Fix iPad app interface layout

In version 3.6.1, the interface layout of the Hootsuite app has gone from bad to worse. This needs to be fixed urgently.

Let's review:

1. The left third of the screen (actually closer to two fifths) is given over to the list of feeds. This is essentially dead space, not least because the column is completely oversized for what it is: unless you have _very_ long feed names, half of this column will always be empty. Instead, a feed selector could be hidden in a pop-out list that only appears when required; there is absolutely no need to have this permanently on screen. Look, for example, at the Feedly app to see how modern, sensible interface design handles this.

2. The remainder of the screen is reserved for the selected feed itself. This, too, has been making exceptionally poor use of available screen space for a very long time; in the latest version, though, things have gotten far worse still. Rather than arranging a number of display fields and functions next to each other to save space, they're now placed underneath each other: we have the name of the sender, a list of who retweeted the message, the text of the message, and then a row of oversized buttons (reply, retweet, etc.) that waste an enormous amount of space. Even on an iPad Pro, in landscape aspect, the app manages to fit (at best) six tweets on a single screen - that's just embarrassing, and an professional interface designer who had a hand in designing this app should hang their head in shame.

So, what could be done to fix this colossal waste of screen real estate, then ?

1. First, as suggested above, fold away the list of feeds when not in use. Follow standard practice and add a button that shows/hides the list on demand. The newsreader app Feedly does it. Email apps like Outlook do it. To-do list app Wunderlist does it. This is now a common feature of any sensible app design, and there's no acceptable reason why Hootsuite shouldn't be able to maximise usable screen space in the same way.

2. Bring back the multi-column design of previous Hootsuite apps. The very point of using Hootsuite - rather than simply the Twitter or Facebook apps themselves - is to monitor and engage with multiple feeds at the same time. This is the unique selling point of the Hootsuite Web dashboard, and it used to be the USP of the Hootsuite iPad app as well. The removal of the multi-column design a few years ago was fundamentally ignorant of your users' needs, and roundly criticised by them at the time; as usually, however, Hootsuite failed to take note of these complaints. Subsequent versions of the app at least still managed to display a good clutch of messages on the screen at once; the latest version of the iPad app fails to manage even this.

Especially in landscape aspect, columns are, of course, the most effective way to display short messages; they maximise screen utilisation and aid quick reading as the eye doesn't need to move as far horizontally on each line. That's why newspapers are using columns, of course. As previous Hootsuite apps have proven, you can comfortably fit three parallel columns on an iPad screen; this probably increases to four on an iPad Pro. A professional interface designer should not need to be told this.

3. Rearrange the display of individual messages. Each post could be arranged on two rows: a header with sender name and message date, followed by the body of the message itself. Buttons for interacting with the message could be arranged to the side of the message, to save space; arranged vertically, icons for @reply, retweet, more would easily fit to the right of the two major rows that make up a message. Alternatively, of course, there could simply be a single button that, when tapped, reveals all available interaction options.


The aim in all of this should be to maximise the number of posts that can be comfortably displayed on screen, without overloading the user. Again, people pay for Hootsuite because they are pro users who want to follow a number of feeds at the same time, and at present the app fails miserably at meeting their needs - in marked contrast to the Web dashboard.

If even on an iPad Pro, it is possible to see only around five messages from one feed at the same time, that is an abject failure of user interface design. Instead, it should be easily possible to see three or four feeds, each showing some 10-15 messages, without getting lost in the detail. Other apps, from different fields, manage to show a great amount of content at the same time - why has the Hootsuite app failed so exceptionally hard at this, and why does it keep doing so in spite of all the user criticism ?
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Comments

  • This!! Especially point 1.
    It’s inconceivable that Hootsuite wouldn’t enable toggling to hide/show the left column which is dedicated solely to listing feeds. What a waste of precious space!
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