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I am working on a site where the central page shows activity from other users nearby. (similar to a facebook or twitter newsfeed) The problem is, as this is a new site, there are often going to be zero users nearby. This will especially be true after logging in for the first time. Not a great first user experience.

We have already tweaked the meaning on "nearby," expanding to a limit if there are no close matches. This helps but we can only push this so far. We do have a call to action to invite your friends but that still can be a disappointment on first login. Right now I have "Congratulations, you are the first in your neighborhood to join. Try inviting some of your nearby friends."

I would like to know if anyone has already solved this problem elegantly. Examples in links or images would help.

  • Empty states are super important aspects of UX. It should always be encouraging action. I would look here: pttrns.com/?did=1&scid=30 mobile-patterns.com/empty-data-sets for some elegant solutions. – user67901 Jun 26 '15 at 17:57
  • (OT) I hate when somebody "congratulates" me small things, like buying a toaster. It makes me feel like somebody is starting to manipulate me and playing with my emotions. If I hear "I love you" on the first date, I'm feeling afraid. Do not use big words for small things, because it looks at least funny. – Voitcus Jun 26 '15 at 20:21
  • You know, now that you mention it, I hate being congratulated for simple things like that too. Feels condescending, like I have some kind of mental impairment. :-) – gmdavisUX Jun 26 '15 at 20:43
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It sounds like you're on the right track with positive reinforcement, though, it is really hard to encourage people to be pioneers with zero content, zero activity and an unknown wait time.

In your specific situation I would suggest giving more options to the user...

more options


Here's a little demo of a more generic example

Users could click on an empty heart to turn it solid red marking a card as a favorite and then toggle between showing all cards or only favorite cards with a button up top. If someone clicked the toggle without having any favorites then instructions are provided instead.

enter image description here

The thing I like about this example is the emotional connection it makes using a broken heart image that ties nicely into explaining what the little hearts are for.

  • I agree with the idea of more options, and think the message when more users come is a great idea. I'm not fond of the second option though, I'm not sure if it is literal such that you want the user to go out and try to find more people using/to get to use the app. That sound like too much effort for the user to put in for an unknown app (and I'm not sure what the button would actually do). I think it would be better to have an option (and perhaps this is what you meant) to be able to explore other neighborhoods while you wait to get a feel for the app and what to expect. – DasBeasto Jun 26 '15 at 19:32
  • yeah it was just an example - you would need to do some usability studies to find out what people are willing to do. for me I would opt to get a text message when someone else appears – DaveAlger Jun 26 '15 at 19:39
  • +1 - yah a text or push notification would be great I'm surprised I haven't seen more apps do that. – DasBeasto Jun 26 '15 at 19:40
  • I updated the example by changing the walk around and look for people option to something that makes the other 2 options more desirable -- :) – DaveAlger Jun 26 '15 at 20:15
  • I like the first example in that it has a clear call to action and some humor ("move to a different neighborhood"). In our case we would already have their email and could just say "We will let you know when someone else arrives." (note this is a site, not an app yet.) – gmdavisUX Jun 26 '15 at 20:51

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