Designing for sharing

@Kevin | Development

One of the best things about the social web is that you can share what you find with other people. Sharing is such a basic concept, such an easy thing to do, a thoughtful thing to do, and a fun thing to do. The problem with sharing though is that a lot of sites to a very poor job in allowing users to do that.

Here are some simple tips to make sharing easier on your website.

1) Enable the ability

This probably shouldn’t need to be said but it is the proper place to start. Obviously not presenting the ability at all is a problem besides that though a lot of people are blinded with new features and forget about basics. Users need to be able to share your content and it is great that people maybe able to share your content on numerous social media sites but sharing content does not just mean social media sharing. I see so many sites with only social media buttons on it but they forget about e-mailing and printing. People still do both of these and in a great number; while you may feel it is outdated you need to remember that your users may not.

2) Present the options at the right time

One of my biggest peeves is people that give me the sharing options on sites before I read the content. You see a lot of sites that are aimed at manipulating Digg and Reddit that do this. (Some also do this out of ignorance as well.) You can tell though the sites that are actually thinking about building an audience versus getting a cheap pop in traffic because they have their sharing options at the end of the post when the reader determines if the content is worth it or not.

3) Don’t overwhelm me with choices

I am not a fan of the sharethis plugin. Not because I think it doesn’t function well but because I have found through usage on a lot of sites that it doesn’t perform as well as stand alone buttons. That is why I chose the sociable plugin this time. Now with the notable plugin I could list out a few dozen social networking sites. I see sites do this all the time. When you present the user with too many options to share it becomes overwhelming and it also makes it hard to find the networks they may use.

Pick a few sites, test them out, and cycle in new ones that people may use. Keep it to a low number so people can share your content easily.

4) Think about the user not yourself

This really is the lesson to take away from all of this. Too many times people get too excited about the latest gadgets or tools for their blog. They get eager to try it out, they get excited to deploy it, but in the end they aren’t thinking about if it is going to help the user out and if they are going to enjoy it.

Remember this is the social web, you are sharing, you are communicating, don’t put up walls that make it hard for someone to do.

What is your favorite way to share content?