UX Power Up: Social Navigation

Social navigation is ubiquitous, a vast majority of sites, web applications, mobile apps and even serious B2B applications use social features. So why is social navigation so important?

In this week’s UX Power Up, Frank defines social navigation, shares why he loves it, and explains its very practical and vital role in user experience. Please post your comments below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Transcript of video above…

Social Navigation 

Frank Spillers, founder of Experience Dynamics, and it’s time for this week’s UX Power Up.

So today, we’re talking about the topic of Social Navigation.  Social Navigation is really fun, I really like it because it takes our static, kind of formal, traditional information architected navigation – which if often based on assumptions about what users want to do – and it adds this social element, that shared element of the social web.  And social navigation, even though it was defined back in 1994 by Paul Dourish, is the discovery or co-discovery of content.  That’s the key with social navigation is being able to see what other users are doing as you go through an informational space.  It may just be as simple as… these are 10 articles which are trending…  these are links that other users also suggest… it might be “Liking” so that’s become a popular feature, not just on facebook but on other web applications or websites that have their own native, local, homegrown “liking”.  Liking lets you see, oh this is something, it’s not a formal – it’s not like a bookmark, it’s not like a “share” – but it’s just someone saying, “Oh, I like this content.”   YouTube actually gives a “Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down”, so they have the other, both feedback going negative and positive as well which is interesting.  

The ultimate goal of co-discovery is really about having that recommended experience, you know.  The ultimate with recommended experience is a recommender engine, you know – recommendations engine – which is, if you are familiar with Netflix, a great example of that is also Spotify, the music service.  It’s getting your feedback, your up / down, thumb up / thumb down feedback and it’s putting that through an algorithm which is giving you more relevant music or recommended music, which gives you the added benefit of discovering music that you might not think about.  That’s one of the things I love about social navigation – is it allows more of that glue, more of that ability of that way to connect with content that you might not go looking for or that you might not even be aware of.  So just bubbling that up and surfacing it is one of the functions of social navigation.  A good thing to think about wherever you are, whether you are designing for apps or designing for desktop experiences – how can you make that informal channel – whether it’s by tags, or just by a recommender list, or by showing the likes that are popular, whatever it is.  We’ll talk about it more in future UX Power Ups.  But for now, happy UX’ing.

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