Notes on Designing Interfaces

Notes from the O’Reilly book Designing Social Interfaces: Principles Patterns and Practices

Crumlish, Christian. 2009. Designing social interfaces : [principles, patterns, and practices for improving the user experience]. Beijing ;Cambridge: O’Reilly Media.

SOCIAL MEDIA (8, 9, 11)
social media is “media that is created, filtered, engaged with, and remixed socially” (8)

“Social media collectively refers to content… that is generated by the community of users for consumption within the same community” (9, Harjeet Gulati)

The idea of patterns for designing interface is describes this way “The notion of having a suite of reusable building blocks to inform and help designers develop their sites and applications has gained traction within the interaction design community as the demands for web and mobile interfaces have become more complex.” (11)

The idea of leaving elements or the social site structure incomplete is described this way “One of the key differences between designing a social environment online and designing a traditional media-style, broadcast-oriented content site is that the design of a social community online cannot be entirely predetermined.”
“This principle finds form in a number of familiar concepts: customization, skinning, user contributed tags, and the emergent folksonomies they can give rise to.”
“we create open space rather than filled-in labyrinths.”(17)

Understand that in order to interact with your system users must have an understanding or mental model of what they are interacting with (19)

“Strict Versus Fluid Taxonomies: Part of leaving the design unfinished involves determining which elements to nail down and which to leave more free-form.”

“Literally, a palimpsest is a manuscript… that has been overwritten at least once, with the earlier text only partially erased and obscured… The word has also been used as a metaphor to describe any place that reveals its own history.”

“Talk Like A Person: Bear in mind as well that the writing on your site or in your application is a key part of the user interface. Call it web copy, nomenclature, and labels if you like, but it’s as much a part of the UI as the buttons, windows, and sliders.”

Use a conversational tone that fits the attitude and personality of your users but do not take it too far. Also consider using questions as a way to suggest or call to action. Also the use of third or first person “my” for example should be used with intentionality expressing either possession or attention to the larger community/activity. Consistency is important with that naming of “my stuff”, “your stuff”, or “Bill’s stuff”. (26-34)

If you are using email give people a way to respond in email. You can also reengage users through a reoccurring e-mail. “The email should contain a very clear call to action.”

GAMES (37)
Good quote for games:
“Games are among the oldest “social interfaces.” The rules and tokens of a game provide a set of affordances and an environment in which people interact.”

Sign-up or Registration (45-49)
“Collect other information only as necessary for a compelling experience.”
“Require registration at the last possible moment in the users’ process of exploring”
“Allow use of a non unique nickname (email) to reflect back to the user and for communication between the system and user.” “Consider skipping the entire registration form and allow users to sign up with… Facebook Connect”

Sign In – Sign Out(53, 56)
“Provide a clear way to retrieve the username if it is forgotten.” “Provide a clear way to retrieve the password if it is forgotten.”
“Consider providing a landing page that clearly indicates that the user is no longer signed in.”

Invitations (58)
“A user receives an invitation from a friend or connection to join a site”
“A user sends an invitation to a friend or group of friends asking them to join in a site experience”

Onboarding (70-72)
“That process of helping people get started is called onboarding
“…a large bubble tells her exactly what to do next: ‘Create your firstpost!’. In actuality, there are a dozen things she could do from here, but the guide is making a decision for her. By limiting the user’s focus–”
Also consider the idea of a “Welcome Area”

PHATIC COMMUNICATION (122, 124)*****************
“Describing a continuum of phatic messages: “These messages are: 1. I exist. 2. I’m ok. 3. You exist. 4. You’re ok. 5. The channel is open. 6. The network exists. 7. The network is active. 8. The network is flowing.”

“phatic communication, the sounds and grunts of acknowledgment we make to remind one another that we exist.”

ONLINE PRESENCE (123, 128, 134)
“A Brief History of Online Presence: …1. a persistent “place” online where a business or project can be found…
2. a blog, for instance, can create an ongoing sense of a person…the blogger is actively “present” in that space and can be found there.
3. …one is currently online and available for communication; this is present not in a physical sense but in an availability sense. This is synchronous, real-time presence, to be distinguished from the asynchronous sense of #1 and #2.” (123)

“online, available, and open to contact.”
“four typical use cases for online presence indicators: • A person wants to determine whether his friend is online. • A person wants to see who is available for contact. • A person wants to see whether his friend is available for communication. • A person wants to show his contacts that he is busy.” (128)

The concept of a Buddy List is a “list of people a user wants to keep track of” (134)

“Thinking about time as part of designing conversation systems is a critical consideration when deciding what type of communication tool to add to your social framework.”
“participating in the conversation when it is convenient.”
tools which are synchronous “rely on all participants being present and engaged at the same time”

“The primary principle to bear in mind when designing presence interfaces is to maximize opportunities for your users to declare themselves present to one another (similar to leaving footprints or other human traces)”
“a few actions that the user or system can take: • Publishing presence information • Displaying current presence status • Displaying a timeline of recent presence items • Maintaining a history (partial or complete) of past presence declarations • Providing users with a way to subscribe to presence updates • Providing users with a way to filter presence updates”

“User Gallery: Another technique for signaling the transient presence of other visitors” (149)

“Activity Streams: the idea of at least maintaining a stream of recent history and then possibly mixing status reports with other snapshots of online activity has taken hold as a way of displaying presence.”

“An activity stream (or feed) may therefore consist of an aggregation of updates and activities that together can create a much richer sense of what the user has been doing, thinking about, and saying in the recent past”

“Statuscasting: Statuscasting is the custom of broadcasting an ongoing stream of status updates to the public or to a set of contacts or followers.”

“Microblogging allows users to create short posts. These are often aggregated into a stream and can consist of text, pictures, or video.
“post onto other services”
“Provide a method for viewing once posted. Both an author view and a community view should be available.” (138)
“Allow users to filter items by date, Allow users to search or browse by date or tags, Freshness: Show items by newest item first as a default” (250)

UPDATES (139, 342)
“Updates: Updates provide people with mini stories about what their connections and others are doing on the Net”
“Users want to see what their friends have been doing presented in a convenient format.”
Users should be able to “Opt-in” or have “Disclosure” when broadcasting updates
“These updates can serve as reminders to other users about what is possible within the system.”(139)
“Recommendations push objects toward people rather than relying on them to be passively discovered.” (342)

AMBIENT INTIMACY (146-147)*****************
“Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.

“Ambient describes the lightness, the atmospheric, non directional, and distributed nature of the communication. These are communications that are one to many: they’re not quite broadcast and yet not exactly conversational. They flood over a somewhat defined space.”

“maintaining ongoing background awareness of others”

SOCIAL OBJECTS (185-186)*****************
“you should begin by defining the type of activity that you want to encourage in your space. Do you want people to collect or share?”

“Once you have a handle on the type of activity you want to foster and its associated subactivities, it is important to define the type of social object around which this activity will revolve.”

“Social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.”

“Social objects are natural, not artificial. A successful social object is one that has layer upon layer of conversation created around it; as the number of participants increases, social objects enjoy network effects. Social objects are about participation and participants.”

Competitiveness Spectrum (156)
Levels (157)
Labels: not qualitative ranks but qualitative titles (163)
Bookmarklet (210)
Relationships Terminology (354)
Groups (376)
Face-to-Face Meeting (401)


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