Designing For The Community Experience [VanUE, May 26/09]
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Designing For The Community Experience [VanUE, May 26/09]

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As the popularity of social networks on the web has risen dramatically over the last few years, many designers and developers have found themselves running into a bit of a dilemma: does one design and ...

As the popularity of social networks on the web has risen dramatically over the last few years, many designers and developers have found themselves running into a bit of a dilemma: does one design and build for promotion and virality, or to enhance their site’s existing community experience? Fear not, fellow user interaction designers; these two things need not be mutually exclusive.

Creating a sense of community in a web-based environment is a complex puzzle at the best of times, with hundreds of moving parts that can be hard to nail down. It’s also an exhilarating experience that can be as addictive to designers and developers as any drug. This session will work through several examples of how you can design (or update) your site to integrate some of the key elements required to build any successful community.

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Designing For The Community Experience [VanUE, May 26/09] Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Designing for the Community Experience Nick Bouton Habañero Consulting Group + Taunt Media #VanUE - May 26, 2009
  • 2. Who is this guy? • User Experience Developer, Habañero Consulting Group • Social Software Developer & Community Architect, Taunt Media • Owner & developer of Protagonize, a collaborative creative writing community • Formerly at ThoughtFarmer / OpenRoad, Tribal DDB & Versatile Mobile Systems
  • 3. No, really, who are you? Not a social media evangelist, but perhaps an advocate
  • 4. Why do you <3 community? Because I love design + build tools to allow people to connect and interact with each other
  • 5. via kcreamer on Flickr
  • 6. Community 101 via kcreamer on Flickr
  • 7. Community 101 Because it’s mandatory via kcreamer on Flickr
  • 8. “It began, as many good things do, with some heartfelt conversation.”
  • 9. “It began, as many good things do, with some heartfelt conversation.” Thanks, Starbucks. Starbucks 2007 Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Report
  • 10. What is community? • Community <> Social Networking • Community is a discussion, a conversation, a connection between disparate users • Building community is the art of making people feel at home and comfortable in your environment
  • 11. Why develop a community? • Closer interaction with your users will always bring you invaluable feedback about your product or organization • Many companies are finding value in having in-house community management • It can’t be bought or instantly created • I’m trying to re-create that coffee-shop vibe on a larger scale
  • 12. Online community • Traditional communities fall into 3 categories: geographic, cultural, or by organization • Social networks (Facebook, MySpace, hi5, Bebo, Orkut, etc.) revolve around the user • Niche/focused communities are centered on a primary social object • Social object can be user-generated or a shared passion
  • 13. Elements of a community • Members typically value being part of a group with a shared common interest • They gain a sense of efficacy from being part of the community • Online communities require a means of interaction between participants
  • 14. So what do I need to do? Build vs. buy scenarios
  • 15. Custom development • Pros: more control, flexibility, quicker iteration, infinitely customizable - you run the show • Cons: more time to get up-and-running, can cost more to develop & operate, requires specialized staff to build, training to maintain
  • 16. Off-the-shelf • Various boxed or free options like Microsoft / Telligent Community Server, Drupal, Jive; or host online with Ning • Pros: easy to setup (generally...), often cheaper, built-in moderation tools • Cons: less control, dependence on software vendor for changes, upgrade costs, can hack/build extensions but must keep in line with core product if updated
  • 17. “The power of niche social sites isn’t just in connecting people, it’s in providing tools that allow people to do something better than they could before.” Joshua Porter, Bokardo.com
  • 18. via manyhighways on Flickr If you build it, they will come ... yeah, it doesn’t always work like that.
  • 19. Running a community generally just requires applying common sense
  • 20. Create a barrier to entry • Barriers are a great way to keep the riff-raff and spammers out; make them work for it! • Barriers come in 3 flavours: informal (interests), formal (registration, passwords), and extreme (paid accounts, crazy requirements; see: ASmallWorld) • Anonymity is fine, in specific cases. See: Slashdot, 4chan
  • 21. Identity • Provide users with a sense of identity via personalization and customization options • Confer a sense of ownership, be it of their profile or of the content they produce for your site • Enabling users to put a face to a name will always encourage community growth • Make the site feel like a home
  • 22. Control • Give users direct and complete control over their content • Don’t lock them out; allow them to edit, delete, extract, and remix content they’ve produced via tools, platforms and APIs • Creative Commons licensing goes a long way to making users feel comfortable contributing to your site
  • 23. Social tools • Provide your users with social tools for discussion and collaboration • Ratings, links, favorites, comments, friends, recommendations, compliments (etc.) all fall into this category • Don’t confuse users with too many options; make sure every social tool has a clear use and value to your members
  • 24. Applying proxemics • Proxemics (thanks Gord!) can be applied through content notifications or activity feeds based on user relationships • All user interactions can be broken down into one of intimate, personal, social, or public • User-created groups can also provide a way for users to convert noise to signal and develop niches in larger communities
  • 25. “Let them eat cake!” • Don’t restrict your users unnecessarily • Don’t assume that they’ll figure out your design and navigation, even if you can • Offer multiple pathways to discover and tools to track interesting content • Can be either dynamic (recommendations, collaborative filtering) or static (featured items, editorial choices)
  • 26. Reciprocity • That’s a big word, isn’t it? • Encourage reciprocity and cross- pollination • If your users gain value from interaction, they will be more likely to do so • Especially of interest in sites where users generate your content • See: Yelp, Threadless, gamerDNA
  • 27. Don’t be a faceless entity • Get involved in your community; allow users to communicate with you directly • If you’re not interested enough to participate, chances are your users won’t be either :( • If you can’t do it yourself, hire someone who can: a dedicated community manager • Don’t shelter your staff too much; allow users to connect, even with large dev teams
  • 28. Super-fans! • Super-fans are your power users: they keep your community alive and kicking • They’re your leaders; strong voices that are heard over the noise • If you’re lucky enough to get them to stick around, do what you can to keep them • Super-fans often turn into community ambassadors, moderators, and eventually even staff (see: Jessamyn West of Metafilter)
  • 29. Share & share alike • Allow your community to share content and promote itself; encourage growth • Create viral tools that aren’t obviously viral • Link badges, personalized easy-to- remember URLs, widgets all work well • Have both internal- and external-facing tools for sharing content; allowing users to broadcast between each other is just as important to promote activity and growth
  • 30. Listen to your users • Triage: use tools like GetSatisfaction or UserVoice to collect feedback, suggestions, bug reports, etc. • Iterate quickly: fast updates and quick response from the devs = happy users • Grow organically: even if you have a set-in-stone product roadmap, accommodate user requests & allow for new feature insertions
  • 31. Shit happens. But it doesn’t always mean you’re S.O.L.
  • 32. Adapt or die • More often than not, you’ll need to make a drastic change at some point in your site’s lifecycle • Don’t be afraid; even the users that moan the loudest prior to the change will often appreciate the benefits afterwards • Digg is a great example of adapting and changing as needed (comment overhauls, Top Diggers List & Shouts removals)
  • 33. The joys of moderation • In any community, bad seeds are inevitable • Plan for trolls, hackers, gaming the system, or even simple user error causing you grief • Moderation tools will be required • Provide ways for your community to self- moderate: user reporting, rating / voting systems, filtering tools
  • 34. If you screw the pooch • Take responsibility: if you muck something up badly, fess up and take one for the team • Recent examples: Twitter replies kerfuffle, GetSatisfaction / 37signals debacle, Facebook redesign • The classics: Dell Hell, Dreamhost’s $7.5m overbilling fiasco, Facebook Beacon
  • 35. A word of caution... • Be prepared to spend every waking moment working on your community • Be patient! It won’t happen overnight • Focus on user experience and overall usability and you can’t go wrong • Starting local can often kickstart your site • Don’t launch without any content, even if you’re counting on users to provide it!
  • 36. Recommended reading • Designing for the Social Web, Joshua Porter • Design for Community, Derek M. Powazek • The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki • Tribes, Seth Godin • Building an Online Community: Just Add Water Matt Haughey • Ten Ways Flickr Builds Communities, Heather Champ
  • 37. Thanks! • Find me online: • nick@tauntmedia.com • @nickb on Twitter • http://protagonize.com/author/nickb
  • 38. Oh, and one more thing...
  • 39. Please vote for Protagonize at LPV7! http://lpv7.launchpartyhq.com/entries/