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Designing for the Social Web

Mark Mzyk | July 27, 2008

Designing for the Social Web is a recently published book written by Joshua Porter, the man behind the the design blog and website Bokardo.  I’ve been reading Bokardo for a while now, and so when Designing for the Social Web became available, I picked up a copy for myself.

The book has to be one of the best designed books I’ve seen, which immediately lends credibility to Joshua’s message.  There is judicious use of white space which makes the book easy on the eyes.  Colors are used effectively to draw attention to important points and tying it all together are a wealth of screenshots, which clearly illustrate the concepts Joshua writes about.

The book starts out simply enough by outlining how the web has become more social as it has aged.  It then progresses from there through several topics that will likely seem obvious to anyone immersed in the web, such as the need for businesses on the web to have authentic conversations with their users and the various hurdles one can encounter when signing up on a website.  However, while it’s easy to write off the content as obvious, the real benefit of the book is that it investigates and brings to the fore underlying assumptions.  It’s easy to forget something that seems obvious, so it is invaluable to have a source that points out the mundane and forces designers to consider all the implications of their actions.

The book really shines in the final few chapters.  Joshua examines how to design features for sharing content and he does an excellent job of breaking the sharing process into individual steps.  Sometimes I think those who design web applications fail to examine each small piece of a design and as a result the design fails.

In the final chapter Joshua explains the funnel analysis process for examining how a web application is performing.  As Joshua notes in the book, this analysis process greatly resembles the scientific method and that this was no accident.  Too often designs are based on feel and not enough on actual numbers.  While some of both are needed, I think a move towards a more scientific process would be a good thing, and I appreciates Joshua’s efforts to move the discipline in that direction.

The book does end abruptly with the final chapter.  A short summation would have been welcome, but this is a minor quibble.  Perhaps the greatest testament to this book is that while reading it I started applying the techniques discussed to my current project and instantly saw ways to make it better.

I recommend Designing for the Social Web for all web designers and even for web programmers like myself.  It shows all the small parts to consider in a design and how carefully paying attention to each can lead to a better design.  You’re guaranteed to pick up on something you’ve overlooked in the past.

You can order the book on Amazon here.