Effective Design Lessons 5 & 6

Do not underestimate value of copy, and design is iterative

I’m going to cover two key lessons in one post, based on something I had noticed on Facebook’s events some time ago.

Below, I have a few screenshots taken of the Facebook events page for a developer community I helped run in the past. The two on the left are from 2014, and the two on the right are from 2016. Notice any interesting change?

What I’m hinting at is that the events from 2014 had more people who had RSVPed as “going” (which, post the date, is shown as “went”) than those marked as interested. In fact, barely anyone marked themselves as interested. The 2016 events, however, show a huge spike in those who RSVPed as interested.

What happened?

Funnily enough, back in 2014, the option for “interested” didn’t say “interested” — it said “maybe”. Some time since the end of 2014, Facebook changed the copy from maybe (which was accompanied with a question mark icon) to interested (with a star icon).

That simple copy change had huge impact on the way people reacted to event invites. “Interested” proves to be a more positive response, and more people started marking themselves as that since they genuinely wanted to stay in the loop regarding the event. It also had the bonus of not rubbing someone you know the wrong way if you just said “maybe” to an invite.

The increase in responses then leads to strong network effects — every time someone marks themselves as interested, their friends see this in the newsfeed, and the effect amplifies.

It’s not uncommon for teams to overlook the importance of copy, even though it is the one thing in your design that is communicating explicitly with your users. It’s probably worth your while to think all possibilities — maybe even have specific brainstorm sessions — especially for actions.

The even bigger lesson to take away from this, however, is that design is iterative. Facebook events were doing a fair job back in 2014, but clearly someone was looking for ways to improve the product. And even though they were probably limited by the need to stay inside design guidelines created for more popular products (such as Pages and Groups), they found something they could improve, and tried it out for themselves. Keep experimenting and fine-tuning your design, even the most successful ones.