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Twitter Redesign Emphasizes Simplicity, Brand Friendliness

Twitter accounts and hashtags could be 'the new URL'

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Twitter executives unveiled a new version of the company's website and mobile apps today in San Francisco, one that should make the messaging service friendlier to both casual users and advertisers.

CEO Dick Costolo said one of redesign's big goals was to "bridge the gap between awareness of Twitter and engagement on Twitter." In other words, more and more people are becoming interested in Twitter (Costolo said in September that the service has 100 million active users), but it can be a challenge for new users to wrap their heads around concepts like the "@" symbol and the hashtag.

With the redesign, Twitter is now divided into four main areas. There's the Home section, where users see tweets from the accounts that they follow. There's the Connect section, where users can interact with and search for other users. In the Discover section, users can search find all the tweets around a specific topic, as indicated by hashtags, and view personalized news recommendations. And the Me section is where they'll find their own user profiles.

None of these are new features, exactly, but Twitter's co-founder and head of product Jack Dorsey said they should make the site's capabilities clearer to new users.

"At the core, there's less places that you have to click and less places you have to learn," he said.

This could also help with Twitter's efforts to turn accounts and hashtags into what Dorsey called "the new URL." If Disney, for example, ran a TV commercial and wanted to direct viewers to its website, in the past it would include "www.disney.com" in its ad. These days, the ad is more likely to include the @disney Twitter account or a campaign hashtag, said Dorsey. With the redesign, the ability to search for those accounts and hashtags has moved front and center.

Twitter is offering new brand pages, too. With the ability to add a larger header image to their profile pages and to highlight a specific tweet, brands may feel comfortable treating these pages as their main presence on the Web. A few partners have already created brand pages, and they will eventually become available to anyone, Twitter said, free of charge.

Beyond the new navigation, Twitter is trying to enhance the tweets themselves. The company took a step in this direction with its previous redesign, which allows user to view images and other media included in tweets without leaving Twitter, by opening those links on the side of the screen. However, Costolo said, that navigation still makes the additional content feel "disconnected from the tweet itself," so now, those links open directly within each tweet.

"The universe of the tweet is contained within the tweet itself," Costolo said.

This feature could make Twitter's Promoted Tweet ad units more compelling as well, because they're now longer limited to 140 characters of text. Tweets can now include videos, images, and more—the text is basically a caption.