Social bookmarking (or perhaps social news) is a way for internet users to share links with others. In the online news world, social bookmarking is a great way to increase pageviews (read: revenue). So it makes perfect sense to make it easy for a user to submit your online articles to social bookmarking sites. The problem is how to implement such a tool.
Many blogs have tiny icons, called social bookmarklets, at the bottom of their blog posts. To me, this gives the appearance of a plea for pageviews rather than an actual tool for your users. Not to mention all those little icons often make your website just plain ugly.
Share that article
Nytimes.com has a decent approach to displaying social bookmarking on article pages. They refer to it as “Share” in their article tools. This seems a lot friendlier to users that have never heard of social bookmarking. Your average user probably doesn’t even know what Digg is. By using the word “Share”, the user will immediately gain at least some understanding of what Digg and all other social bookmarking sites do: share.
For a couple of the sites within the NYTRNG group, we opted for a similiar solution. We recently added a “Share” link to TimesDaily and Tuscaloosa News. However, we decided not to limit the number of social bookmarking sites quite as much, but instead hide some of the more obscure ones behind a “-more-” link. I’m still not convinced this is the best solution to the problem, but I do think it is an improvement.
Share your icon
What eventually needs to happen is a common style that can be used across the web. The expand icon currently being used doesn’t represent sharing or social bookmarking, but instead that “Share” is an expandable list. An icon should be representative of what it is not simply how it functions. The solution is to use a new icon that represents sharing. Here’s a fake set of article tools which I believe solves this problem.
The icon used for “Share” actually aims to represent sharing. However, not until some standard icon is used across the web will it actually become recognizable to users. Just look at how many sites are now using the standard feed icon. These kinds of standards are crucial for making website tools easy to understand and use.