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Let's consider a "follow" type feature where a user can follow other users.

The user lands on a page with a list of users they would potentially be interested in following. Like this:

Users you may want to follow: 
-----------------------------

- user 1 [follow button]
- user 2 [follow button]
- user 3 [follow button]
- ...

When does it make sense to have a [follow all] button on the page that follows all the users listed?

Here's what I think, btu I have no data or research to back it up:

The follow action is a personal one for the user and creates a binding between them and another user on the site. And I believe it is important that this action is taken explicitly for every single person they follow. I think it will give more meaning to the action.

I think there is more to consider, for example:

  1. what if all the users listed are your facebook friends? There's more we can assume from your relationship with them in that case.
  2. what if we know that you and the users on that page worker together on a "project" (which is a feature offered by the site)?

From my perspective it is still important to have the user actually click on each follow button. A "follow all" action feels very similar to an automatic follow, which is very "disconnected".

Any opinions? Maybe some resources or examples?

UPDATE

I coincidentally just came across an example where I have to take the same action multiple times and I am not provided with a batch option.

HumbleBundle is a site that lets you buy packs of video games at a very deep discount (you can even just pay what you want). After you buy the games, you have the option of downloading them, or redeem them on Steam.

You get a list that looks like this:

http://inft.ly/pU7G9Ak.png

You have to click on every single button to redeem all the games.

Maybe it's just me, but I love clicking those buttons, it is a very satisfying experience. I can't tell exactly why, but I think it's a use case where having a "redeem all" action would have the exact same end result, but something would be missing in the experience. Nothing critical, nothing that would make me not use the site, but maybe a little bit of the personality of the site.

  • 1
    This comment does not consider the 'follow' feature mentioned in the question. Instead, it deals with batch execution of a feature that (1) may take a long time to complete, and (2) may not complete succesfully. In that situation, you have to know: (1) whether unsuccessful completion of the action on one object in the list affects completion of the action against other objects in the list, (2) how to present problems encountered during batch execution, and (3) how the user will troubleshoot those problems. – user1757436 Sep 9 '14 at 17:32
  • Time to execute the task may affect the decision to execute individually or in batch too. You can use a tool like CogTool to estimate task completion time for multiple actions and for batch execution. – user1757436 Sep 9 '14 at 17:32
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    @user1757436 those are good points, error handling is important. But that was not exactly my question. I am wondering if in some cases you actually improve the overall experience of the user by making them repeat the same action. Imagine a table with 5 $100 bills 1 foot away from each other, vs. 5 stacked $100 bills, isn't picking up money so enjoyable that getting 5 times $100 feels better than getting 1 time $500? – midu Sep 9 '14 at 18:51
  • OK, so here's a real example. I am sure they do that for technical reasons, but when you redeem Steam keys on Humble Bundle, you have to go through each game and click once. There's no "redeem all" button. And I think it makes the overall experience more enjoyable. I love clicking those buttons. (inft.ly/pU7G9Ak) – midu Sep 9 '14 at 18:55
  • for the humble bundle example I'd wager a guess that they dont get charged until you redeem the game, so they separate the buttons in hopes that some users won't redeem all the games saving them money in the end. – DasBeasto Aug 6 '15 at 15:20
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Personally, I find the notion that a website wants me to indiscriminately invite/follow an entire page full of my email or facebook contacts to be disgusting.

The humble bundle example is totally different. Most users probably want all of those games in their library, while others do not.

Following is an action the user takes carefully to avoid connecting with the 'wrong' people or sending automatically generated spam messages etc etc. A high level of control is mandatory.

The redeem-all button in humble bundle could be welcomed by some. The action of redeeming a game is of sheer delight. That may be the reasoning to keep each game separate and give you as many dopamine hits as your (potentially manic-depressive shopper) brain can handle. Some users may prefer not to redeem certain games though, so individual redemption is necessary IMO. (even though you could delete the game from your account once it's in steam, but that's a hassle you don't need to put the user through.)

Just make sure the user can do what they want to do and I'd also make the design avoid stressing follow-all as the primary or only possible action.

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I also have no data but have seen a pattern for this type of interaction that seems to allow for the conscious decision of choosing individuals with a bit more (seeming) ease of adding a bunch of folks at once. It is this:

Have the list, where each person is selectable, and a the button to follow the selected people. I believe that Facebook does/did this when you sign up and import your email contact list.

Another thing to keep in mind is that having a bunch of the same button, line after line, can visually weight that interface away from the names of the individuals.

  • That's an interesting example. I think that's even another use case ("only batch", "no batch at all", and "pick and batch"). However, in that case is sounds unlikely that anybody would use that feature if it did not provide that picking functionality. Emailing a lot of people 1 by 1 is a lot of work, and emailing ALL your email contacts is a big no-no. – midu Sep 9 '14 at 20:39
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Addressing a case of following users, it is suitable to individually have an add/ follow button for each item as it is a case of 'socially connecting' with an individual. Just a way to add a more human touch to the process. However, this isn't a one size fits all solution.

Considering the above image, it is a not so optimal arrangement of controls. One could instead have a single drop down listing the different games and one button to the side for the action (in this case redeem the game). The if you would like to facilitate ease, a drop down with checkboxes for each of the games could also be used.

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Batching is to be done when you believe Selecting All will be beneficial to the User by any manner.

When I say, it should be beneficial, it shouldn't involve any transactions which should happen automatically, because that's not beneficial to the user since it's their money you are dealing with.

For example, when you sign up on Quora with Facebook, the next step it will ask you to do is

  • Select friends you want to follow which are already on Quora.

Now, in this, all friends will be pre-selected, because you used a Social network to sign-up, so it's beneficial to you to follow all since you're

  1. Already Friends with them on Facebook
  2. Benefiting from the Questions or Answers your peers might have posted.

For Steam's Humble Bundle, each game you add will add up to the collection and it might/ might not be beneficial for you + it involves money and it's a much more complicated process than just Unfollowing. For Humble-Bundle, it could be Refund, which is far complex.

A rule of thumb to follow in the case of Batching is:

If it's hard to roll back, it's probably not ideal to batch.

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