Users do not create content, individuals do

Posted on: September 17, 2010 by: Vesa Metsätähti in:

Content Strategy for the Web Kristina Halvorson's Content strategy is good reading (http://www.contentstrategy.com) For a moment I thought that the strongest “user created content” hype was over, but again and again the wish surfaces. Actually the goal is pretty valid. When building something for the user having them to participate is a good idea.

As Kristina Halvorson points out in Content Strategy

This is a fairly complicated, surprisingly resource-intensive approach to sourcing content. If you build a user-generated content forum, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will come. And if they come, it doesn’t mean they’ll stick around. Engagement tactics are key, as are resources that will moderate and respond to content and comments.

Do you really want the users to influence your service, or individuals with a desired approach and goal to get involved?

“The users” is really broad audience. Think of what kind of discussion is going on in your local news sources anonymous commenting system. Do you want to transfer that to your service? I did not think so.

So even if you are running a service that delivers to users trough browser (I avoid saying website) you probably have some kind user categorization. Personas perhaps? Who of those you want to influence your service and in what way?

If you want to have your content or functions grouped by users, you should not be looking for the generic elastic user, but some goals or motives. Other vice you will have that worst case scenario at hand and it will take more effort to fix it than original work fron you woud have taken.

Four layers for design work means motivated design choices

The four layers are about being able to recognize what is going on, and where you need to do what to get where you want.

With user participation you need to decide what you want your specified types of users to do so that it helps you service to support the goals that you are targeting. In a same manner you are creating a process ans systems in infrastructure layer for internal actors you need to create a process for user participation.

The user participation process should have the hooks and rewarding system that guides them to work in a way that takes the service in the direction you want. Not to make it a dumpster for bad comments, for example.

User participation will need also tasks and presentation, that helps the users understand what this is all about. And on service layer, as you know your user’s goals, context of service, you can predict what roles you can realistically give them.

Seductve Interactions Stephen P. Anderson has good tools in "Seductive Interactions" presentation (http://www.slideshare.net/stephenpa/seductive-interactions-idea-09-version) Stephen P. Anderson has deviced a good presentation: The Art and Sicience of Seductive Interactions with strategy and means for supporting users’ behavior.

If it works as you expected you have failed

Good design is something that users did not expect. If it just fills their expectations it does nothing revolutionary.

You can’t have a waterproof plan for user participation outcome. And you should not. But you should still have strategy and goals for your service.

Users will behave unexpectedly and that is why you wanted the participation in first place. When you see what the participation and interaction results to, you should make decision on do you have business in that behavior and emphasize it or is your business somewhere else and you should try to change the behavior.

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