To ‘Like’ or not to ‘Like’

…That is the question.

I never thought I’d say this but the internet needs more buttons. You know the ones – Like, Favourite, Rate This, Pin, Star and so on. When solely using these to interact with content I think we’ve simplified most websites and interfaces to the point where they are almost useless.

I started thinking about it when I was listening to music on my phone and a song came on that I’d not heard before. It sounded pleasant enough to listen to again so I looked for a way to be able to mark it so I could listen again later. My available options were to add it to my favourites or to tell the music player never to pick it again. I certainly didn’t want to press the ‘don’t pick again’ button. That’s reserved exclusively for songs containing Justin Bieber, Pitbull and Will.I.Am. Favouriting the track seemed a little strong. It was certainly not a favourite as it was the first time I’d heard it. Only awesome songs make it into my ‘hall of fame’ so I certainly wasn’t fast tracking it to top. I had the option of adding it to a playlist but that takes longer than pressing one button and felt like too much effort. Meh!

At least my music app gave me the chance to dislike something. Facebook traditionally only gave you the ability to ‘like’ things. I always found this very limiting and it has led to unfortunate situations like this:

Facebook conversation

The pitfalls of ‘liking’ things.

Is it OK to ‘like’ something negative? Is that bad? I’m not saying I like the fact your hamster died, I just wanted to show support but there’s no ‘I want to acknowledge your suffering’ button. At least Facebook moved away from the ‘Awesome’ button they used to have in the very early days. I think that it would have been ‘Awesome’ if they’d stuck with it but the above example would have been far more cringe worthy. Facebook’s new emotions help bridge the gap but I always worry I might slip and pick something even less appropriate than ‘like’:

“I’m sorry about your hamster”facebook reactionOops 🙁

Sometimes I don’t want to ‘like’ something outright either; I just want to register interest. However, many sites take that to mean I want to subscribe to everything that has been and forever will be posted by that user, group or business from now until the end of time. Woah! That’s more commitment than marriage.

Twitter is quite limited in how you can keep track of things that you think are interesting. Originally, you could give favourite tweets a star. A gold star no less. We don’t give gold stars to our kids that easily, they have to earn them with exceptional performance, good behaviour and possibly a trip to the dentist. But on Twitter they were being given out for any old junk that can be finger mashed into a phone.  Here’s a Tweet from the mind of Kanye West:

Kanye's tweet

Kanye believe it?

That brain fart was favourites over 185,000 times. 185. Thousand. Times. I’m not sure who comes off worse in that example, Kanye or his fans. A favourite isn’t worth the pixels they’re displayed on 🙁 Twitter has now moved to using little heart icons for showing that you ‘like’ a tweet but that’s worse. Now you have to declare your love for a tweet if you want to add it to your list of things you’ll never come back and read.

We need to standardise how we interact with content on websites and the existing set of buttons carry no weight, are ambiguous and don’t really convey your true intent. We’re signing up to implied social contracts that we never intended to simply because we think ‘That was mildly interesting’.

To fix this I propose a new standard button with the following text below. This way we can cover all bases:Version 1 of a new 'Like' button Hmmmm a bit wordy. We can reduce that down… how about this instead:Replacement 'Like' button v2It’s still quite bulky so let’s take the first letters of each sentence instead. Turn it into a sort of mnemonic…

Replacement 'Like' button v3

Nearly there! Still needs a little clean up and maybe we can add an icon to make it more interesting. Maybe a positive hand gesture that everyone universally identifies with…

Replacement 'Like' button v4

Nailed it! 🙂

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