s Mobile Roots Complicate Social Media Design
Twitter makes social media design difficult. Twitter was originally designed as a podcast-hosting site, but it has evolved and grown to become a “micro-blogging” site. It’s now a worldwide phenomenon where people post breaking news, upload photos, and share everything from news updates to their innermost thoughts, limited to no more than 140 characters at a time.
The leaders (the presidents or prime ministers) of more than 125 countries have Twitter accounts (although it’s debatable how many of those tweets sent are really done by these world leaders and how many are posted by a harried subordinate, furiously punching away at the keys of a smartphone), which are followed by about 52 million of their citizens.
Twitter has its roots firmly planted in the mobile web. The 140-character limit came about because 160 characters was the sendable limit via SMS message from a mobile handset. (The remaining 20 characters are reserved for reasons that are too technical to go into here.)
And because Twitter is so tied to the mobile web, Twitter’s designers have consistently worked to make the site visible on the smaller-resolution smartphones and tablets as well as on the larger monitors of regular computers.
The result of this evolution means that while a Twitter profile will load and run on virtually any browser environment, the fluid resizing and position of static elements on the profile make it particularly tricky to come up with a design that is both eye-catching and that works on every conceivable platform.