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Buddy List

From Social Patterns

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The user wants a distinct list of people they know (friends, coworkers, family) to communicate with in real-time.

Yahoo! Instant Messenger’s buddy list. Icons indicate if the buddy is online, offline, idle or away.

Use When

Use this pattern when offering just in time communications, like instant messaging.


The buddy list is a list of people a user wants to keep track of.

  • Indicate which users are currently online (see Presence or OPI).
  • Indicate which users are offline.
  • Indicate when a user may be busy and not taking messages but is still online.
  • Consider indicating when a user is idle, which often indicates that the user is not at the computer or is engaged in another task.
  • Allow users to organize their buddies into meaningful groupings, like friends, family, golf buddies, work peeps, etc.
  • Consider allowing the creation of on-the-fly group chats through the selection of multiple people in a buddy list.
  • Consider storing messages sent to a buddy for later retrieval, if the message is sent when they are no longer online.
  • Enhance recognition by allowing the user to add nicknames or friendly names to their view of the buddy list.

Buddy list showing avatars to help disambiguate buddies.

  • Enhance recognition and user expression by presenting the buddy’s name or nickname with their avatar.


Real time communications and the buddy list to support them, add an immediate and real-life component to what are often asynchronous experiences online.

Related Patterns

Adding Friends

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