Web 2.0 Expo Wisdom

by gregg on Apr 25, 2007

Last week I attended the web 2.0 expo. I went to learn as much as I could about good UI & Webpage design, and ended up with many tidbits of wisdom I’d like to pass on.

These are all in regards to building social websites:

1. You can’t build a community, you have to grow one. Don’t assume that if you build it, they will come. Social websites have become over saturated on the Internet. If you want to create a successful community the social aspect should be the second reason people come to your website, not the first.

2. The worst mistake you can make is assume you know what your community wants. Only they know what they want, and it’s your job to listen to them, and give them what they want.

3. Create a clear path for website contributers, and always reward people for good contributions.

4. Push the best or most popular content to the front pages of your website. Good content not only attracts more people to your website, but encourages people to create their own content (in the hopes of becoming popular).

However, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good. Publishing content based on popularity isn’t always the best idea. Moderate where needed.

5. Most healthy online communities follow the 80% 20% principle. Only about 20% of the community will create new content, while 80% are consuming the content. This is not a bad thing. If everyone was talking at once there would be no one left to listen.

6. Every time a user comes into your website, they should make the site better for the next user.

7. The average user is typically below average. Anything you ask a user to do will require skill. Your typical user always feels like an idiot. In any design, you need to ensure users feel competent from the get go.

8. Nobody reads the manual. Most console game controllers have 16-18 controls/buttons, but are so simple that you can play through the entire game without reading the manual at all. Games make heavy use of affordances, meaning that activities should do what you expect them to do. In other words, make sure things are intuitive.

9. Create cozy rooms. Humans aren’t fans of giant expanses of anything, they prefer cozy rooms. The most popular spaces are the ones with distinctive small locals, designed for a small number of people. Design for the right size, not for the biggest side; bigger is not better.

10. Stay consistent. When users interact with software, they’re building a mental model of how it works. If you have a widget in two different places and it doesn’t do the same thing, it will get reported as a bug.

11. Allow people to show their personality. If someone is able to personalize their profile or avatar, they are going to be more emotionally connected to the website.

12. If you have any sort of ranking system or ladder system on your website, be sure to reset it every month. No one likes systems where the “Rich get Richer.”

13. When releasing a new website, keep statistical information on what path users are taking through the site. If there’s a core page people aren’t using, try something different to get them involved. If there is a page where many people end up leaving the site from, figure out how to keep them engaged.

Feel free to add to this list with comments, if you have any other pearls of wisdom to share with the rest of us.

I also did a presentation on Ruby on Rails while I was at the conference. Didn’t get any video, but you can view the slides here if you’re interested. You’ll notice a similar theme if you watched the previous video.

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