Activity Stream

Problem summary

The user wants to get an overview of recent actions in a system that are interesting from his or her perspective.


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Provide an overview of recent activity that is relevant to the user.

Allow users to catch up on recent updates with little time and effort invested. Activity streams are most often used to aggregate recent actions by individual or multiple users from the perspective of one user. They provide links to further explore the actor, the subject, or the activity itself.

The Activity Stream is a live feed, created by aggregating social activities in one place, for a user and their contacts. Social activities can vary greatly depending on the system. Popular activities are uploads (photos, videos, audio, and other files), comments, new friendship/follower relationships, bookmarks on or ma.gnolia, music on, posts from blogs, or even items in the feeds of facebook, friendfeed, and twitter. Every action a user does can be gathered into one stream.

An activity stream can either aggregate the actions of a single user or the actions interesting to a single user. The first is about only one user and the latter abut multiple users from the perspective of one user. Aggregating actions of a single user is often used on profile pages, where all actions the profiled user has done is aggregated into one place. Aggregating actions interesting to a single user aggregates all actions from the user’s friends and who he or she follows into one stream.

The details of an activity stream

Generally, the anatomy of an activity are one of these2:

Actor |verb| (object) [context]

Anders |tweeted| (Testing, testing) [via Tweetie]

Actor |verb| (object) {Indirect object} [context]

Anders |tweeted| (Testing, testing) {to Christian} [via Tweetie]

Aggregated activities

When multiple similar activities happen, they can beneficially be aggregated into “story”. A list like this…

  • David changed his profile picture
  • Thomas changed his profile picture
  • Ashley changed her profile picture

…can be converted into this:

  • David, Thomas, and Ashley changed their profile pictures


Common verbs used in activities are: Likes, followed, commented, tagged, bought, posted, shared, and uploaded.


Activity streams allow for engagement. They expose users to the possible actions that can be taken on a site. At a glance, users can see what other people are doing and start experimenting themselves. In this sense, activity streams is an alternate form of navigation and discovery.

Activity streams are real-time, and thus put a focus on what is going on right now: They have timely relevance.

They allow users to stay in touch across the web in an open and emergent fashion.

As activity streams consists of many small bits of information. Bits of information that can be filtered, searched, and automated. They are a combination of quantitative small stories with qualitative attributes. However, the stories can be qualitative in nature like updating a status in facebook and the attributes can be quantitative such as the number of likes. Content that has value to the user can be produced by combining smaller bits of information, which in isolation does not have value.

Similarly, the large quantities of data can be used to predict what is more important for one user based on his or her past behavior.


Do you need to use this pattern in your project?

This  and others patterns are available and ready to use in this massive Wireframe Bundle. Suitable for a wide variety of projects: Website and landing pages, Ecommerce, Dashboard, Flowchart and iOS.

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