Web App Masters: Designing The Social In

by Luke Wroblewski March 24, 2010

At the Web App Masters Tour in San Diego, CA, Christian Crumlish provided an overview of social design principles and patterns in his talk Designing The Social In.

  • When telephones were new, people didn’t really understand why they needed one. Phones also didn’t make sense until everybody had one. It’s often the same way with new technologies –including social networking.
  • Social design is more like architecting a house than designing a billboard. You set the rooms and spaces –but people will decorate and use them how they want.
  • People will create the experiences they desire and in social design, people are a big part of what the experience will be.
  • User is singular, social interfaces are plural. Solitary activities like reading headlines are relatively easy to measure. Social activities require engagement with others that are most easily measured through social objects.
  • Pave the cowpaths: support people’s existing behaviors with the way you design software. Example: dogster started as a photo-sharing service, but moved to a social network for pets when they saw people were uploading many images of their dogs and cats.
  • Talk like a person: use conversational voice to let others know there are actual people on the other side. Self-deprecating error messages can make things more acceptable. Posing questions prompts responses, which results in a dialog.
  • Your vs. My: use “you” and “yours” to indicate other people are around. This sets the right expectations.
  • No joking around: some people will take jokes the wrong way or get confused. No joke will be 100% understood.
  • Play well with others: be open to participation. Build on open standards, share data outside your application, accept external data within your application, support two-way interoperability
  • Learn from games: engagement that comes form how games work helps drive business needs. Games, like social networks, are only designed to a point. They have rules, boundaries, and structures but do not dictate a singular experience.
  • Respect the ethical dimension: there is an ethical element when people are involved –private data, who they know, etc. In any ethical decision, the business, the individual, and the collective/community have a stake.
  • Social design patterns can be grouped by patterns related to the self, activities, community, and social spaces.
  • Give people a way to be identified: let people take ownership and customize their identity. Identity doesn’t always have to manifest itself in a complicated profile.
  • Indicate presence so people are aware of who else is within a system. Reputation systems help people learn how to interact with people.
  • Attribution and avatars –place people’s identity in context to what they’ve done.
  • What is the social object in the site you are building? The social object is the reason two people are talking to each other as opposed to talking to someone else. Social networks form around social objects, not the other way around. In Facebook there are many social objects: videos, gifts, groups, etc.
  • Social activities give people things to do. Some people will engage in a few small things, and others may engage in many or larger scale things. Social activities include: collecting, broadcasting/publishing, sharing, giving feedback, communicating, and collaborating.
  • Feedback allows people to have conversations about objects
  • Collaboration is when you are actually making objects together. Goes beyond conversation.
  • Social media –when you have the whole ecosystem of sharing, creating, and collaborating. Social media needs context and filtering tools when it takes off but this is a rich man’s problems
  • Bridging the gap to the real world includes location, calendaring, etc.
  • Let the community elevate people and the content they value.
  • Enable people to make connections.