The Unassuming Like Button

A theme that I see more and more in design culture is that there is no detail too small. You should sweat the details, and think about them with the interests of other people at heart. This is very relieving for me, because I tend to think long and hard about the little things that others gloss over, but the difficulty we always face is convincing others that the details matter. You might believe they’re important, but you’re one of the few that care.

I can spend days designing buttons for websites — and I have — not because I’m bad at designing buttons, or because I don’t know how to make them. I’m not wasting time learning a program that will show me how to make a button. In reality, it takes so many man hours to design the button under the constraints we face with the intent to make the button as useful and functional as possible. There’s a lot more to the simplest buttons than meets the eye.

And when I succeed with a button, no one will really understand the difference that I’ve made. But on a large scale, the impact the right button makes will be seen over the course of time in countless little ways. The users will be happier, and the people managing the site will see better activity from their patrons.

So, imagine my surprise when I happened across this TED talk.

Facebook’s “like” and “share” buttons are seen 22 billion times a day, making them some of the most-viewed design elements ever created. Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s director of product design, outlines three rules for design at such a massive scale—one so big that the tiniest of tweaks can cause global outrage, but also so large that the subtlest of improvements can positively impact the lives of many.

This story was also covered in a recent episode of Radio Lab that I found especially enjoyable, like one of the usually great episodes of 99% Invisible. I highly recommend it.

The bottom line for you, the designer, is that it’s your job and the work of the team to discern the right course of action with every little influential design property of your site, product, or brand. It’s not easy identifying the important details, because a great number of them are of little consequence. Part of your huge job is to identify and spend time on the right ones, even when that means 200+ hours on a unassuming like button.

Joe Darnell

Joe is a UI and graphic designer with prior experience as the creative director for three media-based businesses. Joe’s passionate about web design and graphic design with about 15 years of experience in the media industry. Additionally, Joe is the host of the Top Brew and Techtonic podasts, both featured on iTunes.