Adding sharing functionality to everything is all the rage these days. I often hear people ask “How can we make our product social?”, or suggest that we “Add a share button“.
Focusing on sharing misses the point.
None of your users’ goal is “to share”. Sharing is a means to an end. They are sharing in order to accomplish something else. Understand what “else” is, design for it, and you’ll be creating something people really care about. Here are some examples.
Sarah shared a news article with her boyfriend about civil unrest in Sri Lanka. Her boyfriend stopped reading at the headline. They were planning to go on vacation there.
Don’t just add share buttons to news stories – design for collaborative event planning.
Alison shared a link to a small concert by a popular underground band. She wanted people to see that she was finding new music before others did, and be perceived as a music aficionado.
Don’t stop at sharing links – design for online identity.
John shared photos of the recent family vacation with his parents who live hundreds of miles away. He didn’t share them so that his parents could see what John and the family did, he did it so that his parents wouldn’t feel so isolated.
Don’t stop at sharing photos as objects – design for more intimate mediated communication.
Tom shared a video with his friend Stephen. He didn’t share it so that Stephen would enjoy it and pass it on, he shared it to prove that he was right about their disagreement the night before.
Don’t design for sharing video – design for faster information retrieval.