Designing for delight in tweets, timelines & teams

How do you design for a social platform like Twitter in a way that delights devoted users while also making it easy for new people to join the flock? That’s the challenge Erin Moore, a senior product designer at Twitter and Delight 2015 speaker, spends her days working on. “A lot of people wonder what designers at Twitter do,” Erin laughs, noting that it’s not always bad if someone doesn’t notice the design.

For the last eight months Erin has been focused on Twitter’s direct messaging feature, looking at ways to improve the private channel for people who aren’t comfortable tweeting publicly. But Erin has spent the majority of her time at Twitter working to make the river of tweets and timelines more engaging and easier to consume.

“I was taking the tweet and saying ‘what are all the possible things that need to go in here’ and designing the systems to make those interactions better,” she says. “A lot of that was looking at how tweets need to work and what tweets need to do, and then coming up with new interactions to solve those problems.”

When Erin takes the stage at Delight she’ll be talking about what informs and inspires her approach to experience design—including a few things that might surprise you.


How do you anticipate and address the pushback you get from Twitter users? Or do you just assume people will get used to it?

I don’t think our default is ever to assume that people will get used to it. The really great thing about working for Twitter is that you design a product where people can voice their opinions. It’s different from getting that feedback secondhand. Whenever we launch something, we’re hearing about it the minute we launch. I think a lot of it is being thoughtful and very intentional about the things we’re changing, the ways we’re changing them, and really trying to bring people along in that process. That requires doing a lot of thinking ahead of time, weighing how it will affect all users, and making decisions that solve their needs.


How are you able to incorporate the real-time feedback from users?

We’re very aware of the conversation that’s happening on Twitter about the things we change, and we definitely listen to it. We also look at how people are using it. We’ve got a lot of input—between research and data, there’s no shortage of feedback. But we have to compare that with people’s goals and design a solution that really fits all those needs.


What does designing for delight mean to you and how does it influence the way you approach your work?

For me, something is delightful when it impacts my life in a really meaningful way. Those things that bring me a lot of delight make me feel more alive. Sometimes it’s just walking down the street and something smells like honeysuckle, and you say, “Oh my gosh that is so amazing because it reminds me of this time in my childhood.” Other times it’s on Twitter and I get the right information at the right time, and it becomes very meaningful.

Delight is really about designing for and recognizing these moments where people just get it, and it’s impactful in a way that really connects with their own personal experience. What that means for me as a designer is thinking about how to make things accessible to people’s daily lives, no matter what their daily life looks like, so they’re able to recognize and engage and connect with it.


You’ve said a lot of this has to do with looking around and paying attention. What is your method for doing that?

It always starts with asking questions. Paying attention doesn’t just mean recognizing things that are different from what you expected or might be surprising. It’s also taking in everything that’s around you and saying, “What is this supposed to mean and why is this important in this context?”

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling and working abroad. And I think when you put yourself in situations that are different you force yourself to pay attention in different ways. You’re putting yourself in places that make you recognize that the rest of the world is not like your world, and if you’re going to design for the rest of the world, you really have to pay attention to what that world is like. The only way you’re going to learn about that is by being open to what those experiences have to give you, but also really engaging in those environments that are different and asking, “Why is this different, why do you think that way, how can I contribute to this, why do you think this is important?”

Whether I’m in San Francisco or somewhere around the world I start by asking questions. That’s the only way we can learn to empathize with people in places that are different from us.


How has your experience as a college athlete and coach influenced the way you think about designing digital products?

How long do you have? This is a dangerous question for me because I get so excited about it. I never set out to be a designer in tech. I went to art school. I wanted to be an artist, and I was an athlete. So I always thought I would coach, and that would be my profession, and then on the side I would be creative and make art.

What I loved about coaching is that you had to really identify what made things work and then you had to create pathways to make them better. There’s a huge amount of learning how people interact together as teams that has influenced how I design for online and digital communities. And so for me, coaching was about creating the conditions where somebody can be most successful and where their behaviors and interactions make the most sense.

I always say that coaching was the best UX job I ever had, because every day I woke up and had to look at human behavior. I had to look at what my athletes are doing, how they are doing it really well, what problems they’re having, and how to create scenarios where we can test things out. Once we test things out, we immediately identify ways to make them better, and once we make them better, we have a much clearer picture of what our goal needs to be.


What are you doing that lights you up right now, what are you most excited about?

We’re doing a lot of stuff inside Twitter right now around diversity and building a community of strong women in UX. And that’s really exciting to me. I work with a great group of women in Twitter, and there’s something very inspiring about working with a strong group of designers who care about diversity in tech. Of all the problems I am solving in Twitter the product and in Twitter the company and working with teams, that’s something that every day I’m able to look around and say, “Not only are we making this amazing product and working toward these amazing things, but we’re building this diverse team of amazing people who can do that.”


You’ve had so many exotic adventures, from working in Pakistan to riding your bike across the country. What’s next?

I love going places that I wouldn’t necessarily have access to and that are different from my own experience. It goes back to that idea of paying attention. This world is really big and it is ludicrous to think that our way is the only way. I don’t know what’s next, but it needs to involve a really diverse set of perspectives. And right now, honestly, that comes from being here. Silicon Valley has a crazy set of perspectives that I’ve never been around before. It means we get to work on big problems and we get to work on reaching people all around the planet who have a lot of different perspectives. The adventures in my life usually come unexpectedly and I just jump on them.

Watch Erin on the Delight 2015 main stage then subscribe to Delight Digest for fresh conference news.

About Erin Moore

Erin loves getting involved on a ground level with people who love to collaborate and make amazing things happen. She’s fascinated by the ways people interact with information and loves the ways that storytelling can empower people to generate new ideas. Her holistic, people-centric approach has resulted in the creation of new data-driven experiences for Twitter’s product development teams, mobile banking services for rural populations in Pakistan, and a crisis management platform for the United Nations.

Erin also has a travel itch that she scratches as often as possible and is inspired by the ways that design and technology can connect people around the globe.