Three Tips to Fix Snap Preview
If you spend any time on people’s blog sites, you have no doubt encountered the “Snap Preview” dialogs that appear when you hover over a link. If you have not, then visit the Snap site and check it out.
Since these preview dialogs started showing up on blogs, they have generated quite a bit of noise. Many people love them, and many people hate them. Fred Wilson put them on his blog and got a lot of feedback, mostly negative.
Snap seems oblivious to the criticisms. As evident from the blurb on Snap’s site, they are milking the numbers as much as possible. Who wouldn’t want to highlight “65 million+ previews viewed” (which, incidentally, does not take into account that a “preview” happens when your mouse happens to hover or cross over a hyperlink, whether you wanted to see the preview or not)?
My personal opinion of the Snap Preview concept is that it is quite easily one of the stupidest things I have seen on the web. Seriously, what possible benefit could one derive from an annoying popup DIV with thumbnail images and greeked text. What meaningful thing can the Snap Preview do for me that a simple right-click, Open in New Tab or Window can’t do? Oh right, annoy me incessantly and ruin my browsing experience.
Now, the point of this blog post is not to gripe about Snap. I view it as an interesting opportunity to analyze usability gone wrong and provide some suggestions on fixing it. Possibly, quite possibly, with some usability improvements, the Snap Preview might be tolerable and maybe even useful. Here are three tips for improvement:
1) Turn off the display when casually hovering over links. This behavior is totally unacceptable and is no less annoying than ad popups. Instead, modify the script so the preview is displayed only on deliberate hover actions. I consider a deliberate hover one that lasts more than a couple of seconds minimum.
2) Visual Distinction. Although the Snap-enabled links are visually distinctive, it’s too much to expect a visitor coming to your site for the first time to be able to differentiate whether you just happen to style links a certain way or if they are Snap-enabled. I would prefer to see some combination of #1 and #2…perhaps a distinct, branded icon with a reasonable hover delay. (The little word balloon does not qualify as distinct or branded.)
3) Provide useful information. The preview is cute, but useless. I would much rather get some useful information about the page. What is its Page Rank? What are the key concepts expressed in the page content — show me a quick synopsis or even just display the metadata for the page? Finally — a good use for a tag cloud — analyze the page words on-the-fly and create a tag cloud in the preview. Show me the Digg, Reddit etc. numbers for the page so I can determine if it’s important to other people.
What do you think of Snap? Of these suggestions for usability improvements?