I Like This

Heart written in sand

On the internet, there is a commonly implemented feature, the LIKE link (or button). For example, in Facebook, one can click LIKE on a news event. Also in Google Reader, one can also click LIKE on an RSS item. The LIKE feature is widespread on the internet and is a good way to quickly gauge audience reception. Note that there is usually no DISLIKE button, most likely due to the fact that the internet can easily turn into a hate filled place and a DISLIKE button would encourage negativity.

However, what exactly is the user indicating that they like?

Does the user like the news event? Does the user like the author’s writing style? Does the user like the image used? There are endless scenarios that could lead a person to click on LIKE. Websites, in the interest of fostering community and continued page views, do not care enough to distinguish this. Maybe it is enough for the website that the user has seen the content, reacted positively, and clicked LIKE.

It’s possible to increase the clarity and usefulness of the LIKE feature. For example:

  • Why – This is the reason that the user likes the item. It could be a category drop down box, a comment box for elaboration, etc. This would make the LIKE feature much more complicated to use and present to users, but it would make it clear what the user actually likes.
  • Dislike – As long as users can LIKE things, it’s always possible that they may instead NOT LIKE things and thus DISLIKE them. By being honest with your users, a website can allow users to indicate what items they LIKE and DISLIKE. If DISLIKE was implemented, it would be important to keep it constructive, if such a thing is possible on the internet. It would be preferable to keep things civil by letting the user express why they dislike it, and try to prevent this from turning into personal, anti-user sentiments.
  • Tracking – On Twitter, a person can view Favorites. Favorites are akin to LIKED items. On websites such as Google Reader and Facebook, to my knowledge, a user can’t retrieve a history or listing of what they have LIKED.

The LIKE feature is a welcome addition to the social web. In addition to sharing or commenting, LIKE is another way to indicate relationships between individuals and data. There is a lot of room for improvement with the LIKE feature into something more robust and defined. Right now, the LIKE feature has been used by many sites as a way to maintain feature parity and increase user engagement.

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