Design for social – beyond hello

Josh Porter’s presentation from the “Warm Gun” conference on design for social is quite good, but not does not get very far into social experiences.

The three principles in the presentation are: design for the individual first, give people control, and derive complex experiences from simple ones. “Design for the individual first” is a good heuristic – it uses the classic example of the design of the social bookmarking tool Delicious, which starts out as a tool for organizing one’s own bookmarks, and becomes more valuable when others use it. But what do you do after it’s useful to individuals? Delicious never was all that good at social experience – it’s hard to find people, hard to find interests through people, impossible to invite your friends.

Interestingly, Twitter is following this process backwards. It started as a tool for information sharing and simple conversation. Twitter became massively popular, even though the personal experience for a new user who didn’t have a community on twitter was rather baffling. Only now is Twitter going back to provide a better early experience for people before their experience becomes social. (There’s an article about this that I recently saw – will add the link when I find it again!)

“Give people control” provides examples primarily about profiles and personal data sharing – about me. This is very important, and bad to get wrong. There are also important social steps throughout the experience – the experience of inviting friends, of being invited, of setting a shared social expectation about the privacy and accesss to what’s being shared. This is the part of experience, for example, where Facebook Groups make some mistakes.

Once again, building complex experiences from simple ones is a key point. If a user is confused on the first day, they won’t get started, and they won’t get to the rich experiences later. So, how to manage this process of building? This is something that game designers think a lot about – how can non-game social experiences deepen over time as well?

I liked the presentation and learned from – it highlights critical things that services get wrong, that will kill a service before it takes off. A short presentation can’t capture it all. And designing for social goes far beyond the personal use and “hello” stage that were in the slides.

By contrast, this Social Play presentation picks up where Porter leaves off. It talks about principles of social games: Spontaneity, Interruptability, Continuity, Discovery, Virality, Narrativity, Expression, Sharing, Sociability and Competition. Now, these are social!

The last seven principles on the list are obviously all social (and it’s telling that competition is last on the list.) Find people, invite others, share emotions, stories, things. The first three items on the list are less obviously social – they’re about time. At first glance, what does this have to do with social experience? But if you’re creating and engaging in a mediated experience, how do you handle the sharing of periodic or discontinuous time? The handling of time is actually critical to a mediated social experience.

I’m glad to see social design on the agenda of a design conference – now, more please on social design!

2 thoughts on “Design for social – beyond hello”

  1. agreed… my take on josh’s approach concerns a lack of social fundamentals and emphasis on control by design . As usual, things are far more complex in the social interaction design world, and our design frames ought to be far more sociological and anthropological.

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