Personal tools

Circle of Connections

From Social Patterns

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A user wants to indicate nuances in their relationships with other people.

Use When

  • Use to distinguish levels of participation in a person’s network.
  • Use to set permissions for shared activity and content.
  • Use to disambiguate real-life versus online, strong versus weak ties.
  • Use this pattern to help users filter which content to consume.


Depending on the context of your user experience, levels of granularity in describing connections may or may not be important.

Consider allowing users to classify their connections along a continuum of influence or intimacy.

Clearly articulate what the implications are for each level of classification.

Flickr allows connections to be categorized as friends, family, friends and family or contacts. When images are uploaded, visibility can be constrained based on the relationship indicated.

Don’t add too many levels else users will be confused about what each level permits. Users need to be able to easily separate what each level entails and how their actions and content will be consumed.


Real-life relationships are complex and context often changes how two people might interact. Online representations of relationships need to be presented in as simple a format as possible in order to aid in understanding and usability.

Providing mechanisms for users to create relationship groups avoids awkward social situations and puts the user in control of how their actions and data is consumed.

Related Patterns

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