Twitter Would Have Failed Without Design

August 27, 2009 | Branding, Web Design

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When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was pretty stupid. I didn’t care to read the banalities of someone’s Tweets as they ate, waited, shopped, etc. I’m not alone in questioning its merit, there are many, many articles wondering what the long term impact of Twitter will be.

However, in the short term, Twitter is growing like crazy, with more than 32 million accessing twitter.com in April of this year. So it is obviously appealing to some, at least enough to set up and test it out once or twice.

Picture Twitter Without the Design

Recently, Twitter has experienced frequent outages and over-capacity issues. The other day, I went to twitter.com and the page content (HTML) loaded but the CSS style sheet did not. Below is what the login screen looks like without the benefit of design.

Twitter login screen with the CSS Stylesheet not working. (Click to enlarge)

Twitter login screen with the CSS Stylesheet not working. (Click to enlarge)

If you thought Twitter was mundane when it’s working correctly, it’s much worse without the benefit of design. Seeing this twitter.com login screen dramatizes the importance of good web design. Had Twitter been set-up by a programmer alone, and not infused with it’s quirky and playful brand, it would have been doomed.

Imagine seeing all the text-only posts, without avatars and defaulting to some sort of ugly typeface. Imagine the login and home pages as just stripped down forms. The idea of Twitter is pretty geeky and without the friendliness of its bird, its bright color palette, and the puffy, rounded logotype it would have been like a really bad list-serve of old.

Twitter’s Brand Identity Is What Ensures Its Success

But no. Twitter’s brand is approachable, gentle and amiable. The bird is cute and the type is oh-so-sweet. It doesn’t scare away the non-geeks.

Personal Branding As Well

Another element that shows the importance of design to Twitter’s success, is the way each user can customize their own profile page. By adding a custom background and adjusting the styles, each user can become their own web designer and create a unique identity for themselves. It’s an instant way for someone to start building a personal brand image for themselves. And again, there is a lot very fun, and friendly designs out there. Users seem to be taking a cue from Twitter’s own identity and not taking their designs too seriously.

Do you use Twitter? Do you think you would have started to use Twitter if the design were stripped out? Let me know via the comments, or via twitter @VisibleLogic

P.S. I just had it happen again, and here’s the screen shot. Not even a background image this time!

Twitter.com without the css style sheet (Click to enlarge)

Twitter.com without the css style sheet (Click to enlarge)

One comment

  1. DeAnne | August 28, 2009 at 7:30 am

    This is like catching a website naked, it’s pretty awkward.

    On a similar note I was thinking the other day about how now that twitter is so popular their logo or twitter bird image seems to be mimicked pretty frequently for various web things. I then read on WIRED.com that the image is actually a stock photo and that anyone can use it with the same licensing as twitter. It’s seems weird to me something as big as twitter wouldn’t work to protect their identity to make it solely their own.

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