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This is something that has bothered me a lot recently, and I question whether it's good UX design or not. I'm not a huge Twitter user and very rarely log into the service. However, I sometimes am curious what the general consensus is on a particular hot topic, or if something of local significance is being talked about on the site. As such, I like to search Twitter now and again to see where people's opinion's lie. However, I don't see anywhere on the site's main page a search option, nor any links that get you to such an option. Granted, if you are signed into the service, a search box is clearly present at the top of the screen. However, I'm curious if this design of requiring you to log in first ultimately hurts the user experience?

I know you can go directly to http://twitter.com/search to get to a search box without logging in, but I really don't understand why they don't link to that on their main page. Are there good reasons from a UX perspective as to why you would do that?

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I think it is more an issue of performance. Have you ever seen the famous "fail whale" on the Twitter site? Every now and then twitter os "over capacity". Displaying the most recent tweets to every user is a tough job, seen from the infrastructure perspective. So I am pretty sure they try to optimize performance whereever possible. Now searching something in a really big database is a very "expensive" task.

My conclusion is that they don't show it to everyone at first sight to decrease the search traffic and improe performance. Besides, a well-performing website has a better ux than an bad performance website, so maybe hiding the search box for some make a better ux for all the other users.

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I would rather think it's a question of marketing than saving performance. "Forcing" users to register to grow their user base. –  AndroidHustle Jun 18 '12 at 14:26
    
As @Derek wrote, you can access the search page, even if you are not logged in. It's just not linked or displayed directly on the page. But maybe registered users see it as a comfort feature that they can see it directly :-) –  Michael Jun 18 '12 at 14:30
    
yes, and registering to the site (something that "all" service providers are after) will provide a user with that comfort. It's simply a way to get more users to sign up to the site. I'm sorry but I don't buy the performance argument, maybe I'm wrong but I don't think so. –  AndroidHustle Jun 18 '12 at 14:44
    
I agree that this may well be about managing users' expectations. For whatever reasons (poor computational resources could be one), Twitter search can be really quite flakey, such as not showing all relevant tweets — and these days the extent to which you can search back in time is very limited, so maybe they just don't want to make the search feature prominent when it has such capacity to disappoint? –  finiteattention Jun 18 '12 at 17:03
    
The points all three of you make are thought-provoking and probably all contribute to why the search feature is hidden. Michael pointed out a performance aspect that I hadn't thought of before, while @AndroidHustle's point about marketing is similar to what I've been suspecting. (On the other hand, Twitter may simply be thinking that no one wants to search through tweets if they don't already belong to the site, so they may have tucked that functionality away to keep the front page design simple.) And finiteattention - that's an excellent point about managing user expectations. –  Derek Jun 18 '12 at 19:05
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