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Why Autocomplete in Twitter Mobile App Sucks

Autocomplete seems very easy, isn’t it? But most of mobile apps that implement it offer a pretty poor user experience.

Let’s look at the twitter mobile application. It proposes autocompletion when you create a new tweet. The idea is to make suggestions after the ‘#’ and ‘@’ characters. It’s actually very nice to gain time, especially when you’re tweeting with a small virtual keyboard… but it sucks!

Avoid Roundtrips to Server for Autocompletion

The first reason is that when you’re on the go, latency is often too high on mobile, leading to unusable autocomplete – well except if you’re very slow to type. Twitter developers chose to develop this functionality server-side, probably with lucene, and to expose it via APIs to their mobile app. That’s good for reusability but not so much for usability…

Beware of the Suggestions Ranking

The second reason is the ranking is just obscure. Yesterday I sent a tweet to @cocoanetics and the screenshot on the left shows the suggestions I got when typing “@c”. I would greatly prefer to see twitter handles before names and it would never come to my mind to look for “Marie Cecile” with “@c”!

Explain the Matches

Last but not least there is no visual feedback to show me why the app proposes a given user. So ok let me think… the ‘c’ was reffering to “Cécile” in “Marie-Cécile”! A bit far fetched!

Now let’s imagine the same application with intant autocompletion even offline, good ranking and visual feedback… Appealing, isn’t it? Twitter if you listen, check it up, I’m sure you’ll love Algolia Search!