Functionality Is Key

Posted: February 14, 2010 in Social Media, Social Network, Websites
Tags: , ,

What tools should you use to build your website? Should you custom build it based on your content and functionality or should you not reinvent the wheel and use an established website? The answer is simple. It depends on several factors….

We had a great discussion about which route to take during our Introduction to Online Communities class on Monday, February 8, 2010. Our guests included the following:

  • Charles Porch from Ning
  • Roger Jackson from greensiteguide.com
  • Liz Burr, a media consultant and a graduate from the 2007 APOC program
  • Eddie North-Hagar, a member of the APOC program from 2009 and who is also in my Social Dynamics class.  Eddie is also the co-founder of Citilistaa.com unity, including sites like Echo Park Online Leimert, Park Beat and University Park Family.

Our discussion focused on building websites from a technology and content standpoint. We talked about whether it was better to custom build your website, use third party tools or building it on established websites like Word Press, Buddy Press, Drugal, or Facebook. Depending upon your website’s needs, you may use several of these elements throughout the life of your website.

I thought that the best advice on building websites came from Roger, who said to ‘always come down on the side of function.’ People who come to your website will not wait for eight minutes while big graphics download from your site. These big graphics are impressive and look beautiful, but most people won’t wait to see them. After 15 seconds or so, they will move on to the next website. The most successful websites, like EBay or Craig’s List, are not the most impressive sites to look at, but they are functional and easy to use, which contributes to their success.

One of most interesting parts of the discussion focused on Ning.com and the new social networks that are found there. We discussed how people are starting to use Facebook differently since they are generating hundreds of friends and information overload. The average Facebook user has 110 friends and research shows that most people can handle about 150 friends. When people are generating hundreds and even thousands of friends, keeping up with all of them may get overwhelming.

Currently, Ning has 42 million registered users using 28 different languages, and 40% of them are from the United States.  Most of the successful networks on Ning have a hook. For example, Rapper 50 Cent has a network on Ning, but it isn’t about 50 Cent. His network focuses on hip hop news and is updated every day. This gives its members a reason to come to the site each day, which is a key element in building traffic on your website. Charles said that if you have a hook for your website, then it will keep people interested in the content and they will come back to your website each day.

Cool website: Google Buzz launched this week. It’s part email, part Facebook, part Twitter, part Friendfeed and part Foursquare. You can follow people, share links, photos and comments. You can see what your friends are ‘buzzing’ about and ‘check in’ from locations. Opinions on Google Buzz range from how nicely engineered it is, how it has a clean design to others saying that it lacks any imagination or compelling reasons to use it. I guess time will tell if Google Buzz can draw the 350 million people away from Facebook, but in the meantime, it probably doesn’t hurt Google to have another platform that generates revenue!

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