YouTube rudely observes that I have no friends

by Robert Barlow-Busch

I recently signed up for a YouTube account. Today, I scrolled down my profile page for the first time and got a virtual slap in the face when the following notice prominently slid into view:

You have no Friends

Ouch! I have no friends? Yeah, well, you, I dunno… you’re UGLY, YouTube!

What a great example of the impact that copywriting can have on a website’s user experience. I know what they mean by this of course — that, as a new user, I have yet to connect with anyone as a “friend” in YouTube space. But still, the specific wording of that notice reads like a personal insult every time. And the copy goes on to suggest in a roundabout way that, if I can manage to become more attractive, I might actually have friends someday! What a lovely way to welcome someone who’s just signed up. I hesitate to sign up for Second Life now, fearing it might break the news that I have no life, either…

A slight change in wording might be in order here. Even something as simple as “You have no friends yet” makes the phrase feel less critical while remaining consistent with other sections on the page (they’re all written in the form “You have no [whatever]“). But here’s a situation where mindless consistency should be rejected: rewrite this as a call to action and YouTube would not only avoid insulting me, it might actually prompt me to participate in its community. How about a punchy line such as “Make some YouTube friends!”

It’s important to pay attention to details such as this, as experience design is all about emotions. Lou Carbone advises that our job, in fact, is to consider how we’d like people to feel about themselves when using a product we’ve designed. How do you think someone feels when you tell them, “You have no friends!”

Not great. Believe me. <sigh>

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