Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Why Invest in Social Features for Your Web Site?

The benefits of adding social design elements to a website ...

"This is the first in a multi-part series on the topic of social design, a follow-up to the virtual seminar we held on April 11, 2007 called Social Design: Designing for the Social Lives of Users. To follow along, grab the Brain Sparks feed or subscribe to our free email newsletter, UIEtips.

The runaway successes of YouTube, MySpace, and Flickr have completely changed the landscape of design. One huge change is the rise in socially-enabled web applications, applications that connect users in new and more explicit ways. Witness the trend of “going social” on news sites, where they give their community the ability to comment on and even participate in the news. The design team behind the USAToday.com web site, for example, recently enhanced their site with new social features including comments, reviews, discussion forums, and the ability to make recommendations. Just this past week ABCNews did the same.

So what are the core benefits of making this change? Why invest in social features? Although the benefits will vary depending on the business and the audience, here are some core benefits of investing in social features that apply broadly across many areas:

Amplify Customer Opinion
Humans are social animals. Therefore, it is likely that there is social activity happening around your content or service whether you want it to or not. People are sharing their stories, complimenting about what’s good, complaining about what’s bad even if you aren’t listening. By adding social features to your web site, you’re enabling them to do it in a way that you can listen to.

Companies with strong products users love will help them share those experiences with others. For example, something as simple as a “share this” feature on a news site will allow people to let someone else know about what they find interesting…amplifying their enthusiasm about it.

Similarly, companies with products users hate will have that amplified as well. If someone posts a horror story like Jeff Jarvis did in his famous “Dell Hell” blog posts, lots of people will get wind of it.

This is a crucial situation brought to bear by social features…when users complain you are given a clear choice: either ignore that feedback or act on it in a positive way. Companies that treat it as an opportunity for improvement will probably improve. Companies that treat it as a public airing of dirty laundry will probably suffer."    (Continued via UIE Brain Sparks)    [Usability Resources]

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