Social Networking Website Design
Over the past ten years I have realized that the design of a social network is just as important as the coding. Most people will read that and think its obvious but if you look around and actually join some of the networks out there you will realize that not much was put into the design at all. It's almost like the developers of most of these sites think that people will be impressed with the coding and will over look the design but in fact the majority of potential members out there could care less about the coding. At Jorley Media we spend as much time branding and creating the design as we do architecting the social network.
First and foremost the brand needs to be established. When marketing the site you want people to recognize your site when they see your logo or even your color scheme anywhere on the internet. One of my designers will spend time with you one on one to develop the brand for your site. They will start by helping you pick out a color scheme if you don't have one already. At that point they will create several logo concepts for you to choose from and over the course of three rounds of revisions you will narrow it down to what will eventually be your branded logo.
After creating a flow through for all of your pages, I will personally draw up the navigation for the site. This is one of the most important parts of the social network. Most of these networks will become rather large with so many different functions and pages to go to and use. This can become so convoluted that your users might leave. The secret is to make it so the user can get to any page from any page and make sure there is almost a hidden bread crumb path throughout. You need to put a call to attention to certain links on certain pages to make sure they can go through with ease. For instance, if they are logged in and are looking at videos from YouTube then I would put a link to upload their own videos. Again, you might think this is obvious but after looking at dozens of social networks out there clearly it isn't.
For lack of better words I call this the 'Whats this...' part of the Social Networking Web Design. Basically, by the time we are done developing your network, I will know what everything is and you will know what everything is but potential users might not have a clue. This can actually hurt a site beyond repair. Imagine spending a ton of money marketing and all of your users leaving because they don't know what's what. Thats where the Whats This comes into play. We will put question mark icons throughout the site on the different functions. When a user clicks it a box will open up on the page showing what that particular function does. This will help keep users on your site and convert them to members.