This is part six of an eight-part design for communication series. This series is adapted from a master’s paper on the intersection of design and technology-mediated communication.

Designing to Facilitate and Grow Communities

When designing to manage and grow communities, designers must understand that the channel is for communication and users should be able to communicate at any moment they want. (Lambropoulos, 2007) The most successful channels for growing communities, specifically online communities, are those based on user-generated content (e.g., YouTube, Reddit, etc.). (Tubik Studio, 2017) These platforms need to be designed in such a way that allows users multiple functions for sharing (e.g., discussions, posts, chatting, albums, etc.). (Tubik Studio, 2017) Designers must also understand that not everyone is high-tech, and it should be easy for anyone to use. (Tubik Studio, 2017) In addition, simple is better. TMC works better when the experience should also stick within expected standards, as people have a predefined expectation of how the channel should work, this also helps to reduce the learning curve allowing more time for expression and engagement. (Tubik Studio, 2017)

As put by Chuck Palahniuk, “the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture.” (Ferreira, 2017, “Cultural Aesthetics,” Para. 1) YouTube is a great example of a platform driven by user-centered content, that leverages design to promote multiple sharing functions and to control their culture and grow communities. YouTube’s multiple tools allow creators to not only post videos but reach their followers to create communities. (McCracken, 2016) YouTube users are not limited to just video, but can supplement that content with chats, comments, likes/dislikes, notifications, and shares with one another. In addition, YouTube introduced methods for screening rude and crude comments to create a more welcoming comment area to encourage communication between users allowing the communities to flourish. (McCracken, 2016)

YouTube encourages community-building. They realized that events such as VidCon were allowing users to interact in real-life through authentic connection, and they mimicked that in their online products to help communities grow. (McCracken, 2016) “New features were designed to appeal to users who care about the people whose videos they watch” (McCracken, 2016) YouTube designers created a notification where users could “receive a notification on their smartphone the moment a new post goes up. On the other hand, they can also choose to switch those notifications off and remove non-video posts from their feed.” (McCracken, 2016)

YouTube even went so far as to involve creators and fans in the design process to find out what they felt was missing from the experience. Taking advantage of the ideas in the previous section, YouTube listened and worked with their users to create a platform to encourage communities. “YouTube’s Community is designed to be a safe space, not a free speech zone. Only creators can post items on their pages; users can comment on those posts, but can’t comment on each other’s comments, and their feedback is subject to moderation. That gives creators the ability to steer the conversation and prevent anyone with trollish tendencies from hijacking it.” In addition, the posts are shown in reverse chronological, per creator suggestion, in order to allow it to be more conversational and keep the context of the conversation.

Stay tuned for Part Seven: The Future of Communication! Did you miss a part? Check out the full series here: Design for Communication.
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