Thoughts on product design and user experience

YouTube rudely observes that I have no friends

Written by bbb on June 28, 2007

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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Posted Under: Design, User Experience


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15 responses to “YouTube rudely observes that I have no friends”

  1. Bryan says:

    It’s also pretty silly that sites like YouTube, Myspace, etc, equate the lack of “connected online friends” with the lack of friends at all. More likely than not, you have plenty of friends, most of whom having too little time to spend hooking up on YouTube. By the sound of it, they’re not winning any friends, either =]

  2. Woz says:

    See? You’ve got a friend now…

  3. sam says:

    That message has been staring me with such bluntness that Im scared to log on to my youtube account now :(

    they might as well say that “you have no money”, “you have no girlfriend” or “you cry yourself to sleep every night”

    I mean DONT JUDGE ME!!

  4. You know, I thought at first that, like you, this was a bad piece of copywriting. But the more I think about it, the more I’m not so sure.

    I wonder if it’s actually the reverse. Maybe they’ve tested this, and this phrasing gets people to connect with others on YouTube THAT MUCH QUICKER! After all, nobody wants to keep a profile which says, “You have no friends” for very long, eh?

    It’s either very dumb, or very clever. Personally, I think that given the vast resources of YouTube, I suspect they might be playing on the “social proof” aspect of our beings. (I discuss this on my blog) – with a message like that, we “get friends” on YouTube much quicker, and so YouTube grows quicker.

    Bottom line – YouTube makes more money.

    I wonder… :)

  5. jules says:

    Funniest thing i read today. In Germany we call someone a MOF, if he has no friends. Mensch Ohne Freunde, means Human Without Friends. I hope that the YouTube account MOF is still free šŸ˜‰

  6. ciao bella... says:

    What i always wonder is this: at what point is someone your real friend? not just a youtube or myspace avatar in your collection, but real ‘i care what you think of me, i’d cry in your presence’ friendship…i have one real friend, and a lot of people that only exist online. even the ones i see in person.

  7. James says:

    I actually have zero friends in real life nor online. My time is spent escaping from the pain of my past. I am 36 years old and don’t have a job.

  8. Erick says:

    Ok well im going to play devil’s advocate. Actually I think to whine about this at all is pretty ridiculous itself, it says you have no friends, that’s it, to over analyze it would be a waste of life. Maybe you don’t have enough friends in your real life and when phrases like these come in contact with you you make a big deal about it. I don’t think they actually meant friend as is good-ol buddy-ol pal, or as in “let me call this friend up for coffee while we watch other youtube friends videos”. It’s simply saying you haven’t connected with anyone on the site in simplest terms.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Personally, I loved that message.

    But in today’s day and age where teens are stupider than ever, and I have to tell these neophiliacs that newer isn’t always better… there comes a point in time when people have to say “enough is enough”.

    The internet is evil, the internet is evil because people are stupid. Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube have brought a rise in this “internet friend” generation, where relatively stupid people think that simply because there is a human on the other side of the wall that they have a friend.

    They do not.

    These are aquantances, many are just idiots who don’t even care but like to see things like “You have 384,912 friends” on their page. All that says is said person inherently realizes the futility of internet relations and attempts to supplement the lack of a relationship with bigger numbers.

    Of course, the internet has also given birth to the attempts to mimic human communication… and often succeeds. People can easily be swaded to believe that a bot is actually human, until they try to ‘trick’ the bot… or recognize that it’s YET ANOTHER ALICE bot. (Seriously though, alice needs to die… it’s coding is too old, and it was only good as a starting example).

    Now, what does this all mean?
    Well… if a computer can mimic human responses then what makes these “friends” different than bots? If you never actually interact with them, and if they’re quite likely just to ditch you if you get “boring” (a.k.a. start talking about suicide, depression, having life problems… anything you would talk to a friend about) then how can you consider them a friend?

    The truth is, you can’t. An internet friend is a misnomer, it’s only internet aquantance, and in all actuality, you don’t even know the person well enough to consider them an aquantance… so it’s just “Internet Person”. or IPs for short. (Yep, geek talk).

    Flashmob , Flashmafia , These are the results of social networking. They are the ONLY results of social networking. And the reason they are the results is because these people… have no friends. They join up en masse because it makes them feel like they have friends… but do they hang out later? no. Do they say lets go have a bite? No, they just act like a typical mob does and get felony convictions. And the reason is… they have no friends.

    So the next time you decide to complain about an IP Networking site telling you “You Have No Friends” think closely about that… perhaps it is true. And if it is, perhaps you can change.

    • Jenna says:

      I totally agree with you! I have run across people that add me so I believe they want a friend then they NEVER write me a message.Another thing they’ll do is write long messages in your inbox about their whole life and after a month or two leave you – these are the time wasters and it’s like they know they’ll leave but write to you to ear or see an echo back.They are actually writing into outer space because they use you for feedback but they never help you in return.One person had 23 accounts and wrote to me under all of them,had me thinking they were all different people until someone else told me what they were doing.I was furious! I was spending hours writing to the same person about their “familes” when it was all the same person.It was exhaunsting! These people don’t care about other people.I got more involved with people in my home town and got away from the internet for awhile.Also after awhile try to meet peoplee,if they stall on it they are probably people with fake IDS and messed up personalities.

  10. Jenna says:

    Then sometimes when you get a friend on youtube etc you wonder if they are REAL friends.I have met some really good friends on Youtube while others do things which make me feel otherwise.With some people you can feel their icy coldness right through the conputer.Some use you to get a collection of friends as though they are trying to win a popularity contest.Some are just there to argue with and waste your time.There’s also dishonest people who have passive aggressive behaviors and they might test yiu in some way or send you on a wild goose chase to get info for them when they already have it.Be careful.I have leatned real friends online are few and far between!

  11. insomniatric says:

    How rude. Next they’ll tell me “Nobody loves you.”

    I laughed when I saw somebody I knew log into his account and he went to his profile and it said “You have no friends.” That person actually was my friend, but I still thought it was funny.

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