Designing Social Interfaces

Designing Social Interfaces: Principles, Patterns and Practices for Improving the User Experience. By Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone, O’Reilly Media, 2009.

This is an excellent book for anyone interested in understanding the various design decisions that go into creating an online social network.

I approached this title as from the perspective of an information architect wanting to know more about successfully designing social networking features into web sites. What I found was a very detailed overview of the entire social media world, the different types of social sites, social media, and communication tools (e.g. Twitter), and the different components that comprise these social networks. Every tool in the social interface toolbox (circa 2009) is explored in Designing Social Interfaces. The authors have collected examples of each tool in action and provided readers with a set of heuristics for their use: for whom a particular tool is best suited. When to use the tool. When not to use the tool. How to use the tool and how not to use the tool. In short, the book sets out best practices for the use design of a social interface and on the basis of this aspect alone, I recommend this book.

At slightly more than 500 pages, it is a lengthy read and could be treated as a reference book if one wished, but a reader would miss out on what makes this a thought provoking read by treating it solely as a reference book. The book includes many essays spread throughout the text which are excerpted from books, blogs, white papers, and articles. These essays often deal with the larger social (on and off-line) trends or habits that fuel the development of social interfaces. Some of these essays include topics such as: the etiquette of “friending” someone online and the need to be able to designate different types of friend relationships (e.g. real life friends, family members, colleagues, friends of friends, and strangers), and the ethics of good design.

If you are considering designing a site with social features, this book is a must read.

This title is available from O’Reilly Media in print and multiple electronic versions. I read an epub version of the book for this review.

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