Essential elements of a social networking site

QED42   |  12th July, 2011

Its probably a moot point to suggest that social networking sites are the rage these days. Thanks to the success of facebook, twitter, myspace and orkut, most of the sites now have a strong social component to them. So is the social networking space overcrowded? Maybe, but dont let that discourage you. As we pointed out in a previous blog post there's still a lot of scope here. So what makes a social networking site successful ? What are the key components and features that a social networking site should have. We at qed42 are web dwellers and continuously trying to deconstruct the web and we have the answer for you. The essential elements which you should keep in mind while building a social networking site.

  1. Registration Form : Keep your registration form as simple as possible. Broken down to the bare bones a simple email and password field may suffice but you may want to include fields for first and last name.
  2. Profile and Feed : Ideally this will be the most viewed page of your website. Apart from the general fields remember to keep fields which will be of interest to other users and which will be in coherence with the general theme of your site. You can check out the profile pages of couchsurfing.org specially in reference to the last point. Here's one. Also as facebook and twitter have proved its a good idea to have a "what are you thinking/doing" feed. Even linkedin has one now. So do some of the other sites like brazen careerist.
  3. Easy interaction between users : The success of a social networking site is based on the conversation of its users. So make it easy for users to communicate between each other either actively or even observe what other users and their connections are doing. Also it should be easy to communicate with users of other sites, for example through FBConnect or even their twitter id.
  4. UI : Having a simple yet interactive user interface is a must for a successful User Experience. If the UX is good users will return to your site. One of the ways to keep the UI interactive is by using ajax and javascript. Page refresh should also be reduced to as minimum as possible. Some other things to consider are
    • A navigation menu which lets the user access all the elements of the site of which he is a part of. 
    • Layouts should be consistent. Header and footer should take no more than 30% of your real estate, if possible may be even less. User should be able to see the content in any resolution. If its not so you may end up in a situation that if the user is at a low resolution, the header occupies 50% of the page and he may need to scroll multiple times.
    • Logo should be the identity of your site and it must be clickable! 
  5. Ability to import users from other sites : One of the key reasons why facebook was successful over orkut was that it gave the option to people to import their contacts from gmail and other email providers. This helped in the viral growth of facebook and is one of the major reasons why facebook is what it is.
  6. Search : Your site should have the option to search through users, communities etc. Ideally if the user is new you can even suggest him what networks might be interesting to him based on his location or interests

  These are some of the few things which we believe are the ingredients of a successful social networking site. Did we miss out on anything? Let us know in comments or contact us.

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