In our last two guides we looked at several concepts that all promote better user interfaces for users. These tips can also be incorporated into other types of web designs, so it is worth studying them, even if you are not directly involved in social networking web design.
The last set of tips in our series looks at simplicity, and the role of big bold buttons.
Buttons: We all know that buttons are everyday use on websites, but in social network circles, they need to be a little bit more than just something a user clicks. Before we explain further, let us look at the role of a button on every day websites.
The button is a simple concept, you press it, and something happens. It is important that users know an object is a button, and so borders and drop shadow are good design features for this, and it should be made clear when the button has been pressed. Therefore a physical change in the appearance of the button is needed. It is a good idea to use mouse-over effects, so that the user knows that it is a button, and therefore has a function. All these design features are universal.
On a social networking website, however, it is important that if it is a button that you want the user to press, that it stands out. The obvious way in doing this is to make it big and bold. It can take more than that, but this is a good place to start. Buttons of this nature are useful if you want the user to take action, like joining a group for example. Remember to leave adequate space around the button, and in-between any links on the page. The user has to be able to highlight each link, without one crowding the other.
Searching: The amount of information stored on social networking sites is vast. Not only is there user information to contend with, but group and article information as well. So it is important that searching facilities are easy to use and functional.
It is always a good idea to place the search box in the top right-hand corner of the layout. This is almost an unwritten law of web design, and this is where nearly every user of your site will expect it.
Once a search is initiated it is crucial that filtering the search results is both easy and effective. As previously stated the amount of information is vast and can easily be lost if displayed badly, by being overwhelmed by other results, or incorrectly filtered by the code.
Users will quickly get bored of your social network site if the search facilities let it down, so make sure this is top dollar.
Simplicity: The overall concept behind good social network website user interface is simplicity. If you study these sites, they do not have big and bold pictures, or elaborate designs, but the whole concept is about the best way to present information. Simple fonts, ways of separating elements, and simple complimentary colors, go to make the sites easily readable and searchable. The links are clear, the buttons bold, and the whole design has an easy feel about it.
Which when you think about it, is perfect for a social networking site. The whole aim is to connect people, and for many, a relaxing, social environment is what is called for, and that is what social networking sites provide.
If you concentrate your efforts around these tips then your social networking site will tick all the boxes when it come to its design. It is important however, that you put your own stamp on the website design though, and provide the design with its own direction and focus. It is why you became a web designer after all, wasn’t it?