Monday, September 7, 2009

Casual Gestures for Content Sharing Sites

If you're a user of Google Reader, you may have noticed all the ways you can interact with the content you're reading. I think most users are pretty confused about these options - and how they should be using them.

  • Add Star - I believe most people use this as a form of favoriting - they want some mechanism to remember this particular post, and find it easily later.
  • Share - Google using this to indicate that you want to share this item with friend that follow you on Google Reader, or in your publicly shared collection of stories.
  • Like - This is a form of light-weight commenting on a story. Whenever someone has visibility to this item, your name will appear below the item as someone who has "liked" it.
  • Share with note - This is actually quite different from "Share". When you "Share" an item, you redistribute the original item to your followers and public shared page. If you "Share with note", you are creating a new item which links to the original, and has your personal comment attached at the top.
  • Comment - Once an item is shared (by you or someone else), you and your followers can add comments to it. This can be a complete comment thread at the bottom of the story.

This is a lot of options, and seems pretty confusing for users; especially when you consider all the possible combinations of options that a user has. FriendFeed and Facebook have fewer options: basically just "Like" and "Comment"; the Share option is basically implied by these actions.

On, we have the option to Share ("Fave It"), and Favorite (a side effect of an Up Vote), as well as adding a comment (if the author is a friend of yours). Faves actually has an even finer grained permissions model once you do share something; you can save a Fave for "me", your "friends", or the "world" (public).

I would rather see a more streamlined version of this interface - one that puts the various options on a continuum and reduce the number of options that the user is presented with. I would order them this way:

  1. Favorite (or Star or Subscribe) - This should be a private gesture to help the user save the item for future reference. I view this action as an explicit "subscription" to this item. You are indicating that you want to remember this, and would also like to be able to see if there is future activity related to this item. It would also be useful to allow users to add their own tags to favorited items, to further help in searching or browsing for saved items.
  2. Like - It's very useful to have a casual gesture that is like a one-click comment. By Liking and item, you should, as a side effect, become subscribed to it just as if you had starred it. This gesture is viewable by other users who have visibility to the item.
  3. Comment - Just like "Like", with additional comment text added to your annotation. There is arguably a need to enable private comments, or those that are restricted to an inner circle of friends or co-workers.
  4. Share - This option is really only needed for "off-site" publishing of the item. For example, if you want to send it via email, or post it to twitter (if you don't automatically tweet all your Liked items.
  5. Report - In any social community, there will be some users who abuse it for self promotion or SPAM. Users should have a simple gesture to mark innappropriate items that should not be included in the current stream.

No comments: