community design patterns

An excellent presentation on a “pattern language” for communities shows a number of common touch-points in building a community website. If you’ve ever struggled to explain a social media site to someone, reading through this presentation will help you understand what all social media sites have in common.

Knowing these patterns is important not just for explaining sites to people, but for getting up to speed with a new site. When you’re trying to determine whether a site is worth your time, you can think through whether it executes these basics well.

  • quick registration
  • login
  • welcome area
  • user profile
  • avatars
  • users gallery
  • buddy list (the subset of all users that you’re interested in)
  • contacts / friends
  • groups
  • invitations
  • shared editing
  • reputation
  • voting
  • messaging
  • chat
  • comments
  • forums / blogs
  • awareness of other connections
  • interactive user information
  • activity logs
  • timeline
  • periodic reports
  • aliveness indicator

A site that gets these things right will help connect its community members on an ongoing basis. If these elements are poorly implemented, it will be a struggle to have people engage with the site.

The presentation goes into much more detail than a simple list, and is worth your time. One last issue to think about: what is the reason for people to go to this site? If the content on the site can’t provide people with a consistent, ongoing reason to return, it’s doubtful you’ll be able to form a community there.

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