The Human Element of Websites

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A Photo of the Flight of the Conchords in Robot CostumesA photo of the Flight of the Conchords in Robot attire.

Have you ever been to a site and seen a human like message describing a new feature? Such messages are becoming a widely used trend on prominent websites and can be described as forms of human connection.

I’d like to show you a few examples and show you how they compare to real life situations.

  1. Meebo

    Meebo Blog

    When you log into meebo a blog window always pops up. This blog discusses things such as great new features added to meebo and what is going on in their offices. This blog allows you to feel a personal connection to the staff at meebo and makes you feel more connected to the site.

    This personal blog can be compared to catching up with friends in conversation. When you meet up with friends you discuss what is currently going on in their lives and you feel better up to date and in turn more connected.

  2. Flickr

    Flickr’s Helpful Tip

    In the recent flickr profile redesign some human like messages have been added to the new features. These new features may scare some people but change is not always bad. To welcome this change and make it more usable flickr has added kind hints and reminders to the features.

    This note from flickr is very much like a comment a friend may make while you’re doing something for the first time. The easy to read and helpful tip makes the learning curve a little less sharp.

  3. Facebook

    Happy Birthday From FacebookHappy Birthday From Facebook

    Have you ever logged into your Facebook account and been greeted by a happy birthday message? This special touch you see once a year makes users feel a sense of connection to the site and is one of the many ways Facebook keeps users around. This sense of care makes the user more likely to stay around the site.

    Just like your friends tell you happy birthday once a year, Facebook will also wish you well on your special day. This is just one more example of how a personal touch can make an otherwise static interface feel more in touch with you as an individual.

  4. Myspace

    Tom is the universal friend

    Tom is everyone’s friend. Tom is automatically added to every new myspace profile’s friend list. Why is this? To make the site more human. This is the ultimate form of usable self branding I feel. Tom is one of the most prominent ways myspace connects to its users in a human sense.

    Having Tom as a friend on myspace right off the bat makes me think of a new student coming to your high school. The counseling office typically assigns a student to take the new student on a tour and make them feel welcomed.

  5. Pandora

    Pandora Radio

    I’ve recently seen an example from Pandora, the internet radio. When you are listening to the radio for an extended period of time they pause the music and popup a message asking if you are still listening, stating that they pay for each song you listen to. This simple message can make the user aware in a kind manner that it matters if they just keep the radio playing and leave.

    This kind reminder makes me think of a reminder you may get in the library if you’re talking too loud. This human like comment is a simple reminder to make things flow properly and better for everyone.

What do they have in common?

You may have observed that all of these sites carry an aspect of social networking. The aspect of a human connection does not have to be limited to social networks though. We can learn from how these websites talk to their users and recreate them in our own environments.

Why is it good?

The human touch added to a website has several benefits. It explains how something is working or what it does in a very natural manner. It just feels right. The trend among these interactions is to give a tip or comment in a common language rather than properly structured sentences. This greatly increases usability in two ways: it helps people naturally figure things out, and it keeps users from having to read long winded paragraph explanations.


How are you creating a usable human connection with your website visitors? What examples have you seen? Let us hear it below!

About the Author

Matthew Kammerer

Matthew sells advertising by day and keeps frogs by night. He was introduced to the world of user experience through his UX Booth cofounders and knew there needed to be a publication to learn through sharing.


  • Johns Beharry Reply

    Alot of businesses even are becoming more personal. FreshBooks are great at that too, I received a news letter from them and they sent pics about a Halloween dress up they had, twas kinda funny actually. And it makes you realize there actually real people behind there.

    Awesome article man I really enjoyed the read.

  • Hannah Reply

    Matthew, this is a good article. I wrote a speech similar to this for my public speaking class.

  • Kendra Reply

    I figured the others were human connections but I never thought of the Flickr one that way. I guess, I learned my new thing for the day! WIN!

  • Kyle Reply

    This is an excellent article Matthew. I think you’ve madea good point here and your examples are great. I also like your writing style, and this is a well written article. I felt like I was reading this from a professional technical periodicle website or something.

  • Nikki – Logo Design Guru Reply

    This is a cool concept to bring up because it’s something I usually overlook. The Internet is so impersonal most of the time, so I agree that this is a good way to maintain a personal human connection. It follows the same principal as any business does. Hospitality is important in everything, its just likely that it comes through here as well.

  • kovshenin Reply

    Hi. I’ve seen a great example a couple of months ago. Unfortunately I don’t remember the website, but it was a hosting provider. Anyways, they had this pop-up video on their index page, where a person stood and explained about their hosting benefits for about a minute or two. I thinks it’s really great to actually see people on video, rather than pictures or text. I think Pepsi had something similar…

  • edouard Reply

    It seems that the new is using this kind of techniques too … with small tooltips to display the message … very nice and easy to use interface I thought.

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