UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 94 December 11, 2006

Snap Preview Anywhere

We’ve just added Snap Preview Anywhere so you can now see previews of external links before you click them. We looked into integrating our own solution for a while but this is an elegant solution and, for the moment, seems very reliable. What do you think?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

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Alex is CEO of Sideshow , an award winning creative agency. You can read his blog here.

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Comments

33
40

Snap preview is VERY annoying

36
40

Love this site, but I really find those snap previews really annoying. Sorry for the negativity.

32
46

Rob: No need to be sorry! We’re looking for feedback as this is essentially a pilot. We’re also considering a way to disable them on demand.

42
39

That would be perfect. I probably find it annoying because my mouse is constantly on the move so I hover over links unintentionally quite a lot.

36
38

I’d think that it should be possible to have a settings page where you would, through javascript, save a cookie with your preference: snap on or snap off.

34
41

From the technical point of view, it’s a nice feature for sure. I can’t find any other arguments, though. Neither for myself nor on the Snap website.

The only thing that I can make up is a decision help if or if not I should click on a link. But with the size provided, the previews don’t seem very helpful to my mind – so I’m with Rob on that topic.

40
43

My suggestion would be that you use a wee glyph after the text…

[link to another site that works as expected] [x]

The space is small, so roving cursors won’t accidentally spawn a rainstorm of previews… and it’s not far from the expected behavior, as it’s a little like the glyph for “open in new window”.

37
36

I like the glyph idea. I mouse over links that I intend to click on, once I’m done reading the current site, so the preview ends up popping up over the text that I’m about to read. It’s definitely a cool idea though, just needs to be something that you hit because you want it.

38
44

My name is Erik Wingren. I head up UX Research for Snap.com — the company behind the Snap Preview Anywhere™ service.

I’m am excited about this thread. The issues of managing the expectations, as well as, pacing the experience of the user is at the top of my agenda. In other words:

1. How does a user know when a link is a Snap-link and when it is not?
2. How can we prevent “spawn(ing) a rainstorm of previews” due to “roving cursors”? (brilliant articulation by Silus)

In an effort to address issue #1 above I implemented the use a bubble-icon immediately to the right of the linked text of Snap-links on my personal site: http://www.basho.com

But if I understand Silus’s comments above correctly, the icon should be the Snap-link hotspot, and thereby addressing both issues above “with one stone”.

I sincerely hope the UX Magazine readers take Alex up on his request and share their impressions of the Snap Preview Anywhere™ experience. This is exactly the kind of feedback that will enable me to champion your point of view for future updates to the service.

Alex: Please let me know if there is anything I can do on my end to help.

34
38

I’m with Rob.

Snap preview is everywhere these days – but the last place I would expect it is on a clean user friendly site like UXmag.

Personally I’d love to have the possibility to disable it for good via my “browser settings” etc. If that’s not possible a small “Snap preview icon” in the link would be very much appreciated.

Just like PDF’s – you hate them too ;-)

41
36

I’m also with Rob on this one.

I hate snap previews. I’m not sure exactly what it is about them. But I just find anything that pops up visually when I hover over a link distracting and annoying.

Another idea: Instead of allowing users to disable them, allow users to enable them. I think the majority of your readers will not like the snap previews, but perhaps a small minority might.

I also like the glyph or small icon next to the link ideas.

34
42

We’ll continuously be piloting various interaction concepts on UX Magazine. Personally, I find website snapshots interesting. We are consistently exposed to hyperlinked prose which don’t clearly identify the destination. For example:

I was really enjoying Studio 60, so reading this really ruined my day.

Now, one could argue that not quoting the source is the writer’s fault or that you can simply check the status bar for an indication of what the destination is but I doubt that this could or even should be enforced. To me adding this kind of context on demand is a very attractive solution.

However, I’m also sure the glyph (probably some kind standardized preview icon) is required (Erik, are you planning to release some code for this?) — Another idea would be to style external/affected links slightly differently.

I also agree that there needs to some a way to turn them off. In this case however, users should experience something at least once before getting a chance to turn it off. I doubt many would ever glance at a settings page and we wouldn’t want it to take up a hugely prominent spot. Maybe Snap could consider having a persistent “turn off” toggle on the actual bubble. This would then disable glyphs. A simple link could then re-enable them. A site owner could make available within a settings menu or footer.

I believe that a lot of the frustration comes from getting the feeling that this is being forced on you. By inviting the user to see the preview and allowing them to turn it off entirely should make the experience less disruptive.

36
41

I just noticed that you can deactivate the previews by clicking on the “?” on the top right corner of the bubble (or here) — not exactly the expected behaviour but it’s better than not having the choice.

We could simply add the “disabler” link somewhere close to the content ourselves but since this is a site-wide feature it couldn’t be consistent. — Still would love to see it in the bubble.

34
38

Personally, I like it. But, I can see why others do not.

On one hand, it’s nice to know that the link is taking me to an external website. On the other hand, the “preview” might be a bit large in size and ultimately unexpected for the user.

Still, maybe it’s just something we’ll be okay with once we get used to it. Is it appropriate on this site? I don’t know, that’s not my call to make. However, I think it will be appropriate for my site and plan to implement them there.

39
40

I see external links as something that is helpful, and in the case of this post important to the post, but this isn’t always the case. Thus I think a much smaller and less obtrusive (visually) implementation of something to give the user some information on where they might be heading is good, otherwise I think you are primarily distracting. A piece of this may be that there aren’t a lot of patterns out there at the moment to support this kind of mode, and although your users are relatively sophisticated it still may cause more “annoyance” or confusion?

32
45

Alex et.al: We are exploring different approaches to address the underlying issues (managing the expectations and pacing the experience of the end-user). The tactics are still yet to be defined.

Considerations from a product design standpoint:
On one hand the current implementation (without Snap-link attribute) makes it easy for a site-owner to implement the service since the “footprint” in his/her page design is effectively nil.
On the other hand (as UXMAG readers have helped me articulate) the Snap-links does in fact violate link convention. Without some sort of visual attribute to signal exception from said convention the risk is high that the user will perceive the feature as anywhere from surprising to disruptive.

Question(s) for the UXMAG readers:
Please put yourself in a situation where you are considering installing Snap Preview Anywhere™ on a site/blog of your own, and choose between the following options:

Option 1 — Optimized for Site Owner Ease-of-use: Installing Snap Preview Anywhere™ will enable Snap-links on all external links. No attribute = No footprint — the page design looks exactly as it did before installing.

Option 2 — Optimized for End-User Usefulness: Installing Snap Preview Anywhere™ would automatically add an icon after each text link in the content area. The icon would be the hotspot for triggering the preview bubble.

Option 3 — Optimized for Site Owner Control: Installing Snap Preview Anywhere™ would, in addition to the .js code snippet in the head of the html, require adding a link-class to your CSS that defines what, where and when to enable Snap-links as well as how to visually attribute them.

Which of the above options would you choose?

Cheers.

Erik Wingren | Snap UX Research
erik@snap.com | +1.323.528.0058

34
44

I like it, very usefull, i’ll also dig into it

37
41

I like option 2 if I’m allowed to hover the link without getting the Snap Preview. Meaning it should only be when hovering the icon. Then it’s useful and not being forced on me.

One could also argue that it should only be on external links since I don’t expect internal pages to differ..?

36
48

@Erik: First, presenting those options as exclusive is misleading. Is there a reason why Snap can’t provide all or a combination of those options? Second, there’s one option you forgot to include – perhaps the most important one:

Option 4 – Optimized for End-User Control: Add a link within the preview bubble to disable Preview Anywhere.

Why make users jump to the FAQ on Snap’s site through a cryptic icon and have to figure out how to disable Preview Anywhere when you could allow users to disable it directly within the preview bubble itself? If Snap finds this option causes too many users to turn off the bubbles then then it could be made optional upon installing Preview Anywhere.

35
43

Lasse said:
> Snap preview is everywhere these days – but the last
> place I would expect it is on a clean user friendly
> site like UXmag.

Could not agree more. What next, intellitxt?

36
45

UXMAG (&) Readers

Please rest assured that your viewpoints are informing the ongoing development of this product.

I wanted to let you know that we are working on an update to the code that will allow end-users greater control of the Snap Preview behavior.

These controls include the delay before the previews appear, the size of the preview as well as opt-out — all available directly from the preview bubble.

The first phase — with hover delay and opt-out — is scheduled for release late next week. Control of the preview size will follow the week after that.

And finally, in addition to making it easier for end-users to opt-out, we are working double-time on enhancements to enable site owners greater control of the implementation on their sites.

I sincerely hope you will continue to share your feedback as this technology develops.

Cheers.

Erik Wingren | Snap UX Research
erik@snap.com | +1.323.528.0058

36
45

After long consideration, we’ve decided to remove the Snap Previews for the time being — we will evaluate it continuously as new versions appear and also plan to integrate it into our ‘settings’ tab when we reach that phase of development. — Snap’s been extremely quick at taking in the comments from our readers. I still think this is a useful addition but understand the concerns. Let’s see how the new bubble behaves, I’d love it if we could get feedback on what everyone thinks once it’s released.

32
40

I like the snap preview, though you should check the same solution from girafa.com, which to my understanding has a better and nicer preview solution. Cheers.

42
37

I like the snap preview, though you should check the same solution from girafa.com, which to my understanding has a better and nicer preview solution. Cheers.

35
39

After long consideration, we’ve decided to remove the Snap Previews for the time being — we will evaluate it continuously as new versions appear and also plan to integrate it into our ‘settings’ tab when we reach that phase of development. — Snap’s been extremely quick at taking in the comments from our readers. I still think this is a useful addition but understand the concerns. Let’s see how the new bubble behaves, I’d love it if we could get feedback on what everyone thinks once it’s released.

30
39

UXMAG (&) Readers

Please rest assured that your viewpoints are informing the ongoing development of this product.

I wanted to let you know that we are working on an update to the code that will allow end-users greater control of the Snap Preview behavior.

These controls include the delay before the previews appear, the size of the preview as well as opt-out — all available directly from the preview bubble.

The first phase — with hover delay and opt-out — is scheduled for release late next week. Control of the preview size will follow the week after that.

And finally, in addition to making it easier for end-users to opt-out, we are working double-time on enhancements to enable site owners greater control of the implementation on their sites.

I sincerely hope you will continue to share your feedback as this technology develops.

Cheers.

Erik Wingren | Snap UX Research
erik@snap.com | +1.323.528.0058

31
36

Lasse said:
> Snap preview is everywhere these days – but the last
> place I would expect it is on a clean user friendly
> site like UXmag.

Could not agree more. What next, intellitxt?

34
45

@Erik: First, presenting those options as exclusive is misleading. Is there a reason why Snap can’t provide all or a combination of those options? Second, there’s one option you forgot to include – perhaps the most important one:

Option 4 – Optimized for End-User Control: Add a link within the preview bubble to disable Preview Anywhere.

Why make users jump to the FAQ on Snap’s site through a cryptic icon and have to figure out how to disable Preview Anywhere when you could allow users to disable it directly within the preview bubble itself? If Snap finds this option causes too many users to turn off the bubbles then then it could be made optional upon installing Preview Anywhere.

34
46

I like option 2 if I’m allowed to hover the link without getting the Snap Preview. Meaning it should only be when hovering the icon. Then it’s useful and not being forced on me.

One could also argue that it should only be on external links since I don’t expect internal pages to differ..?

36
49

I like it, very usefull, i’ll also dig into it

37
42

Alex et.al: We are exploring different approaches to address the underlying issues (managing the expectations and pacing the experience of the end-user). The tactics are still yet to be defined.

Considerations from a product design standpoint:
On one hand the current implementation (without Snap-link attribute) makes it easy for a site-owner to implement the service since the “footprint” in his/her page design is effectively nil.
On the other hand (as UXMAG readers have helped me articulate) the Snap-links does in fact violate link convention. Without some sort of visual attribute to signal exception from said convention the risk is high that the user will perceive the feature as anywhere from surprising to disruptive.

Question(s) for the UXMAG readers:
Please put yourself in a situation where you are considering installing Snap Preview Anywhere™ on a site/blog of your own, and choose between the following options:

Option 1 — Optimized for Site Owner Ease-of-use: Installing Snap Preview Anywhere™ will enable Snap-links on all external links. No attribute = No footprint — the page design looks exactly as it did before installing.

Option 2 — Optimized for End-User Usefulness: Installing Snap Preview Anywhere™ would automatically add an icon after each text link in the content area. The icon would be the hotspot for triggering the preview bubble.

Option 3 — Optimized for Site Owner Control: Installing Snap Preview Anywhere™ would, in addition to the .js code snippet in the head of the html, require adding a link-class to your CSS that defines what, where and when to enable Snap-links as well as how to visually attribute them.

Which of the above options would you choose?

Cheers.

Erik Wingren | Snap UX Research
erik@snap.com | +1.323.528.0058

38
48

I see external links as something that is helpful, and in the case of this post important to the post, but this isn’t always the case. Thus I think a much smaller and less obtrusive (visually) implementation of something to give the user some information on where they might be heading is good, otherwise I think you are primarily distracting. A piece of this may be that there aren’t a lot of patterns out there at the moment to support this kind of mode, and although your users are relatively sophisticated it still may cause more “annoyance” or confusion?

34
42

Personally, I like it. But, I can see why others do not.

On one hand, it’s nice to know that the link is taking me to an external website. On the other hand, the “preview” might be a bit large in size and ultimately unexpected for the user.

Still, maybe it’s just something we’ll be okay with once we get used to it. Is it appropriate on this site? I don’t know, that’s not my call to make. However, I think it will be appropriate for my site and plan to implement them there.

38
38

I just noticed that you can deactivate the previews by clicking on the “?” on the top right corner of the bubble (or here) — not exactly the expected behaviour but it’s better than not having the choice.

We could simply add the “disabler” link somewhere close to the content ourselves but since this is a site-wide feature it couldn’t be consistent. — Still would love to see it in the bubble.

42
40

We’ll continuously be piloting various interaction concepts on UX Magazine. Personally, I find website snapshots interesting. We are consistently exposed to hyperlinked prose which don’t clearly identify the destination. For example:

I was really enjoying Studio 60, so reading this really ruined my day.

Now, one could argue that not quoting the source is the writer’s fault or that you can simply check the status bar for an indication of what the destination is but I doubt that this could or even should be enforced. To me adding this kind of context on demand is a very attractive solution.

However, I’m also sure the glyph (probably some kind standardized preview icon) is required (Erik, are you planning to release some code for this?) — Another idea would be to style external/affected links slightly differently.

I also agree that there needs to some a way to turn them off. In this case however, users should experience something at least once before getting a chance to turn it off. I doubt many would ever glance at a settings page and we wouldn’t want it to take up a hugely prominent spot. Maybe Snap could consider having a persistent “turn off” toggle on the actual bubble. This would then disable glyphs. A simple link could then re-enable them. A site owner could make available within a settings menu or footer.

I believe that a lot of the frustration comes from getting the feeling that this is being forced on you. By inviting the user to see the preview and allowing them to turn it off entirely should make the experience less disruptive.

37
41

I’m also with Rob on this one.

I hate snap previews. I’m not sure exactly what it is about them. But I just find anything that pops up visually when I hover over a link distracting and annoying.

Another idea: Instead of allowing users to disable them, allow users to enable them. I think the majority of your readers will not like the snap previews, but perhaps a small minority might.

I also like the glyph or small icon next to the link ideas.

34
45

I’m with Rob.

Snap preview is everywhere these days – but the last place I would expect it is on a clean user friendly site like UXmag.

Personally I’d love to have the possibility to disable it for good via my “browser settings” etc. If that’s not possible a small “Snap preview icon” in the link would be very much appreciated.

Just like PDF’s – you hate them too ;-)

30
39

My name is Erik Wingren. I head up UX Research for Snap.com — the company behind the Snap Preview Anywhere™ service.

I’m am excited about this thread. The issues of managing the expectations, as well as, pacing the experience of the user is at the top of my agenda. In other words:

1. How does a user know when a link is a Snap-link and when it is not?
2. How can we prevent “spawn(ing) a rainstorm of previews” due to “roving cursors”? (brilliant articulation by Silus)

In an effort to address issue #1 above I implemented the use a bubble-icon immediately to the right of the linked text of Snap-links on my personal site: http://www.basho.com

But if I understand Silus’s comments above correctly, the icon should be the Snap-link hotspot, and thereby addressing both issues above “with one stone”.

I sincerely hope the UX Magazine readers take Alex up on his request and share their impressions of the Snap Preview Anywhere™ experience. This is exactly the kind of feedback that will enable me to champion your point of view for future updates to the service.

Alex: Please let me know if there is anything I can do on my end to help.

39
43

I like the glyph idea. I mouse over links that I intend to click on, once I’m done reading the current site, so the preview ends up popping up over the text that I’m about to read. It’s definitely a cool idea though, just needs to be something that you hit because you want it.

33
47

My suggestion would be that you use a wee glyph after the text…

[link to another site that works as expected] [x]

The space is small, so roving cursors won’t accidentally spawn a rainstorm of previews… and it’s not far from the expected behavior, as it’s a little like the glyph for “open in new window”.

36
40

From the technical point of view, it’s a nice feature for sure. I can’t find any other arguments, though. Neither for myself nor on the Snap website.

The only thing that I can make up is a decision help if or if not I should click on a link. But with the size provided, the previews don’t seem very helpful to my mind – so I’m with Rob on that topic.

37
40

I’d think that it should be possible to have a settings page where you would, through javascript, save a cookie with your preference: snap on or snap off.

35
44

That would be perfect. I probably find it annoying because my mouse is constantly on the move so I hover over links unintentionally quite a lot.

31
44

Rob: No need to be sorry! We’re looking for feedback as this is essentially a pilot. We’re also considering a way to disable them on demand.

34
38

Love this site, but I really find those snap previews really annoying. Sorry for the negativity.