When it comes to user interfaces (UI), the “U” should also stand for “useful.” Flashy is no substitute.

When I heard yesterday that Twitter had “upgraded” the UI for both “Following” and “Follow” pages for users logged in at twitter.com, I assumed this would mean an improvement in usability and usefulness. 

At first glance, the new Following/Followers pages certainly look better, and seem to have added features:

  1. You can choose between “Expanded” and “List” views. List give you just the Twitter ID and “actual” names, while Expanded adds location and the most recent tweet.
  2. Two new buttons to the right of each follower: “Follow” and and options button with drop down choices to reply, direct message, follow, or block the follower.

So everything looks nicer now, but is it more useful?

No. In fact, it’s less useful! Here are things we lose with the new interface:

  1. Blocking a user now takes two clicks instead of one.
  2. You can no longer easily see who is following you back (used to be indicated by a Direct Message link next to the name).
  3. Seeing the most recent Tweet is nice, but would be more useful to see the user’s bio. Now have to click through to their page to see that.

Thankfully, all these functions and more are handled (and handled well, in most cases) by third-party Twitter applications. The best I’ve run across for the functions mentioned above is Refollow.com. Please let me know of others you like in the comments.

Sadly, the new additions at Twitter.com do have one useful function: good teaching example of what happens when “new feature” means more flash but less usefulness.