HomeNews#FeatureCrushFriday: Sharing – Versett – Medium

#FeatureCrushFriday: Sharing – Versett – Medium

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When was the last time you shared something in an app? How did you share it? Who did you share it with? Do you share things often? For the second edition of #FeatureCrushFriday I’m exploring yet another unsung feature- sharing. Seeing as I’m an iPhone user, I’ll be focussing on iOS apps.

Sharing experiences has long been an obsession of mine. Across a variety of projects, I’ve heard consistent feedback during user testing that people don’t generally share. I’ve been surprised to hear a lot of users admit to just texting screenshots, seeing that as the easiest option. I’ve also seen a lot of users struggle to simply find or identify the default iOS share icon when displayed without a label. Is there a problem with the experience? Or do people just not want to share?

Regardless of content, a good sharing feature serves to keep the user in the app, control shared content, and expose possible new users to your product. Sharing features tend to focus on the following services:

  • Sharing to other apps
  • In-app sharing

Sharing to other apps


Like Medium, most apps use the iOS native share sheet. This makes sense: the native share sheet is easily implemented and highly functional. Users are able to share data to a wide variety of other apps without leaving the current app. Since the native share sheet is the most widely used way to share, users should be familiar with how this works. However, showing only the native share sheet has a few drawbacks. The apps shown to the user on the native share sheet are customizable by the user; depending on current share settings they may not quickly see the app they want to share to. Apps that use the native share sheet also have no way to know whom the users are sharing to.


Google Trips handles sharing through a custom email share sheet. By removing the choice of how to share, the user is brought to a sharing experience more quickly. Custom experiences like this also allow users to share via email regardless of which email app they normally use. I especially like the copy that Google Trips includes in their share sheet: “Recipients will receive an email including all details of every reservation for this trip. They’ll also be able to see these details in Google Trips.” Unlike the native share sheet, custom email share sheets are aware of whom the users are sharing to. For example, users can receive push notifications about shared content and immediately view it in the app.

However, restricting users to sharing via email makes it difficult to share in ways they might prefer such as text messaging. Also, for the feature to work well, users must allow the app to access their contacts. Depending on what service your app provides, some users may be hesitant about giving this permission. Google Trips gets around this because you have to sign into your Google account to use the app.

Airbnb uses both a custom share sheet and a native share sheet. When a user taps the share icon, the custom share sheet appears, highlighting sharing on apps that they know their users share to most frequently. If 95% of your user base prefers to share on Pinterest and Messenger, why not surface those first? The native share sheet is accessible through tapping “More” at the bottom. Also shown is a thumbnail image that reinforces what information is being shared. Although Airbnb doesn’t take advantage of it here, this screen could link to a custom email share sheet.

In-app sharing


In general, social media apps tend to have custom, more complex sharing experiences. Instagram and Facebook are unique in that they focus on in-app sharing. When I’m on Instagram, I’m mostly sharing posts to other people on Instagram, not to other apps. Since 2015, Instagram has handled in-app sharing through messaging, similar to Pinterest and Tumblr. Unsurprisingly, these apps all have a login wall, meaning that users of the app are required to create accounts. Spotify used to use in-app messaging for sharing but the feature was deprecated earlier this year due to low engagement.

Other notable features


For users who don’t currently have the app downloaded, shared web views can be a good alternative to a static email or text-only message. Good share web views promote downloading the app, are mobile optimized, mimic the UI of the app, and are accessible without account creation.


It’s safe to assume that a user taking a screenshot intends to either save or share information. Screenshot detection can be an easy way to promote dynamic sharing functionality to users who would otherwise share static images. Yelp has screenshot detection on details pages (this was the first app that I saw screenshot detection in, and I think they added it in 2015). When a user takes a screenshot, a subtle bar animates in from the top showing a screenshot thumbnail and a sharing prompt that opens the native share sheet. Instagram added screenshot detection in 2017, functioning similarly to Yelp. In their latest update they added the option to bookmark a screenshotted post.

Manage sharing

What happens after the user shares? What does that look like? A lot of apps don’t really handle this scenario. Apps that solely use the native share sheet have no way to know whom the users are sharing to, and many apps don’t have the option to “unshare”.


Shares in Instagram show up in “messages”, and users can unsend these messages by long pressing on them and tapping “Unsend”.


In the Classpass “Home” tab, you are prompted to join your friends in their classes. Once you join them, their avatar shows up under that class in your “Upcoming” tab. There’s no way to unshare without taking the class off of your schedule.


While Spotify doesn’t let you unshare a playlist with a specific person, you can unshare all with the “Make Secret” button. Playlist followers have the option to “Stop Following”. Anyone can see how many people follow your playlist.


Airbnb users can “Manage Guests” for scheduled trips. They then have the option to share their itinerary from a custom email share sheet. Tapping “Invited Guests” shows all guests, those of whom can be uninvited if the trip has not yet started. If you are someone else’s guest, you cannot invite or uninvite other guests.


In Facebook, friendship can be viewed as two-way sharing. Friends can see all of the content a user shares (although messing around with settings can change that). When viewing a friend’s page, a user can choose to “Unfriend” (sharing is stopped both ways) or “Unfollow” (the friend can still see your posts, but you won’t see theirs). Unfollowing can easily be reversed, while unfriending cannot.

#FeatureCrushFriday Standout


Pinterest handles both sharing to other apps and in-app sharing with a custom share sheet. The custom share sheet is divided in two parts with sharing to other apps on the top and in-app sharing on the bottom. The top surfaces Facebook, Messages, Mail, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter and opens the native share sheet if the user taps on the icon with three dots. The bottom surfaces a horizontal scroll of friends (starting with friends the user most frequently interacts with) as well as a search bar.


If this weren’t cool enough, Pinterest adopted Tumblr’s pop-out sharing animation in 2013. Now in 2017, users access this experience by long-pressing on a pin. This makes sharing fun and unique, and I’d personally love to see something like this in more apps.


Pins the user shares, as well as pins shared with the user, appear in the messages tab under “Inbox”. Pins cannot be unshared.


Pinterest also implemented screenshot detection in 2016. When a user takes a screenshot of a pin, that pin is saved to a private board called “screenshots” for easy access!

FeatureCrushFriday will be a recurring blog series highlighting my thoughts, obsessions, and crushes on mobile app features. How did you like this post? Do you have a favorite sharing experience? What’s your #FeatureCrushFriday? I’d love to hear from you!

Versett is a product design and engineering studio. If you like this post, you’d love working with us. See where you’d fit in at http://versett.com/

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