Usability means social means network…means usable

Twitter’s a stream, not a bookshelf.  Comments, ideas, and links flow past.  You can’t follow up on each one.  I have, however, come up with a homemade version of a clipping service.

A couple of times a day, I skim tweets and click on promising links.  Each link opens a new tab in Firefox.  Usually I end up with six or eight tabs, ideal for quick browsing.

Skimming, round two, involves those tabs.  I’ll start reading the link and do a kind of cognitive triage: close; read and close; read, tag (in Delicious), and close.

One such tweet led to an article on usability principles in social networking, posted by Verne Ho.

Ho’s main topic is putting usability ideas to work specifically on social network sites.

Social networks differ from regular websites in 3 fundamental ways:

  1. Activities and content are fully (or at least mostly) driven by the users.
  2. Users are expected to do things on the website — interact, post, vote, etc.
  3. Users are expected to come back to the website periodically and continue to do things.

At least the first two points apply to learning: it’s the learner who does it, not the facilitator, designer, or the chief learning officer.  And for learning to happen, learners have to do stuff.

That’s a bit of a tangent, and Ho’s points are worthwhile in their own right.  I like how he handled some possibilities: “…Basic usability principles…dictated righter from wronger (sometimes there was no strictly right or wrong answer).”

A quick rundown of some of his principles:

  • Show only relevant information.
  • Emphasize important actions.
  • Provide visual feedback…(and make wait times feel shorter).
  • Use the five-second text.

That test: “ask people to list what they can recall after viewing your site for five seconds.”  Not a bad principle to apply to, say, visuals in a presentation.