April 4, 2023

How We Designed Appreciations

A deep dive into our thinking and design process for building Appreciations.Glimpse into Glass

Simple Button, Complex Process

When Glass first launched, we purposefully only had comments. We wanted to rethink how people were interacting in social spaces, and while comments are basically the original form of this, we also knew they could be really, really great if people used them the way we hoped they would. So, we started there and spent lots of time commenting ourselves to set the tone for the community. Showing, not telling, is always more effective.

Community building takes time, and this is a huge part of it. We’re in it for the long haul with Glass. That said, it was inevitably going to be a struggle for people who just wanted to quickly give a bit of feedback but didn’t have a lot to say. “Cool” and “Great shot” really don’t add a ton to the conversation. We knew we needed something different. Why not just likes? Or favorites? Or hearts? Why did we create an entirely new action for Glass instead of sticking with what’s been tried and tested in social networking?

Because we’re not trying to build a social network. Glass is a community of photographers. A place where photographers get together, share, learn, and grow. It’s not optimized for constant engagement and promotion or meant to be a space where you collect numbers and counts for manufactured dopamine. For that, we needed a different way to quickly send someone some good vibes — we got to work on Appreciations.

No to Counts

We wanted a quick, lightweight way for members to share their positivity directly with a member, but not have that action create comparison. Showing counts all over Glass would immediately change the tone of the community and be the opposite of what we were trying to build. Just like with followers, we knew counts weren’t going to be part of the action.

What about Visibility?

Beyond counts, we started to think more deeply about who could see who appreciated a photo. Standard practice was to share that with the entire network. From experience we knew this helps engagement, but it also leads to inevitable comparison. Oh, who liked this photo? Anyone I know? You inadvertently place value judgements. And while we weren’t showing you counts, if you could see all the people who appreciated a photo that wasn’t yours, you could scroll the list. This could lead to being impressed by other members’ engagement, and also possibly, probably, judging yourself a tiny bit about your own work.

We didn’t want that either, so only the photographer themselves sees who has appreciated their work. This is less engaging for the network, but more true to our goals for the community and what we feel cultivates better connections. Glass is optimized for authenticity, not engagement.

No Hearts Here

We thought about just calling it likes, or favorites, or using a heart symbol and not calling it anything. This action is basically ubiquitous. We could just use one of the standard symbols, tweak the way it worked, and call it a day. In the end, we all felt we’d changed too much of the surrounding interactions.

We didn’t want the baggage the other symbols or names carried. It warranted something new. We spent (too much) time looking at all the other symbols used and scrolled through some emoji catalogs before Sparkles jumped out at us. It felt perfect. It shimmered with positivity and connected with light — a key component in photography.

One Layer Down

We knew we wanted the action to be a bit more friction than a mindless double tap, yet still easy enough to do quickly. We wanted to make sure you’d see who posted a photo, maybe see what they wrote before performing the action, so putting it on the photo detail view felt right.

Name it, Ship it

The name came at the end, and just felt perfect. It just all clicked. The team loved it. Sending appreciation felt slightly elevated yet light and breezy. You could privately appreciate a photo or appreciate a member’s comment and be confident you weren’t virtue signaling to the entire network. This in turn helped you feel better about others appreciating your work. It just felt good. Using it for a few days with some early member testing, it was clear we weren’t going back.

We’re proud of where this button landed and thankful we took our time to get it right. This is a glimpse into how we design every feature on Glass — with purpose and care. Can't wait to show you what we're building next.

Post photograph by April del Castillo

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