Archive for the ‘Geri McGann’ Category.

What do user experience design and a triathlon have in common?

White Lake Half Ironman Triathlon Swim Start 039
Image by cygnus921 via Flickr

There is more than you might think in common between designing social media tools and online communities and doing a triathlon. When I first took up triathlon I hadn’t a clue how it worked. I knew it involved three sports, swimming, cycling and running, in that order, but I had no idea of the logistics of transitioning from one to the other: how to set out my gear, the fastest way to transition, what to put on and in what order. It was daunting. So how did I learn? I watched others. The more races I participated in, the more I learnt and the quicker I got. As I progressed I picked up new tips, became more efficient, paired it down to what I needed to know and as a result saw my performance improving.

No longer an observer I was now an active participant.

Social interaction is pretty similar. When you are using social media tools and online communities you’re not sure what to expect, you might think it’s not for you or you may feel nervous about participating. You might start as an observer, taking a look around, see what others are saying. Then you may start to recognise familiar features and design patterns (although you might not necessarily call them this!) and you begin to formulate how you might proceed. It’s only when you find a subject that is of interest to you that you might start to actually engage and begin your social interaction journey.

So how do we make this journey easier for users? With social interaction people are no longer just consuming content they are interacting and creating it. They have a variety of ways they can do this, through blogs, forums, questions and answers, debates, ideas, and competitions. Then there are the numerous ways in which these are presented, take blogs for example, we can show the title, the date of the post, who wrote it, a content teaser (an extract of the main article), an image, social properties, such as the number of views and comments, and social actions, such as rate, comment, share, subscribe, report, like and tweet. Some blogs show all of these, some show only a few – but which are the important ones – how do we give the user enough to show that there is interaction taking place and make them in turn want to interact without swamping them with loads of data so that the user experience is not impaired?

When using and designing these features we need to ensure that the appropriate features are chosen to enable successful engagement.