If I "share" via e-mail, then I transmit a document to others. After this, each recipient has a separate copy which, thereafter, is completely out of my control.
If I "share" via social network, then I upload a document. This makes a single copy, accessible to previously chosen people. It is (depending on the social network) somewhat under my control. Others can comment on it.
If I "share" via something like Dropbox, then I make the document accessible to others. No copy is made. If I share via URL, then I give read access. If I make a shared folder, then I give both read and write access.
Now, we techies know these are different things. Our mental model of non-technical users' thinking might suggest that, to them, these are all the same kind of action.
But are they?
Does an average non-technical user think of folder sharing, Facebook posts, and e-mail messages as the same category of action? I'm not sure he does.
The computer world is the one that limited these concepts.
Before web: you can only copy and give.
After web: you can give, or publish.
After cloud: you can give, publish, and share.
I think these concepts should be as well differentiated in the digital world as they are in the physical.
Expanding on that, and with the clear examples you gave, maybe the thing is that traditional or classic icons pictures the channel where the information was traveling and not the action itself.
A fax icon implies sending a document because everyone knows that a fax can only send documents. So the icon is representing the channel.
Same for the envelope icon with email (or even snail mail). It pictures the channel, not the action.
If you see a group of icons, one with the Facebook icon, one with Reddit's, one with Slashdot's, etc, you automatically know that it has to do with that particular channel, even if the action per se might not be clear enough, e.g. if I click the Facebook icon, what action am I taking? am I uploading/sending/sharing/pasting/chatting/emailing?
I don't care, I only care that the channel is the correct one. The service that administers that channel is the responsible one for doing what the user expects.
So maybe a fundamental flaw, like you say, is that different actions represent different channels but we are trying to put actions AND channels under a single umbrella, then there's no surprise that you can find lots of edge cases where the idea doesn't apply.
Yep, they are. It's impossible to share digital data without making a copy that is not under your control. There are some difference in write permissions, but people also do understand those.
"Sharing" with a group of people like in Facebook (where each one can essentially change the nature of the thing in real time by commenting on it or liking it) is also somewhat distinct from the other two because it makes a send-time copy that can be changed (in limited ways) by people other than you in possibly unpredictable ways.
Now shareD as a state is how the metaphor makes sense, for content stored at a common resource where one can take it back later, like your profile on a social network. So a better use that would hold the right nuances would be:
- Publish for making copies of the content and sending them to channels where one doesn't have control.
- Shared / Private for the status of content on channels on which you keep control to change that status.
Unfortunately, the needs of social sites (that try to make as much shared information as possible, and avoid people to withdraw it) have promoted the current confusing usage and spoiled it for all.
A social network or blog does not. They're objects that are shared.
Using separate icons for "share" vs "send" would make sense to users.
I'm thinking some kind of "upload" metaphor vs "message" metaphor is right. Messaging metaphors are easy, but upload is a bit more tricky... Apple might have the right idea - but Apple's "out of box" icon is too vague, obviously because of Apple's need to keep icons elegantly simple. I'd go for a bit more complexity:
An arrow pointing at a globe. When you share something, you share with the internet. MS Office used globes to represent the Web - like a chain+globe for a hyperlink and whatnot. Use that - an arrow at the globe implies you're sending something to the Internet (and generally a public or semi-public place on the Web specifically).
(The second and third sections are what can now be extended by developers in iOS 8.)
* Printing the document
* Viewing a video on my TV
* Mailing it
* Marking it to Read Later
* Copying the URL
technically it's more a "Send to another application"
Which I think is actually kind of ok, because again not everything has a simple obvious icon. Some things might be better served with just standardizing on an abstract and distinct shape. Newcomers may not know what a floppy disk is but they will learn the association anyway. And it just becomes one of those cool bits of lore that nerds like, double win!
The share icons are Facebook, Twitter and Google+ logos. The share icon that nobody agrees to is actually just the icon that is going to reveal the interface of the actual share icons.
I think that users don't want to share, they want to post on facebook, tweet or do the thing that people on google+ do(sorry, never used it) because the context of the thing that you are going to share is often appropriate to one of these and the reflex of the user is something like "I should post this on facebook so that my friends see it" or like "I should tweet this so that my audience sees it".
You can't find the logo for the share icon because the action is fundamentally something else. I don't know, maybe the button that will open the interface for the sharing buttons should just represent the logos of the services available.
Actually, I never use "share" buttons, I just go onto the service I want to use and link to it manually. I guess I don't share often enough, and I want total control over the message I post.
Yet interaction with the photo app an an example shows just how confused Apple is within just one app. I have the words Share, Select, and even an icon, sometimes all at once, sometimes just two of them, and occasionally just one of them. Where is the rhyme or reason?
in the end, learn my preferences, that cannot be hard. If i do not use twitter then never offer it.
Many of the others are trying to represent the abstract concept of "sharing", which doesn't fit the use case at all. That's why those icons don't make any sense. Others are representing specific technical concepts like graphs that again, only make sense for certain specific uses and aren't especially intuitive.
In many ways, it makes sense to outsource this kind of design to someone that doesn't speak any English and run the brief through a translator. That way you're forced to explain the concept that the icon needs to represent, instead of having the icon represent the English word that happens to be (perhaps wrongly) attached to the concept.
Distilling the concept down to an arrow pointing outwards to represent sending something is the kind of minimalist, universally intuitive design that Apple are often brilliant at. Approaching the design task like an engineering task is likely to lead to this as the optimal solution. I find it endlessly interesting that good designers tend to do this intuitively, in spite of not thinking anything like Engineers, whereas Engineers tend to do the opposite if forced to do design.
The Windows icon or the "graph" is in my opinion much better. Even if it might be stretching the "share" metaphor, at least I'm not skipping the icon because I think it's something else.
The complaint that it is too similar to the download icon is valid, not because there's anything wrong with either icon; just because they are visually confusing where they might appear together. Rahter like waht I did to this senetnce.
I think that problem could be solved with better visual differentiation, through more clearly different arrow shapes, sizes, or inverting the colours (essentially, make more use of the arrowhead filling the box, or not). Again, they are very clearly differentiated on OSX, which is why I prefer those. I appreciate the minimalist version for the way it conveys the concept as simply as possible, I just don't think it's quite the "finished form" of this icon, it needs some further polish.
The complaint that it looks like a log out icon is also valid (while most logout icons I've seen have the arrow pointing right, it's yet more visual confusion). The mitigation against that is that Apple never has the icon anywhere that it might be mistaken for exit or log out. As a universal icon, that might not apply everywhere.
Right, the icon really represents "send" or "upload" which to me is correct. The article seems to find fault in the fact that their "share" icon is the opposite of their "download" icon. But to me, if you consider the icon to mean "send" or "upload", then it makes sense that it is the opposite of "download".
Upload literally means send (to a machine). Download means receive. There is no confusion there!
When you "share" something on a blog, or on social media, you are in fact, uploading data to that server! When I had a blog (in the early 2000s) I didn't bother to implement a back-end, so to share an article, I had to upload it. These are implementation details that should be, and fortunately now usually are, transparent to the end user.
The concept of sharing is far too nebulous and some icons get caught up on the future state the of the data. The concept of lots of people (implying sharing with a group, which isn't relevant if you are only sharing it with a single person); or the idea of "sharing a conversation" which implies a two-way exchange (hence the icons featuring loops) but again, that's something that might come later.
However, clicking the icon does not equate with sharing in that sense. It performs one specific action: one part of the sequence that makes up a conversation. It is only the sending/posting/uploading part. Perhaps even "speaking" or "telling". All of these words are equally synonymous in terms of what will happen, right now, as a result of clicking (or tapping) that icon. And that is the only context that matters.
Apple gets this right by focusing on the context of the immediate action, which after all is what the icon is supposed to represent. In this case, that action is that the data will be sent somewhere. There is a further sub-menu of options for all the possible destinations, which can be more explicit about what each one will do (e.g., send to one person, send to group, make public).
Some of the other icons might make sense at the second stage, where there is a need to distinguish between these different kinds of sending. In that context, icons alone are not ideal because there are too many options, yet lack of screen space isn't the problem anymore. Explicit text is better in that case, which is what OSX and iOS both do.
The Windows (Ubuntu) icon for example (or any of the other "group of people" icons) would make a lot more sense if it were a toggle, where selected means "this is public" and not selected means "this is private" but that's not how it is used (and there are also better ways to represent that).
The word "share" also isn't typically associated with an action that can be undone, like toggling a visibility property, even though (from a technical rather than marketing perspective) that is the only sense in which "sharing" is ever different from plain old sending.
Android's approach used to be very acceptable - a directed graph - but then they got rid of the arrows for some reason.
In the context of OS X I never understood what the button was because I never have any need to share something from within my OS. In fact I removed the button from my toolbar. I'm not sure it's that obvious if you didn't have the icon text.
In fact it's inconsistent even within OS X. The Public folder icon is a person on a street sign.
Except that's not what sharing is at all. I can share a photograph with one person by just emailing it to them. We can even share a conversation that way. I can turn it into a group conversation by adding CC recipients. Or I can make it public by sending to a newsgroup instead of an email recipient.
No social involved in any of those forms of sharing (although you could argue that Usenet is a social network).
The public folder icon isn't inconsistent because the "share" icon represents an action (click this to share something), whereas the folder icon represents a state (the folder is public; there's nothing to click on).
Yet most people find the Apple icon obtuse and confusing. I would hardly say that's spot on when it fails at its primary role.
There is no doubt in my mind, that the milkshake is the best possible icon for sharing. The only thing that could conceivably be better would be a Lady-and-the-Tramp-style single-strand spaghetti dinner, but that might be hard to draw.
The whole soda fountain phenomenon was before our time, so I'm not sure that milkshakes were available at most soda fountains, but it's easy to imagine the tableau relocated to the ice cream shop. The "milkshake icon" seems more evocative than the "soda icon".
Unless some decree comes down from The President or the security council of the UN then we will probably have Apple/Microsoft/Android variants for a long time to come. There is no incentive for social networks to have a standard icon because they want sharing to be their icon/logo. Maybe it might be a better convention to perpetuate the share button as being uniquely un-shareable just for meme value.
This clarifies the author's preference for icons with the arrows, fits with the usual mix of upload/post-to-social-app/open-in-other-app actions, and removes the motivation for the somewhat out-of-place milkshake icon.
(You can keep the 'share' label for marketing purposes if you want...)
Many of the possible actions resulting from tapping that icon (on iOS) may be unrelated social sharing (e.g., copy, save to photo library, assign to contact, etc.).
: UIBarButtonSystemItemAction; https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/documentation/uikit/...
This really isn't about sharing, its about sending the content outwards. The subsequent action will dictate whether its to share or pass to another program or even copying for a later paste.
Its sending the "thing" outwards...away from yourself. To something else.
The same thing happen with information, it goes from one place to another. The fact that this action takes many forms doesn't really matter.
The new Apple icon is less abstract, but it does seem to scream upload/send to server, which is also a function I might expect in similar situations as a share function; I think the old one is better because it points to the side signifying communication towards a peer.
The Windows 8 one is fine, easily understandable in context for the same reasons as the new Android one, but it lacks any semblance of directionality. It's a bit hilarious that it's almost identical to the Ubuntu icon.
The other two are terrible and I probably wouldn't expect them to signify sharing even in a context where I'd expect the functionality.
Edit: Of course I am an Android user so this may just be (confirmation?) bias at work. :)
I disagree. I think you're just rationalizing your own knowledge of what this means. And I say that because, as someone who's never used Android, I have literally never seen that icon before. And if I had seen it in a context other than a blog post about share icons, I would have had no idea whatsoever what it meant.
Except that every standard form of sharing involves uploading to a server – very few are actually handled in a peer-to-peer fashion (bluetooth sharing between adjacent devices is the exception, not the rule).
The odd part about the Android icons is that they imply "make public" or "send to multiple locations". Neither may be the case. Email to a single recipient is the likely common case. You might just be uploading to your personal network drive (no other users, just yourself).
But "share" is often used for emailing, or just marking a file as "public" in its existing storage.
I just have a bookmark. Google+, bam. Twitter, bam.
My phone uploads all photos to Google+ whenever it finds Wifi and if I want to share a photo it's because I'm using Google+ at that moment. I don't need to share photos from anywhere, at most I generally need to export photos.
But the share button has become to ubiquitous that now it seems to have taken the place of export in iPhoto, as an example. I need to navigate menus to find the export option.
I don't need functionality spelled out for me while I'm using a computer like it was something designed by Fisher Price. If I want to send an email I'll start composing an email. If I want to share something on Google+ I'll go use that application.
iPhoto doesn't have an upload to Google+ option, in the case that I'm trying to manage photos from my digital camera. Which brings up another problem, which is that Facebook and Apple are in each other's pockets. Once these share buttons are ubiquitous then companies when they feel like it omit options.
And sharing implies multiple agents, be them on a single or multiple destinations. I know my definition doesn't seem clearcut, but I think the implication is that you could share by means of uploading or you could share without uploading anything (excepting maybe "uploading" the link to someone else), but you can also upload without sharing anything (i.e. I upload to my private server) and that's why I consider them different concepts.
It bothered me when I first used iOS7, but now it simply makes sense. I still don't like the thinness of the icon, but at least it's sensible.
The Android share icon has been around since (at least?) 2006 and was used a lot on websites, particularly Wordpress-based sites.
It was initially open source but then sold Share This and trademarked. Most services use the icon shape without ST's green button background.
As an entrepreneur or designer, am I going to waste who knows how much time interpreting the usage guidelines from Share This, or devote valuable space on my site to giving the Open Share people an attribution?
No. I'm going to spend 5 minutes designing something that won't cause future legal threats or trouble at acquisition time.
We need something with an MIT-like license on it.
As entrepreneur and designer, I go with the most common icon I find in Google images... which this happens to be.
Keep in mind, the trademark includes the green button background. That's significantly different.
When you think about sharing a milkshake, you have two people sharing an experience; when you think about the open hand, looks like you are expecting someone to show up to hand over something to him or maybe begging.
My feeling when I click share or retweet is like I am shooting to stars and the odds that my bullet get to a black hole are huge.
In terms of the milkshake, that's the perfect icon. You actually share something when you stop having "a whole" and now you have "a part" but then someone else has "a part" as well. That's what I've seen parent teach their kids over and over again. Sharing the ball: we both use it, share your candy we both enjoy it, even if it means I'll have less.
With electronic articles and other media that gets shared, you actually share nothing in that sense, you just let someone know about it, whilst still keeping the whole yourself.
I know that semantically you can also "share information", and you lose nothing by doing it. But my point is that maybe most people associate sharing with "losing a bit to give to someone else" instead of just "letting know".
I am thinking hard and haven't come up with a better word, I admit it, but maybe there is actually a better word for describing that "electronic share" action?
The bullhorn looks promising, but like someone said, it looks like an axe is too small. And also someone else said it would have to be different enough from a volume icon.
Maybe two hands apart, one with a piece of "the whole" and the other hand with the other piece?
In that regard I liked the Android icon a lot, even though it's a bit too abstract. But it conveys the idea that you just multiplied the information, without losing anything yourself. Maybe a diagram of an "information bus" could work? like a straight horizontal line with a perpendicular line protuding from it, indicating that you keep going but still produced a new path/road/source?
Edit: added clarification
What about thinking of it as you both "sharing time/attention" on the target object?
By far my biggest pet peeve re:action icons these days are the Android copy/paste icons. Here's a screenshot I found: http://i.stack.imgur.com/87bDm.png (pardon the annotations -- I found it in a Stackexchange thread).
I challenge anyone to tell me what each one does (without testing first).
The definition of "Ubuntu" (from wikipedia):
"...is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean 'the belief in a universal bond of sharing'..."
Also, I love the circular sharing icon if you see it as an overhead view of 3 people holding hands.
Personally, I like the iOS 6 icon over the iOS 7 version. They're almost the same, except the new one places too much emphasis on "up." For example, when using the Meme Producer app and you want to save the picture to your photo library, the app uses the iOS 7 "action" icon but it feels awkward to then immediately go to the "download" icon to actually save. http://i.imgur.com/YtVd5WZ.jpg
I think the author's own greater familiarity with one icon (by virtue of being an OSX/iOS user) has led him to make an overreaching conclusion about the wider population.
The outgoing or upload are nouns that don't mean share either.
The Google Android - three dots approach seems to be the simplest, most logical, where one becomes two (or more).
It will be a random share icon.
until we can measure how many times each user clicks on individual icons, and optimize in the future to use that previously used icon for that user. After some data collection period the user will be served the icon he identifies more readily.
Some heuristics can be added initially, like showing the android icon if the user agent is android for 90% instead of random.
Will be taking round A tomorrow by noon. thank you.
It's unique and memorable after you learn it. Not like the million other arrows we have in icons.
I think I've only seen 共 in compounds for things that are already shared, communal or co-existant, and notably as an abbreviation for communism. 中共 = 中國共產黨 = Chinese communist party. Not really a positive connotation. :)
(Disclaimer: Not a native speaker)
and at 32px wide:
(I'm actually not sure if this makes your SPAM analogy more or less appropriate.)
A huge part of what 'sharing' is today is actually publishing albeit to a controlled group of people. Often on social sites sharing is in fact publishing in the classic sense since many posts are public.
I wonder whether this is a branding thing. 'Sharing' seems to be a more intimate and special or exclusive one-one activity (think secrets), while 'publishing' seems to be a far more public one-many activity. Strange then that so many companies try to use 'share' to cover many to one. I guess you can 'share' a story around a campfire, but again, you probably know everyone you are sharing with.
Given the association of sharing with familiarity I think it is quite devious of companies to use such a term to describe an activity which is actually publishing.
Our previous share icon was two arrows facing diagonally in opposite directions. The main problem with that was that it was very close to our "embed" icon. We knew we wanted to change it, but we didn't know what icon to use.
We had a bunch of mockups that included some of the icons found in this article.
Ultimately, we ended up deciding on a paper airplane. It definitely is familiar to people in terms of sending email, but we also thought it was a playful and fun way to indicate sharing. Really it was the only icon that we all liked.
It might not be immediately clear at first, but hopefully after using it you get the hang of it.
You can check it out here:
And yes, I am the one in the opening shot of the video who throws the airplane :)
Like, I would use these as my heuristic guidelines if I was on the job and constraints dictate that I can't spend time on researching icons. But I wouldn't write a blog post authoritatively telling people that one icon is more recognized that the other without having some kind of research to back it up.
Then again, the author does say at one point that their research is extremely informal, so maybe I'm just projecting my feelings about the cowboy nature of the UX profession right now. But I still feel like they could do more to qualify that these just appear to be their best guesses about how people interpret the share icon.
In general, this kind of thing would actually be a interesting research project.
Share -- exemplified by iPhoto -- means share by any means (e.g. email, youtube, twitter, facebook, burning a DVD). Thus, Apple's icon makes perfect sense -- more sense than the Y -- based on this. You might be sharing with one specific person, or everyone. The point is that you're sending stuff OUT.
Most of the others treat sharing as something special that is "distribute by any method except the other things we have icons for".
In the old days Microsoft was creating an icon and everybody used that, otherwise people would not understand what a given button is doing. Web and mobile devices with multiple os changed all that.
Another thing is how much iconized guis are. In theory it would be enough to create an icon with "Share" written on it. Nobody even tries that now, not even icon + text.
This is also a beautiful example of how much text/speech is sometimes more powerfull then picture. It seems that not always "picture is worth a thousand words".
When I was a kid, this is what I thought the old "Find" binoculars icon from Microsoft Word / Netscape was. It seems to me that an icon that brings this association inadvertently is better than a contrived abstract symbol that requires explanation.
It also makes sense to me because I most frequently want to share specific things with specific people rather than everyone.
I wonder if there might be two different share icons - one to share with someone specific, and one to share with the world at large.
I honestly believe that this is the case for all the icons. As an Android user and developer, I wouldn't associate the box with the up arrow with a "share" action, much less the Windows 8 circle thing.
Ok, ok, how about wrapped candy?
For good reasons, too: when you want to share something, you invariably want to do so in a specific manner, meaning email, FB, twitter, HN, etc., rather than plain "share".
For instance, while the milkshake icon is an interesting new approach, I wonder how much sense it makes in many cultures and countries.
I tend to stay away from any 'Share', 'Mail', 'Like' and related buttons. If I want to share something, I'll use my own server so that only those who I intend to share with are party to the conversation.
It's just perfect!
i find it confusing.