Why Twitter's New Website Looks Like an iPad App -- and Why Others Will Follow

Last Updated Sep 15, 2010 1:49 PM EDT

Twitter has redesigned its website to look like the slick, dual-paned iPad app. It feels like the cart driving the horse, but rapid changes in how consumers get their media show that designing websites to look like apps will soon become the rule rather than the exception.

To understand this further, it's important to separate the medium from the delivery system. At this week's announcement, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams said that only 16 percent of new Twitter users come through the popular mobile apps and a high 78 percent still through Twitter.com. The unaddressed and, perhaps, untraceable portion is the Twitter users who visit Twitter.com through a mobile device. For instance, when Twitter notifies a customer that they have a new follower, the email link sends them to the website -- not the app -- and the mobile user would be sent to the same dated website. For this audience, it seems awkward to have a mobile website that looks like Web 2.0 when the iPad app is twice as slick.

It's easy to see how similar websites would follow Twitter and model their site design after their apps. In fact, the holistic approach may be one of the reasons Facebook has been so slow to come out with an iPad version -- something founder Mark Zuckerberg confirmed was in the works just a few months ago. The web page and the mobile edition were once two separate entities, but now they must be thought of together. As with the Twitter example, consumers may expect more from the website once they're exposed to the app.

The tablet wars coming this holiday season will push the app vs. main website conflict into the spotlight. More portable computers from Google (GOOG), Samsung and others means more media consumption on app-focused devices. The bar will be raised for what a traditional website should look like.

Photo courtesy of Twitter
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