How do I Choose the Best Social Network Design?

T. Webster

The best social network design has features that draw in readers, encourage participation and allow people to express their opinions. It also offers readers a variety of content that is updated frequently. As the name implies, people use social networking sites to communicate with friends, family members or coworkers. Your social network design also should allow people to connect with people of similar hobbies or professions.

Avatars may be used for social networking profile photos.
Avatars may be used for social networking profile photos.

Before sending people off to explore all of the features of your social networking website, though, make sure you first define your site’s purpose. Visitors to your site should understand its purpose within the first few seconds. This can be done through the site’s title, graphics or text, for example.

Social networking sites should make it easy for people to connect with their friends.
Social networking sites should make it easy for people to connect with their friends.

The look of the site is another consideration. A social network design can be simple, elaborate or creative. The best look for the site depends on its purpose and whether you want each user’s page to look essentially the same. Some well-known social networking websites allow users to design their own page layouts, and others do not.

A great social network design will do more than tell people what the site is about, however. Users also should feel engaged or called to do something. This can mean urging people to sign up or to browse through the site. When people can browse the site before signing up, it gives them a chance to feel more engaged and helps to build a rapport with the site's users.

When people sign up for your social networking website, they probably will want to upload an avatar or a profile photo of themselves. It will be up to you whether you require people to use their real names or identities or whether you will allow users to make up their own usernames or screen names. Even if you require people to use their real names, though, it can be difficult or impossible to verify their identities, and many users simply will make up names that are not their actual names.

Content in a social network design usually centers on getting updates from other users. This means showing the photos, posts or other activities of friends. This often is done through a news feed or Really Simple Syndication (RSS).

Your social network design also should make it easy for users to connect with others who have similar interests. This is done through groups on your social networking website. Users can either create their own group or join one. Some groups are used for professional networking, and others center on hobbies, causes or political beliefs.

Groups on social networking sites also can refer to the ability for a user to group friends together in different categories. When people have a lot of friends, grouping makes them easier to find. Groups can be made up of family members, coworkers, friends or former classmates, for example.

A social networking design that allows users to access applications is another important feature. People use these applications to take fun quizzes, play games and send gifts, cartoons or pictures. These applications allow users to interact with each other, and some people will spend hours a day on a site just using the applications. Although you do not want to copy other websites, you definitely should look at other social networking sites to get ideas for what might work for you.

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