Design is influence, pt 2: Leveraging the tap

In my last post, I looked briefly at how Civil Comments is not just codifying community standards into their platform for online comments, but literally coding the standards in with some thoughtful behavioral design.

Let's review the fundamentals built in to Antenna.

For one, Antenna is not a comment platform. We're not out to replace them. As Amanda Zamora put it to me, "comments are about readers responding to each other; your platform is about people responding to the content." We think Antenna and traditional comments are both good community tools, just (largely) distinct.

Another point: tapping is easy. We know that. Most of us have done it since we were infants. This is why touchscreens took off: they intrinsically work for us. They satisfy.

Another: convenience wins. It's why people type "lol" and not "my, what a funny statement" most of the time. The Like is the most common action on Facebook. Sure, we all wanted more expression (hence Reactions), but convenience wins. Like was good enough because it was easy enough.

Lastly: people want to be heard:

There is an increasing body of research that confirms that individuals will be more engaged...if they feel their voice is being heard.


Intrinsic motivation and democratic ideals flourish when environments encourage and support one’s voice being heard.

Antenna combines all of this: people simply tap on what gets their attention. The expressive options cover a good range of responses, so in two taps, I've let the world know that a certain image or point, on a certain page at a certain website, is Interesting or lolz! or whatever. And even when there are hundreds or thousands of reactions, our grid summarizes diverse community perspective in seconds:

We passionately believe that this simply makes people feel heard, and feel good. Their take on this content is accounted for, not lost in the Twitterverse or an "" inbox. Sometimes we just want to say "hey that was funny, don't you think?" and see 500 other people mark it funny, too.

Just as important: each community customizes the reactions. The language I would use at the Financial Times is different than what I'd use at Pitchfork, ESPN, or TMZ. Different contexts mean different language, just as in real life. Much more authentic and appropriate.

Each site can also customize the design/look and feel, too. This lets a site set the tone for how their audience engages via language, colors -- the whole experience of how Antenna integrates into their content.

What does this design encourage? Here's what we're seeing.

First of all, it encourages people to participate. Tapping is easier than typing, and most of our publishers see a lot more reactions than they do comments in traditional comment platforms. Especially on mobile -- in fact, most reactions in our platform are on text, on a smartphone. We have over 1,300,000 reactions in the system so far, and truly, more than half are on text, on smartphones. Whereas comment thread usage tends to plummet on the small screen.

Second, people are more likely to tap an option given to them than type a new, custom reaction. So, the audience feedback is fundamentally civil and on-brand for a community, while still being more expressive than a Like, and not jarringly out of place like a yellow emoticon would be for most sites. The goal is that this works well for really any type of content -- news, opinion, sports, lifestyle tips, and more.

It encourages people to view other peoples' reactions. On desktop, we typically see 12-15% of the audience view reactions, which requires rolling your mouse over our icons. People are curious about what other people think. (Note to publishers: this then lifts their likelihood to view more articles. We have 9 months of A/B test data supporting that.)

So, all that said: we hope our design is getting more input from more people, in a reasonably appropriate way, that is useful to the community, the publisher, and to advertisers as well.

Masthead image via Kelly Kettle