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Since the majority of the browsers on small devices (and Safari on desktop as well) already provide a function where the user can share the content on — for example — Twitter, should we still provide this function when a user comes to the website on a smartphone/tablet (and still provide them if a user visits us via his desktop or laptop)? For sake of the argument, let's ignore the fact that people can resize their browser on their desktop.

Some benefits I can think of are the built-in function:

  • can use the installed apps for sharing, which provides a better experience if you ask me
  • takes up no extra space on the page
  • reduces data usage and speeds up loading time, since the social widgets don't need to be loaded

Some drawbacks I can think of:

  • Not everyone knows about the build-in social sharing function
  • It's impossible to see how often an article is shared on a social media platform. A higher number can stimulate others to share as well

For example: NPR has a great social sharing function. It's small, fast and intuitive. However, the build-in share function provides much more options for sharing, so why would I want to use the one provided by the NPR? It takes up space, et cetera....

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Does share from browser expose the share button's functionality or is it always a generic share? –  rk. Apr 18 '13 at 11:37
    
Can you be a bit more specific? I think I don't understand you're question –  Misha Scholte Apr 18 '13 at 11:47
    
If a page has a share button, does the browser's share use that button's sharing feature or does the browser always share the page url? –  rk. Apr 18 '13 at 12:02
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes, you should still provide social sharing options

Here are some of the reason why:

  1. When using a share button on a site, you may not be sharing the same URL that the site appears to have.

    For example, if I select 'share' on this page, the URL that I get to share is: http://ux.stackexchange.com/q/38299/4595 (which includes my userID of 4595). But if I look at the URL of the page, it is http://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/38299/ which has no userID.

  2. The sharing button(s) on pages acts as a call to action as much as it is there to provide functionality.

  3. Users may not be aware of how they can share using any built-in apps

  4. Built-in app sharing is often not as convenient as selecting a simple button

  5. Users may not have the app for the service that they want to share. For example I may want to share on Facebook, but I do not have the facebook app installed on my personal device.

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1. If I share it with my browser, it doensn't include my userID. It does sound plausible though 4. I disagree with this. From time to time, if I use a twitter button on a website, I get redirected the log-in form instead of directly tweeting it. I have never had the same experience with the build-in function 5. Very good point! –  Misha Scholte Apr 18 '13 at 12:15
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@MishaScholte: the redirect on the twitter button via a website means you have not told the twitter site to keep you logged in. Otherwise it won't ask for your credentials (except perhaps when you haven't visited for quite some time). –  Marjan Venema Apr 18 '13 at 17:29
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@MishaScholte: Also the links actually DO include my userid (the numeric version of it!) –  Marjan Venema Apr 18 '13 at 17:31
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When you're designing responsive site, make sure to tweak the share buttons on the mobile devices to trigger the native/default applications rather than launch another webpage in the browser.

Also, the share button lets you customize the look and feel of the shared post which the default browser sharing options might now do. eg: you can make sure that when the user clicks share on a page what should the title, summary and image of the shared card be rather than relying on the browser to handle it based on it's own parameters.

There is also the issue of the user not having the app installed on the phone whereas they might have an account on that platform (slim chance but a possibility none-the-less). In such a case you can modify your share button to trigger a prompt for the user to install the app for future use.

Finally, the share button on the browser is hidden inside a menu (not quite obvious) whereas the button is visible to the user and provides better visual feedback.

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I disagree with the answers that say yes.

The overall user experience for the content itself should take priority over any secondary actions a user may take. If the content is presented in such a way that the user experience is flawless, and the user wants to share the content, he/she will find a way to share it with or without a website chotchke holding their hand.

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