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Twitterrific 3 for the iPad: change, tough love, and better

TJ Luoma, @tjluoma

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Here's a good sign that you've made some pretty significant changes to your application: three different people from the company write three different posts about the new design. That's what the folks from Iconfactory did about Twitterrific 3. David Lanham wrote about Redesigning Twitterrific, not just the timeline, but also the settings, contacts, filtering, and more to "optimize the user experience." Gedeon Maheux wrote about Twitterrific's Tough Love, and realizing that Twitterrific had gotten out of hand, along with the steps they took to make it better rather than just pile more on top of it. Craig Hockenberry wrote about not designing for early adopters, whose expectations may limit making something better by expecting you to simply build on what you had before.

I was an early adopter of Twitterrific on the Mac, and still compare all other applications to Twitterrific when I am using them. When I first heard about the changes in Twitterrific 3, I was sure I was going to hate them. After having used it for awhile, I still think Twitterrific is my favorite iPad app. I've been using it since I bought my iPad back in mid-June, and although I've tried some of the others, I keep coming back to Twitterrific. Many others have just started using Twitterrific 3 for the iPhone or iPad because Twitter turned off "basic authorization" logins. All Twitter applications now must use Twitter's (severely, thoroughly flawed) OAuth system for logging in.

Read on for my thoughts on the app, as well as what TUAW heard directly from Iconfactory about the future of the app.

Twitterrific 2 is dead, as are any other Twitter clients which haven't been updated (like that old copy of Birdfeed that you've been hanging onto). Apple would not allow Iconfactory to keep both in the App Store, so on August 31st, they found they had to use Twitterrific 3. Even though version 3 had been out since late June, this came as a surprise since most people were not aware of the changes that Twitter was forcing on users. Since Apple still does not have a way to do upgrades for existing customers, that meant that existing users who had paid for Twitterrific 2 had to either use the free, ad-sponsored version of Twitterrific 3 or pay $5 for the premium version.

As most of you know, $5 spent at the App Store is roughly equivalent to the price of a black-market kidney from a 6'10 blue-eyed blond vegan. As if that wasn't enough, Twitterrific 3 includes several significant UI changes, and I think we all know how the general population reacts to change. Let's just say there were a lot of unhappy people acting as if the folks at Iconfactory had insulted their mothers, their grandmothers, and their children.

Fortunately the so-called Twitter "OAuthpocalype" has passed and cooler heads have prevailed. People who have spent some time with Twitterrific 3 have started to realize how much thought and care went into its development and design. It even has complete VoiceOver support. If you tried the official Twitter app for iPad and found it looked way too cluttered for your tastes, I highly encourage you to checkout Twitterrific 3. The ads are very minimal, and I say that as someone who really dislikes ads. Test it out and see if you like it. If you used Twitterrific 2, yes it's going to be a big change, but there are a lot of people who are realizing with a little time that change can be good.

I have only two complaints. The first is that Twitterrific for Mac is now really, really outdated. The Iconfactory folks are aware of this and have promised an update. We're told it's coming along but not yet ready for beta testing. The second complaint is that the iPhone and iPad client still has a maddening delay when it comes to loading Twitter user icons. This has been an issue for a long time, and I really hoped that it would be fixed with this overhaul, but it isn't.

Iconfactory also told TUAW that version 3.0.2 has been submitted to the App Store which includes some important bug fixes. They are also bringing back the font size controls, based on feedback from users. Those settings and many others are found in the Settings application, not within the app itself.

When I saw the redesign of Twitterrific 3, my initial reaction was negative. I saw everything that wasn't there, that wasn't where I expected it to be. Some handy features seemed to be further away or gone completely. But the more I used it, the more I realized that it was focused on what most people would want to do most of the time.

Twitter clients have been a place where new UIs are born. Some of them are so great that they instantly become the way that we think things should be done (i.e. Tweetie 2's "pull down to refresh"). Some of them throw everything at the user at once: bells, whistles, kitchen sink, and all. Some go so minimal that it's hard to even know what's going on. Where do you find the balance? For me, Twitterrific 3 has nailed it.

I love Twitterrific's unified feed which shows my timeline, replies/mentions, and direct messages all together. I don't know why more apps don't offer this view. Of course you can focus just on mentions or DMs if you prefer, but for regular reading, one screen really is better than three. I also like the fact that Twitterrific makes it easy to send a Direct Message. Most other apps seem to stick that option away under two or more taps. With Twitterrific I can send a message as easily as I can send a reply.

As I mentioned, it's free to try with minimal ads, so if the official Twitter app left you underwhelmed and overstimulated, checkout Twitterrific for iPhone and iPad. Note that it is a universal app, so you only have to buy it once for all your iOS devices.

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