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Defining User Interface Design For Social Media

I met Jared Spool today at the User Interface Twelve conference at the Marriott hotel in Cambridge. Jared along with Jacob Nielson is one of the top leaders in interface design in the United States, his conferences and seminars have helped to teach a generation of designers' approaches to connecting with audiences through design.

Quantum Books invited me to the event to sign some of my books there.

During the course of the day I was thinking about interface design and the social media. Wikipedia provides a helpful definition of the term interface design:

"User interface design or user interface engineering is the design of computers, appliances, machines, mobile communication devices, software applications, and websites with the focus on the user's experience and interaction. Where traditional graphic design seeks to make the object or application physically attractive, the goal of user interface design is to make the user's interaction as intuitive as possible-what is often called user-centered design."

I was wondering whether the term includes the process of interaction between one and more people within a social media website or technology? I believe the term does, but describing the process of interaction between other social media technology members might be a subset of the term.

Experience design might be a better term to consider for describing that process of interaction between participants within a social media, here is the wikipedia definition:

"Experience design is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments -- each of which is a human experience -- based on the consideration of an individual's or group's needs, desires, beliefs, knowledge, skills, experiences, and perceptions. An emerging discipline, experience design attempts to draw from many sources including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architecture and environmental design, haptics, product design, information design, information architecture, ethnography, brand management, interaction design, service design, storytelling, heuristics, and design thinking."

Though really I am not satisfied with this definition, I wonder if there is a better and more tightly focused definition for the activity?

One of my research interests is the subject of how do you design a website technology so that is facilitates the interaction between visitors and participants. Corporate blogging faces some particular problems in this area because unlike forums blogs do not automatically always provide ways for participants to notify other participants that they have added something to a conversation. Trackbacks notify a blogger that someone else has written a post, and comments do the same, but for the other people commenting on a blog post, they often have to develop their own tracking mechanisms for the comments on a post to follow the thread of a conversation. Several companies provides such technology, I use CoComment for example.

I've personally come to the conclusion that the default for any blogging system should be an automatic subscription by email to a comment thread. By commenting you are stating you want to be informed about the continuing conversation. Many forums do this and help to facilitate the conversation between forum members; I think the lack of automatic comment thread subscription is a weakness within blogging systems. Though many systems do offer such services as plug-ins.

I've seen similar problems with wiki's, I might receive an update on a secure wiki by email but the email will only outline a headline to the page. I did not receive a copy of the exact updates to a page in the email, RSS subscription is one solution for this problem, but as many people use email I think it's important to offer a robust email solution. I've seen the consequences for community interaction for not offering this information in an email update about a wiki -- a poor response from the community.

Maybe we should call this process "Group Experience Design," "Social Media Experience Design," or "Social Experience design." I am not sure the existing terms are not already sufficient but for my purposes I'd rather use a term that really narrows into this aspect of the interaction between social media participants when discussing such design and interaction issues. I don't know if anyone has already coined a phrase for the activity, but its something at the center of my thinking about online marketing and social media.

Postscript: I did a little more digging and found the term I was looking for its "Social Interaction Design," apparently coined by Adrian Chan of the Gravity7 a social interaction design consultancy.

Adrian Chan defines Social Interaction Design as follows:

"Social interaction design is the design of social media. It encompasses Web 2.0 design practices and tools as well as a kind of social practices-oriented approach to user experience and interaction design. Social interaction design is the design of user and social engagement with social technologies. "

I also found Brian Balfour's discussion about the concept interesting, plus Brian is located here in Boston. I think it might be interesting to put on a panel discussion with Adrian and Brian at some point, maybe at the Social Media Club or the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association. I'd be really interested in hearing what they have to say.