Stop hurting my browser

I love Tweetdeck. Well, I love parts of Tweetdeck. Specifically the side-by-side view makes it really easy to see my stream, my replies, people linking to my website and people talking about Twilio on one screen and I haven't found another tool that can do it. But Tweetdeck also breaks my browser in really annoying ways. Here are the most annoying examples.

Use of outline:none on buttons.

When you tab through a form, Tweetdeck doesn't show you which button is currently focused on the screen. I tend to stay on the keyboard wherever I can because switching to the mouse is so slow. It's much faster to fill out forms tabbing with the keyboard than clicking around with the mouse.

Operating systems have highlighters that show you which button is currently focused - on Mac OS X they show a blue glow around the box that's currently focused, like this:

Focused text box

Clearly you can see the US Dollar field is focused. Now if I tab again, the "Measurement Units" button is focused:

Focused select box

Tweetdeck doesn't like having outlines on their buttons. This is what you get if you tab from the "Password" field:

Focused password field

See how the focus disappears:

Focus disappears

It's not that annoying there. Where it's really annoying is when you are trying to post a new tweet. In GMail when I press Tab from the message body, the focus jumps straight to the "Send" button:

Gmail focused send button

This is perfect because it makes sending emails really fast - I just hit Tab, Enter and the email's sent and I'm back in my inbox.

When you press Tab + Enter from the "Tweet" field in Tweetdeck, instead of posting your Tweet, they jump you to the Camera button:

tweet text focus, tab reveals..

tweetdeck camera upload page

Normally this is annoying, but it's not that annoying; I can just Tab multiple times to get to the button. But Tweetdeck also hides the focus with outline:none in their CSS, so you can't actually tell which button is currently focused. This means you can't figure out how many times you need to Tab through to get to the Tweet button.

It's really not that hard to fix, and it won't make a lick of difference to the mouse-clicking hoi polloi. Just change the HTML tabindex of the form, and add a focused style for the button.

Using target=_blank for links.

When I read my stream, I read through all the Tweets first, opening up interesting links in new tabs to read later. I don't want to constantly be jumping back and forth between my stream and articles, because I lose my place in the stream.

Fortunately, browsers offer two methods for opening new tabs in the background. One is to hold Cmd while clicking on a link. The second is to right click and press "Open in new tab."

Neither of these is good enough for Tweetdeck; they force you to immediately switch out of your stream into new articles by adding a target="_blank" attribute to all links in the app. target="_blank" links override your browser's default behavior and switch your focus immediately to the new tab or window.

The reason they attach target=_blank attributes to their URL's is so that all of their links open in a different tab, instead of the same and Tweetdeck stays open in the browser. But that's also evil, because it breaks a user's expectation about what's going to happen when they click on the link. I want to open links in a different tab, I just don't want them to be focused, and Tweetdeck makes this impossible.

Completely breaking when Javascript is disabled.

Lately I've been playing with disabling Javascript in my browser. Mostly I am disappointed in how much of the Internet breaks when you disable Javascript, especially pages that only show content like news articles or blog posts.

It's nice at least when a site includes a <noscript> tag telling you that you need to enable Javascript for the site to function. Tweetdeck doesn't even do this. Here is what you get if you browse to web.tweetdeck.com with Javascript disabled:

Empty Tweetdeck screen with Javascript disabled

That's a blank screen, with no notice or indication that your browser didn't crap out.

They also detect your user agent, and error out if you try to access Tweetdeck with Firefox or Opera, without even making an attempt to display the page. I can understand not supporting IE, but I don't understand why they can't even try Firefox.

Unsupported browser

Conclusion

Tweetdeck is good enough that I'll continue to use it, but there are some simple things that make my experience a little miserable every time I click on a link or try to write a new Tweet. I wish Twitter as a whole cared more about accessibility and usability for all of its users (here's another example); with an estimated 100 million active users, even a small percentage of users who lack the fine motor control to use a mouse (or even a keyboard) is still a large number of people that are affected by problems like this.

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