Mind reading

When I am reading online and find a great article that I don’t have time or inclination to read immediately, I use Instapaper. It’s great – I just hit my “read later” bookmarklet, and then I can easily find the article, or (more often than not) download it in text format to the Instapaper¬†iPhone or iPad app and read offline – on public transport, in a cafe, on the couch. Instapaper is a great idea, and has been very successful for its developer Marco Ament.

For a while now, I’ve also kept a folder on my bookmarks bar in Safari that I use to save videos (YouTube, Vimeo etc) that I want to watch, but not right away. The folder’s name is “Watch Later” – kind of my own lo-fi version of Instapaper for videos. When I find a video I want to watch later I drag the link into the folder. When I finally get around to watching the video (or decide that I don’t really want to watch it after all) I remove it from the list.

So anyway, today I was reading a blog, the blog post contained a YouTube video, and I was just about to copy the link to save to my folder when I noticed a new little button in the top right corner of the player. Watch later it said. My brain did a little jump РOMG Google just read my mind.

Now, I know that YouTube has been playing around with playlists for a while now. (Hitting the “Watch later” button actually adds the video to an automatic playlist which you can access when you are logged in to YouTube). Because of the same use of language (“Watch later”), and because I’d been having that exact thought at the time that I saw the button, I didn’t care about the mechanics of the action – there was no “what does this button do?” moment. I just wanted to watch the video later. I pressed the button.

This is one of those instances where language is extremely important in interaction design. The button could have said “add to my playlist”. It could have been some obscure icon. I would have ignored both. So much of my positive reaction and hence my willingness to try a new feature was tied to the fact that the software was speaking my language.