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My design principles for online communities or networks

What are your design principles for designing and fostering online communities or networks based on your experience in this course and your project? Please describe them and a little bit about how you have developed them.

I am sure that if I start thinking deeply about my design principles for designing and fostering online communities or networks, I can end up with a very — very — long list of principles. Because I don’t want to end up doing that, and I simply don’t have the time for that, I decided to highlight the 4 that I think are the most important:

1. Provide less, get more.

In my experience this is what applies to most of the platforms that I have used in my life — and enjoyed the most. It’s usually the networks that offer the least in terms of functionality that users feel the biggest amount of ownership during use. Think of Twitter for example. Its creators didn’t invent the @-reply and neither did they invent the Retweet. They were both inventions by the community, which had to come up with solutions to problems the very minimal system initially provided. The users feel a great sense of ownership (which is very much apparent now that Twitter is slowly killing parts of its ecosystem). Now, what would happen if Twitter already had all those features built-in from the start? Would it be an equal success? It’s guessing, but I think it wouldn’t be such a success.

I think that if you provide less, you are also fuelling creativity in the community of users. That’s a good thing as well, right? Especially if you want to put them in the mood of coming up with creative ideas for innovation.

2. Go mobile.

Slowly we’re moving to a world where mobile comes first. People mostly consume information through mobile devices (phones, tablets, whatever else there is to come in the future). Thinking of the incredible growth mobile phone usage is making in the developing world, this is the only way to go forward if we want to connect everybody and everything with everybody and everything in this world.

When was the last time you joined an online community that doesn’t have a dedicated app or (damn good) mobile interface? I don’t remember. Has to be a long time ago.

3. Don’t replicate functionality.

There is so much stuff online already, that there really is no reason to try to reinvent the wheel. Make use of what’s out there already. A couple of years ago the web was very segregated, but we’re going to a situation where more and more is connected with everything. The most-powerful platforms we’re using right now are the ones with an extensive ecosystem of apps and other ‘things’ that are connected to it through APIs. That’s what’s going to keep increasing. Eventually the password-input when logging in will be (nearly) entirely replaced by a ‘Log in with Facebook’ button. Those services are going to be so ubiquitous there is no reason not to take advantage of them.

And of course: there are too obvious design principles as well, like the need to focus on user interaction, but as I said I decided to leave them out.

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Posted in All Students, Group 1, Idea Networks
This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog
3 comments on “My design principles for online communities or networks
  1. Nancy White says:

    Simplicity is a very useful design principle. I also note that up there, amongst your principles for the design of a platform, you are also starting to surface the social design principles –> which are hugely important. They may be practices more than principles, but nonetheless, your observation about ownership is tremendously important.

    What do you think about ownership of one’s own data? For example, when we convene on Facebook, FB essentially owns our content. What are the implications?

  2. Well, on a personal level I don’t really have a problem with that. In the end using a useful platform is more important to me than ownership of data. That doesn’t mean that I am happy with the current situation, it’s just that I can live with it.

    What I find an interesting development is what Doc Searls describes as ‘vrm’ (Vendor relationship management), see here: https://vimeo.com/51516917. I hope more ideas like that end up in platforms like Facebook.

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