ProTip Tuesday #15: Be One With the Button

A button seems like such a simple, common thing, and yet when they are being created we suddenly forget everything we know about clicking buttons, and presume that our users are the most curious people ever to exist.

They’re not.


I want you to clear your mind.

Then go to a website where you have never been. Maybe a famous one you know about, but have never tried.

Don’t just pretend to check it out. Actually check it out. If it’s not something for you, try a different site.

After a few minutes, ask yourself how many times you have clicked something random or uninteresting, just to see what was on “the other side”.

Hint: the answer is zero.

If you have done this honestly, you have taken the first step toward understanding why “share” buttons don’t work, and why “like” buttons and “tweet” buttons do.

I once worked on a site that had over 4 million visitors per year, and they had a share button on every product on the site. That share button contained 15 different ways to share when you clicked it!

After a whole year they had 80 shares. Total.

We made them a campaign site for the same products with a like and tweet button on it, in one high-profile place, and with only hundreds of thousands of visitors it did multiples of the annual sharing numbers.

But wait, less options created more sharing!?

Damn straight.

A button should not be a way to reveal hidden stuff.

The button should “be” the action. The action should “be” the button.

When a user clicks a button they are trying to accomplish something. If you want to “like” or “tweet” something, the Like Button or Tweet Button will do it, but the Share Button won’t. We’re not actually sure what the share button will do. Share where? Share what?

Users only click things they are already interested in. If we need them to click the button so they realize they are interested, we fail. It’s like asking someone to buy something before they know what it is.

On the other hand, if you have a collection of actions you don’t want people to do (delete account, change privacy settings, remove friends, log out, etc.) put them behind a vague button and give it a vague label (or no label!) to make sure nobody will think of those actions during their visit. Perhaps an “account” button is a good suggestion, maybe with nothing but a gear icon to identify it.

(I’m looking in your general direction, Facebook.)


Instead of hiding several actions behind a button, choose the actions that are most relevant to your target audience and content, and tastefully design them into the layout. You will get more clicks and more sharing, even though you have less options.

…and that is why we should “be one with the button”.

Have a great week!


If you liked this ProTip, try ProTip Tuesday #16: Shorter is not Always Simpler.

Or Go to the ProTip List!