Social Buttons in Apps and Websites: Making Users share your content without annoying them

Social Buttons in Apps and Websites: Making Users share your content without annoying them

February 21st, 2013 By: Stefan von Gagern
Today users are bombed with social buttons and widgets for sharing everything. We have some tips how to implement and design them the right way and discuss alternatives.
Social Buttons in Apps and Websites: Making Users share your content without annoying them

Sharethis provides social widgets for popular web and mobile platforms. (Source:

“The best content is hand picked”, says Sharethis, a provider of solutions for social engagement of content for web and mobile. And it’s true: If content is really great or most relevant, users share articles, products, photos or other stuff to their friends, believing they might also enjoy it or find it helpful in some other way. For website or app makers sharing is welcome in many ways: It draws attention and traffic to their website, generates new members or purchases and is great for a better search engine ranking.

This lead to an explosion of social networking buttons on websites as well as apps. Users today can share, pin, tweet, post, G+ the products they buy, the movie they will watch, the level they play, the song they hear and endless more things. Even the yesterday announced, next generation gaming console PlayStation 4 will feature a sharing-button, which enables users to record and upload gameplay scenes to Facebook.

The ever present sharing-buttons can also be quite annoying. They are another source for visual clutter and distract from the actual content users want to read, watch, browse, buy etc. Are the buttons worth it? Yes, but it’s a good idea to follow some easy rules. Here are some tips:

Think how they want to share

Tania Lang did some usability research for UX Magazine Australia. “The short of it is, how users want to share content depends very much on the type of content they are sharing and their level of Internet experience”, says Lang. Serious and commercial content was preferred to be shared by copying and pasting URLs into E-mails. Funny stuff like pictures and photos were shared by the use of social networking buttons.

According to the tests the sharing also differs on the type of users. There can be astonishing results, if you change something, as a tweet from smashingmagazine reveals:

We removed FB buttons and traffic from Facebook increased. Reason: instead of "liking" articles, readers share it on their timeleine.
— Smashing Magazine (@smashingmag) 22. Mai 2012

So it depends on the audience and medium how social media drives the traffic. The best way is to think, test and try to match the way your target audience wants to share content.

What do they want to share?

Don’t clutter your app or website on every single page with sharing options or buttons. Think about what’s really worth to be surrounded by sharing buttons. Users want to share actual content that is products, songs, pictures. They love to share content, they created by themselves, like playlists, photos, paintings, recipes.

Social buttons and interface elements for sharing should be out of the way for exploring and using the content of your app or website. But on the other hand they should be handy when users need them. Tania Lang recommends to make them clearly visible for those that might want to share and recommends the way Amazon does it on its product pages.

  • Spotify
    Users love to share things they created by themselves like playlists on spotify. (Source:
  • Amazon
    Amazon offers sharing-buttons, but in a very subtle way. (Source:

Designing the right way

Add this
Add this makes it easy to grab code for customized social buttons. (Source:

The actual design of the buttons or links for sharing, following or other things is “make or break”, too. They need the right size and the right colors. In some cases adding text, for example if you don’t want them to share something, but follow you - or just visit your profile improves usability. You also shouldn’t change the style every time some button appears and need a consistent look. Creativebloq has collected 10 useful tips for designing and implementing social media buttons.


If you don’t want to design them you can choose some prebuilt solutions, like social plugins or sharing widgets. They offer ready designed buttons in different sizes and take care about live data from networks like counting likes, tweets and other stuff. Embedding is easily done, as they provide the code you just paste into your site, after you customized the widgets or plugins for your needs. Addthis is one example that covers everything from social buttons for sharing and following to trending content. Sharethis works similar, even with more customized code for different platforms.

The social networks themselves offer social plugins for free, like Facebook on their social plugins page or you can get the pin it button from pinterest.

Discuss: Should we do it or drop it?

In a blog article Designer Oliver Reichenstein said it might be better to drop the buttons completely: “We find content through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and so on, not the other way around.” In an interview for .Net Magazine he discusses his thoughts further.

.Net Magazine asked some experts about their experiences, showing different opinions, especially when it comes to mobile. “On the mobile version of sites, I have mixed feelings about social media buttons. The mobile experience is digested more rapidly; providing the buttons makes it easier to share an article and not have the user jump through hoops. But right now Apple is doing a great job with Twitter integration with iOS 5 and Facebook integration in iOS 6, which makes social media buttons on websites obsolete”, says Omar Martinez from

What are your opinions and experiences? Let us know!

Update: Social buttons and privacy

In Germany and other countries there’s been a controversial discussion how websites, that use social plug-ins violate privacy. Critics compare it to the situation that when you walk into a store, the owner phones a random stranger (Facebook or other social networks) to tell them you’re in their store. If somebody uses a Like-Button, he allows Facebook to record data - especially when their logged into their Facebook-Account - like the IP-Address, how often they visit a site. Another problem is that data is submitted to servers of some social networks (located in the US or other countries), where the standards for privacy and data handling are at least different to what you know. And it’s not only about Facebook-Buttons, other social plugins like Addthis have the same problem.

Critics say there’s no need to implement social-Buttons - the site will work without them. Others say that you can decide what you need for hosting a website - and if you need like buttons, you’re allowed to use them.

How to handle it

2 Click Social Media Buttons
A 2 Click button can improve privacy.

The discussion goes on to this day and the situation remains unclear, causing a kind of unsafe and bad feeling for many web-designers and developers. So what can you do? In Germany there are some options to be at least more on the safe side. The law-experts Rechtsanwalt Schenke offer a disclaimer, that you can use for free on your website, including a link to their homepage, both in English and German. Other solutions are a “Two click”- Social Buttons, where users first must enable the social buttons and then can decide if they want to use them or not. There are pre-built solutions available, for example for Wordpress.