Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter, a Book Review

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter

Joshua Porter had some interesting ideas.

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter was recommended to me by Kevin Palmer as a good read about the fundamentals of creating and perfecting online communities and social software.

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter

Not How, But Why

The book is less of a how-to and more of a why-to, if that makes sense. If you’re looking for code examples, look elsewhere. Instead, the book covers theory and explains how and why certain tasks need to be done.

Essentially, any social site, whether in the shape of forums or something else, faces the following user hurdles:

  1. Pay attention – users need to have an idea that they want your software, product, services, etc.
  2. Decision to sign up
  3. Input personal information
  4. Pay money (if applicable)
  5. Decide for someone else (if applicable)
  6. Give up the old way of doing things

Back Up a Second

Frankly, there’s even one item before #1, call it #0 if you will: the potential user must understand that he or she has a need. And, hand in hand with that, the potential user also needs to decide to fulfill that need online. Hence if a potential user, say, decides that they want support because they’ve just gotten a cancer diagnosis, but they further decide to only get their support via an in-person group and not an online board then, so far as you’re concerned, it’s game over. After all, not everyone “gets” the social aspect of the web.

Get Over Those Hurdles

Joshua Porter covers the handling of some of these basic hurdles, such as designing to favor signing up and hanging around. One main point he makes is: don’t make signing up too arduous a task. And its corollary: don’t ask for information you don’t need. Far too often, sites ask for what ends up being ludicrous levels of granularity of detail. After all, when was the last time that anyone, really, needed your middle name for you to apply for a job? Yet sites ask for this trivial piece of data. And, even if they don’t require it, that begs the question even further. Why is the field even there in the first place if the site so openly acknowledges that it’s just plain unnecessary?

Eight Seconds to Impress

Porter makes the point all too forcefully: the decision to sign up for an online service is made in eight seconds. That’s an awfully short window of opportunity to convince a potential user that his or her time and attention should go to you and not your competition.

The book abounds with these kinds of helpful nuggets, and is also chockful of references to blogs and books to support the author’s recommendations. The generous sprinkling of citations was helpful as it was a clear signpost suggesting online readings. It can seem counterintuitive to learn about designing for the web by reading a completely offline book. Porter’s work bridges the gap back to the web and lets the reader in on where to find more information situated a lot closer to where the reader is going to be placing new social software or services.

A Quibble

Finally, Designing for the Social Web does not seem to draw an overall conclusion. Rather, the book instead seems to simply run out of gas in the end. It’s as if the author had run out of what to say. Hence a final upshot or even some words of encouragement would have, I feel, helped. But that’s a small issue with an otherwise interesting and eminently practical work.

Rating

4/5

Community Management Haikus

Community Management Haikus

Community Management Haikus are – I will be the very first person to admit this – a rather silly topic. This is a Friday topic, a bit of fun as this can, often, be a rather fun sort of a profession and industry. After all, you are spending your time tweeting, posting to Facebook, and using Google+. You are making videos, and you are writing blog entries (much like this one, actually).

The truth is that, although it can also, sometimes, be a laugh riot, community management and the overall discipline of social media marketing can sometimes be rather serious. We may need to cobble  together some sort of a response to rather somber news, such as a death in our industry or our community or our company. We may have to address angry customers, disillusioned share holders, or the bewildered folks among us who just need a little help and then they can be on their way.

We are deadly serious, as we do our best to cut down on the number of technical support calls, or increase customer engagement and satisfactions. Or maybe we just want to create a memorable experience and, in the meantime (assuming that the stars and the planets all align absolutely perfectly), get someone to bookmark our link or subscribe to our RSS feed.

Come back, we cry. Come back and we will dazzle you with even niftier content.

But I’m rambling here. Maybe we just, sometimes, want to write something that can only charitably be referred to as pseudo-artsy.

Haiku for You

Community Management Haikus

Fun with the topic
feel free to add more in the
comments section, please

Community is
four syllables, so comm is
abbreviation

Fear, uncertainty
doubt commingle with robot
avatars and posts

Small things can blow out
of proportion, as there’s no
tone emoticon

Social media –
substitute for life? Maybe.
Or just leisure time

Quinnipiac Assignment #8 – J-Krak Blog

Quinnipiac Assignment #8 – J-Krak Blog

This week, we did not have to record a video. Instead, my partner, Kim Scroggins, and I created a blog for our ‘client’. We will be adding content to it. I hope you will read what we have to say.

Our main concern, to start with, was to properly design the blog. To that end, we spent some time crafting a representative logo. This was an image of a vinyl record (it was simply a Creative Commons image that Kim had found online somewhere), and then adding verbiage over it, in a free use font. We did spend some time going back and forth over font selection. We wanted something that would be somewhat edgy but would also be clear to read. We did not want it to appear amateurish in any way.

Another activity was to obtain as many free use Creative Commons images as possible which could somewhat generically evoke music and musicians. This was done as, sometimes, there are no good images for a particular blog post or another. The concept was to have some of the ‘port in a storm’ images so that we could put some sort of an image into each and every blog post.

I also took some pictures with the camera in my cell phone. The quality was all right, although these images will certainly not win any prizes for their somewhat dubious artistry. These were images of things like a stack of compact discs, a bunch of vinyl long-playing records, a number of single records, and CDs in a holder.

J-Krak Blog

J-Krak Blog
Justin and John of J-Krak

As we continue in this class, I am sure that we will add more media and will change the design, in addition to adding content.

Thank you all for following!

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