Twitter Spaces’ Sensory Guide & Social Narrative – Design

The Twitter Spaces help center displays the sensory guide for joining and hosting a space, and a social narrative for joining and hosting a space

Twitter Spaces’ Sensory Guide & Social Narrative


We designed and evaluated a sensory guide and social narrative to support neurodivergent users in auditory social media environments.

This work was published in the Twitter Help Center, a highly-trafficked site that has been viewed over 1.8 million times since we launched. The work was also presented at ASSETS 2021.

→ Go to Sensory Guide & Social Narrative


Lead accessibility designer and researcher

This is really cool, I’m very aware that how I interact with social media is unique to my access needs as a neurodivergent person, yet nowhere seems to acknowledge this, until now!!


1 approval point for Twitter for this accessibility move. As a #neurodiverse person that is extremely sensory sensitive, it’s a huge bonus to see that a guide to Twitter spaces was written by & for neurodiverse people. The tips are fantastic & super helpful FYI.




Neurodivergent users lack support in social media environments, where sensory stimuli and social contexts can be complex and uncertain.


  1. Determine whether neurodivergent users want sensory guides and social narratives adapted for social media
  2. Find out if users find them helpful in setting expectations for social media interaction

Design Process

We started with a neurodiverse team, some identifying as neurodivergent, others as neurotypical.

Sensory Guide

  1. We defined primary steps in the user journey, like un-muting or leaving
    • The columns listed sensory input categories
    • 3 categories were new, not seen in classroom/museum sensory guides: motion level, imagery level, information level

Social Narrative

  1. We used classroom/museum guidelines to design a social narrative specifically adapted for social media environments
  2. Over 4 iterations, we reduced the 77 steps in the user journey to the 19 focused on social context
  3. Each step described how Twitter Spaces might feel

Figma Prototype

A sensory guide shows a table of all the actions a user can take and what the sound, motion, imagery, and information level will be for each action.
A social narrative details steps of what it will feel like to join a space, including informing users that people they don't know might join, how to find an active space, and what sensory input they'll experience when they first join a space.

Usability Testing


We sent a screener survey to ∼20,000 individuals to find current iOS Twitter users who self-identifed as neurodivergent. We received about 200 responses, selecting 9 neurodivergent participants (2 non- binary, 3 female, 3 male; ages 26-55).


We provided informed consent before conducting 60-minute remote, semi-structured interviews using Google Meet. We recorded audio and video, transcribed them, and stored the data on a secure cloud server. We then used tasks and thinking aloud.


  1. Read the social narrative and describe what information you think you can find
  2. Try to understand the social narrative and describe what you think you can do with it
  3. Tour the sensory guide and describe what you are finding
  4. Describe the sensory guide categories and what you think they mean
  5. Use the guide to tell me how you think captions affect a space and what it might feel like to join as a listener or a host

Key Questions

  1. What do you think you can do with the sensory guide?
  2. Will you describe any areas of the social narrative that you had questions about?
  3. We asked participants how likely they would be to use the tools with a 10-point Likert scale: 1 being not likely and 10 being very likely


Participants were “likely” to use the sensory guide and social narrative

  • We used a 10-point Likert scale, 1 being “not likely” and 10 being “very likely” to use the two tools
  • Participants reported a median score of 8 and a mean of 8.1 for the sensory guide and a median score of 9.5 and mean of 8.25 for the social narrative

The sensory guide and social narrative set expectations for the participants

Sensory Guide

The majority of participants {P2, P3, P5, P6, P7, P8} were able to describe how it set expectations for an unfamiliar feature.

P7: “If something was a high trigger point, I would check it [the sensory guide] out and I would not go there.”

(Race 2021, 3)

P2: “I would use all of the descriptions of the sound levels. For me, that’s really helpful. I don’t like loud sounds.”

(Race 2021, 3)

Social Narrative

Most participants {P1, P2, P4, P5, P6, P7} could explain its effectiveness within social contexts

P5: “It set rules” and it helped them understand “What’s my place in this space?”

(Race 2021, 3)

P6: “Especially for someone who has a little bit of social anxiety, it makes it [Spaces] more understanding [sic]. It calms my nerves as far as what to expect.”

(Race 2021, 3)

Final Designs


Social Media Sensory Guide

  1. Include sensory stimuli levels for sound, motion, image density, and information
  2. Set sensory stimuli levels by comparing them to the baseline of when a computing device is turned off
  3. Consider how additional modes, like closed captions, might affect sensory stimuli levels

Social Media Social Narrative

  1. Identify your audience and focusing on their experience
  2. Write the narrative in the first person
  3. Identify sensory experiences and points of decision-making
  4. Show how to enter and exit an experience
  5. Provide information about how to handle harmful or challenging social situations such as muting, blocking, reporting, etc.
  6. Keep the narrative short, positive, and direct