It seems that small interface changes are rolled out to Twitter on a fairly regular basis. This morning, for example, I was greeted with a new “Everyone” tab. I was also disappointed to discover that an interface improvement that was introduced a few weeks ago has now been removed. As interaction tweaks go, this was a very small thing but it’s something I appreciated very much. Let me explain…

When I’m reading a long-ish page on the Web, rather than move my cursor over to the scrollbar, position it just so and click to scroll down see the next screenful of content, I’ll just tap the spacebar. In just about every browser I know, this will scroll the content by one screenful. This flow is interrupted if a website “helpfully” puts the focus into a form element when the page loads. This isn’t an issue on, say, Google because Google doesn’t have more than one screenful of content. But it is an issue on Twitter. When Twitter loads, the What are you doing? input box is automatically given focus. If I want to scroll down below the fold, I must either use the scrollbar or click out of the form element and then use the spacebar. I can understand the rationale behind this. Chances are most people want to get into that form element and start typing …at least on the front page.

The interface improvement that Twitter introduced a while back was to take that automatic focus away if I was on any page other than the first. In other words, if I was clicking back through older pages to catch up what my friends have been doing, the focus was no longer automatically given to the form element. Brilliant! This awareness of context reminds me of what Eric wrote when they were adding print stylesheets to A List Apart:

These print styles are only used on articles, which are the pages that are most likely to be printed.

Perhaps through oversight or maybe through deliberate choice, Twitter now places the focus in that form element on every page. What a pain! And what a shame that a great example of context-sensitive interaction has been removed.

I hereby invoke my bitching ‘n’ moaning mojo: c’mon Twitter, do the right thing.

While I’m at it…

Oi! Flickr! What’s up with the automatic focus in the search form on search results pages? Explain that to me. ‘Cause from where I’m sitting, it’s just downright annoying.

Have you published a response to this? :