When Share really means Send

Image for post
Image for post

As I receive yet another email from RealtimeBoard (now renamed Miro) to tell me someone I don’t know has shared a board with me, I feel compelled to write a short post about how share and send are different and we sometimes need to make a distinction between the two in our designs.

Most of the time, share and send blend pretty well as feature names. But there are a couple of examples of problems it can cause that you should try to avoid.

Accidental oversharing

This is the offending share modal from RealtimeBoard which causes everyone at Skyscanner to receive RealtimeSpam from their colleagues. When you’re creating a board, you maybe want to share it with one or two people. You can do this by entering their email addresses. It’s safe to assume they will get an email invite to your board if you do this.

Image for post
Image for post

This is fine when you work in a small team but when there are more of you, typing all of their email addresses becomes a pain. You can’t really predict who will want to see it, so often people will just give access to anyone in the company who wants to see it. This is what happens in our office and it’s quite normal for people to select that toggle instead of adding email addresses individually.

Nowhere here does it even hint at the fact you that 1,080 busy people are about to receive an email about this board. You are just trying to share. Give them access. But what’s happening is you are sending a link to them. This screen needs to differentiate between Send and Share.

Messaging anxiety

Imagine you’re at work, a bit bored, surfing the internet on your phone and you spot a photo of lovely looking bicycle. You take a screengrab so you can send it to a colleague who is looking for a bike. Initially, the term share doesn’t cause any problems.

Image for post
Image for post
There’s not a great deal of difference between a direct message on Slack and sharing something with the entire company

You choose to send it on Slack as a direct message. In the Channel or member field, you find your friend’s name and then type him a little note.

You’re just about to send it, when a rush of anxiety floods over you. You’re not sure why, but you need to double-check everything to make sure you’re not about to share a picture of a bike with everyone in the company.

This anxiety is totally avoidable, it’s a flaw in the design of this screen. There are two things I see causing the problem. Firstly, the difference between sending to my friend and the entire company can only be determined by reading words. That’s not great design when the penalty for error could be really high.

My friend has a profile icon which could be displayed next to his name. If it were I could quickly see it’s him I’m sending the photo to. Then there is the label ‘Share to Slack’. It has a certain ‘Broadcast to the nation’ feel about it which can make you question what you’re actually about to do with the photo.

This screen could do more to differentiate share and send. Direct messages on Slack is where office banter often happens. People chat to one another in a way they wouldn’t necessarily choose if they were broadcasting to the entire company.

Make it obvious

Most of the time, saying share when you mean send will be harmless. But be mindful of the difference and the harm it can cause when designing share functionality. One rule of thumb is to always make it really obvious where it is going without demanding the user read in order to tell.

Written by

Independent UX consultant |

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store