Thinking about Long Sidebars

Design

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Jia

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May 27, 2024

I think this might be one of the most interesting thoughts I've had in a while.

As a content creator, I post a lot of things on X/Twitter (we're going to refer to it as X for the sake of this article). Recently, they've been pushing out a ton of features. Premium, Grok, Articles, Monetization, Verified Organizations, the list goes on. What used to be a simple sidebar consisting of just a couple items has become the most long and exhaustive list you can imagine.

Here's all the elements that currently belong in the sidebar on desktop, as a Premium+ user:

Yeah, pretty exhaustive.

It's become a design challenge for a site like X — especially now as the feature selection has become more and more exhaustive — to keep something like this useable and simple enough to understand for a normal user.

I do realize that I still don't know the perfect solution to this, but here are some ideas that I and a couple of followers came up with in the process.

I first tried to simplify this myself, though only coming up with a few ideas.


Idea 1: Unify all the post buttons together, adding a dropdown for "Articles" and "Spaces".

Combining similar features and creating something that made features not only easier to find but also more intuitive. Why didn't they already do this? Who knows.


Idea 2: Hide useless features under "more".

I tried to do this to some extent, while others wanted to seemingly put absolutely everything under the "more" option.

This proves to be quite the bad idea — there's way too many things under "more" once you start hiding — and those features that are somewhat used, such as lists and communities, might not be something people want hidden.

A lot of people suggested to combine other features as well, such as:

  • "Messages" and "Notifications" as "Inbox"

  • "Bookmarks" and "Lists" into "Collections"

And even obvious things such as moving the "Profile" button into the already-existent profile picture + username in the bottom left corner.

A user also suggested that as X was becoming an actual "everything app" with the popularization of a variety of media, including live-streaming and articles, that it should probably become more like Microsoft 365 and spread their services out across many different apps.

It's probably not what Elon's trying to achieve with this app, but it is a genius idea if we someday get to the point of separating "text twitter", "article twitter", "video twitter", and "streaming twitter", if that makes any sense.

At the end of the day, the best option right now might as well be to allow users to customize their sidebar and provide toggles for each feature to show up pinned in the sidebar.

If they did have that feature, I'd probably just have these few:

  • Home

  • Notifications

  • Messages

  • Grok

  • Bookmarks

  • Profile

Everything else should be just as easily accessible, though not as hidden as the "more" menu. Maybe a more legible dropdown or an expandable sidebar with more features in a long, scrollable list would be great.

I'm still open to conversations about this UX nightmare and how it can be improved. I know I probably can't cause a redesign to happen, but it would be something interesting to think about as they continue to add more and more features.

The icons used in the recreation of the sidebar are from Saman Icons. Thanks Anton for these wonderfully cute icons :)

I'd love to have a chat 💬 about your next big idea.

Jia — I dream about pretty things ☁️

© 2024

Jia — I dream about pretty things ☁️

© 2024

Jia — I dream about pretty things ☁️

© 2024

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