Warm Gun: Designing for Mobile

by October 11, 2010

In his Designing for Mobile talk at the Warm Gun Design Conference in San Francisco, Twitter's Mobile UX lead, Leland Rechis talked about how Twitter approaches mobile design. Here's my notes from his talk:

  • Twitter thinks about mobile in the physical world. How do you interact with Twitter on mobile? Service, notifications, versatility, integration.
  • 46% of Twitter usage is on mobile. Mobile web site is 15% of total usage. 16% of sign-ups start on mobile. SMS is the number three way people use Twitter.
  • Twitter only has 140 characters so it is focused on simplicity, making that ubiquitous, and getting ubiquity by being fast.
  • Twitter is a platform to push content around really quickly.
  • While there are a lot of devices out there, Twitter really likes devices with keyboards as they are really engaged on the service.


  • SMS is not dead. Every phone has SMS. They have built in notifications. 90+% of SMS messages are read in under 3 minutes.
  • When there are no pixels (SMS), you have to think about the service. Need to design the user experience of the copy and be really consistent. SMS is not very good about be transactional –need to create designs to account for this.
  • When launched new SMS user experience, customer support for SMS went down drastically.
  • Tried a few different ways to integrate mobile number on Twitter. 1) asked people to send special code to Twitter. 2) asked people to text “start” to Twitter. Neither of these worked. Instead ask people for mobile number to send them an SMS. This approach worked best.
  • Fast follow allows people to text Twitter to get started. You don’t need an account to get updates.
  • Japan has no SMS but they love Twitter. They used the built-in short mail feature on phones to allow people to use Twitter.
  • Lots more coming with SMS and notifications.


  • Mobile Web sites are infinitely deployable. And can be scaled up with HTML5. HTML is also good for reaching older phones with XHTML2 browsers and can be localized.
  • What are people doing with their tweets. 25% have URLs –what to do with that?
  • The iPad is a great consumption device. The Twitter iPad app is based off the model of “multiple pages on a surface”. On the iPad you can move these around with touch. Core value of the design is “no penalty to cliking”. This allows people to explore. Up and down is time. Left and right is exploration.


  • How do you share things on Twitter while you are out in the world?
  • On Blackberry, Twitter is set up a core sending service. It is not a separate screen so you can share from anywhere.