You are previewing Streams, Walls, and Feeds: 109 Design Guidelines for Improving Notifications, Messages, and Alerts Sent Through Social Networks and RSS.
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Streams, Walls, and Feeds: 109 Design Guidelines for Improving Notifications, Messages, and Alerts Sent Through Social Networks and RSS

Book Description

This report conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group is based on empirical observations of actual user behavior, as people accessed messages and postings from more than 120 companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, as well as these organizations’ RSS feeds. Most of this research was conducted in the United States, with a smaller number of users studied in the U.K. and Australia. This report addresses:

  • Usability of postings to timeline-based social media, where a company’s messages appear intermixed in a stream or feed with those of the users' friends

  • Design of companies' profiles on social networking sites

  • Usability of RSS news feeds

  • Design of sign-up pages for RSS feeds

  • Usability considerations for how the social networking features and RSS are presented and promoted on a company's main website and in email newsletters

Table of Contents

  1. Streams, Walls, and Feeds
    1. Executive Summary
        1. User Research
        2. Business Use vs. Personal Use
        3. Managing Streams
        4. Posting Frequency
        5. Finding Companies to Follow
        6. Changes in RSS Feed Use
        7. Subjective Satisfaction
        8. Social Messaging and RSS Usability
    2. Research Overview
        1. Lab Studies
          1. Study One: RSS Only
          2. Study Two: Social Networks and RSS
        2. Field Studies
        3. Diary Study
        4. How to Use This Report
    3. Social Networks
        1. Why People Join Social Networks
        2. Use of Social Networks
          1. Facebook vs. MySpace
          2. Twitter vs. Other Social Networks
        3. Accessing Social Networks
        4. Finding Companies and Organizations on Social Networks
          1. Recommendations from Others
          2. Email Notification from the Company or Organization
          3. Company or Organization Website
          4. Search
        5. Choosing which Companies and Organizations to Follow
          1. Personal Interests
          2. Business or Career Reasons
          3. Immediacy of Information
          4. Usefulness & Relevancy
          5. Trusted Information Sources
          6. Ability to Communicate with the Company Directly
        6. Common Message Problems
          1. Short Life Span of Messages
          2. Sending Too Many Messages
          3. Not Sending Enough Messages
          4. Inconsistent or Sporadic Message Frequency
          5. Untimely Messages
          6. Sending Duplicate Messages
          7. Not Meeting Expectations
          8. Lack of Relevancy or Usefulness
          9. Verbose and Wordy Messages
          10. Unidentifiable Hyperlinks
          11. Dead End Messages
          12. Spelling or Grammatical Errors
          13. Advertisements or Sales Pitches
          14. Lack of Trust in Social Networks
          15. Other Noise and Interference
    4. Getting Started on Social Networks
    5. RSS (Real Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary)
        1. Why People Use RSS
        2. Use of RSS
        3. Most-Used RSS readers
        4. Accessing RSS
        5. Learning about RSS Feeds
          1. Recommendations from Others
          2. Feed Readers
          3. Company or Organization Website
          4. Email Notification from the Company or Organization
        6. Choosing RSS Feeds
          1. Personal Interests
          2. Professional or Business Reasons
          3. Usefulness & Relevancy
          4. Immediacy of Information
          5. Complementary Sources of Information
          6. Trusted Information Sources
        7. Common Problems With RSS Items
          1. Sending Too Many Updates
          2. Not Sending Enough Updates
          3. Untimely Updates
          4. Non-Descriptive Headlines and Blurbs
          5. Lack of Relevancy of Usefulness
          6. Advertisements
          7. Other Noise and Interference
    6. Deciding Which Delivery Method to Use
    7. List of Guidelines
        1. Social Network Guidelines
        2. RSS/News Feed Guidelines
    8. Design Guidelines: Social Networks
        1. Message Content
          1. 1. Know your audience, and send meaningful messages that match user expectations
          2. 2. Focus on one topic or subject per message
          3. 3. Utilize the small space by writing concise messages
          4. 4. Keep tweets below 130 characters
          5. 5. Place information-carrying words at the beginning of the message
          6. 6. Don’t repeat your company, organization, or username in the message
          7. 7. Provide essential details in the message
          8. 8. When possible, link to additional content within the social network rather than on another site
          9. 9. When appropriate, link to more details on an external site
          10. 10. Link to other reputable sources, not just your own site
          11. 11. Don’t send dead end messages
          12. 12. Clearly describe where a link will take users
          13. 13. Use short, readable links
          14. 14. When appropriate, provide a hyperlinked page title, short summary, and associated image with the link for additional details
          15. 15. Make sure the pages the posting leads to have unique and descriptive page titles and images, followed by content written in the inverted pyramid style
          16. 16. Consider creating multiple profiles or accounts, such as for various geographic areas, to help target information
          17. 17. Vary the messages sent on different social networks
          18. 18. Don’t post Twitter messages on Facebook, especially if they contain Twitter lingo
          19. 19. Send unique messages
          20. 20. Be careful when sending out messages that build upon one another
          21. 21. Avoid posting information that’s only valuable to staff or employees
          22. 22. Vary the types of information you send
          23. 23. Use videos to provide supplemental information, but provide essential information in text
          24. 24. Accurately describe video contents
          25. 25. Don’t overuse videos
          26. 26. Provide valuable advertisements, deals, and specials if users expect them
          27. 27. When advertising or promoting, be discrete
          28. 28. Alternate sales and promotional messages with informational messages
          29. 29. Avoid strange characters or strings of characters
          30. 30. Proofread your messages for spelling and grammatical errors
          31. 31. To draw attention or create emphasis, write keywords in all caps
        2. Message Frequency and Timing
          1. 32. Send messages regularly. Base message frequency on how often you can provide unique, compelling, timely content
          2. 33. Allocate appropriate resources to send regular messages
          3. 34. Don’t send messages too frequently
          4. 35. If possible, send messages on with a consistent frequency
          5. 36. Send timely messages
          6. 37. Send messages at the time of day when users are likely to access social networks
          7. 38. Consider posting some messages on the weekend
        3. Voice and Tone
          1. 39. Have a voice and personality that is appropriate for your company or organization
          2. 40. Be conversational and informal
          3. 41. Make sure informal updates or messages contain some information of value
          4. 42. Use “we” and “our” in messages to convey the messages come from the company, rather than an individual at the company
          5. 43. Be careful with humor
          6. 44. Write messages in title case or sentence case
          7. 45. Don’t use shorthand or abbreviations for words
          8. 46. Don’t “sign” messages
          9. 47. Only “retweet” messages on Twitter that match your company or organization’s voice and tone
        4. Engaging Followers and Facilitating Discussion
          1. 48. Engage in a two-way conversation
          2. 49. Respond to questions from followers and fans within 24 hours
          3. 50. Monitor what Twitter users are saying about you
          4. 51. Be selective in what you respond to
          5. 52. Be careful with replying to followers on Twitter. Users don’t have the context of the discussion
          6. 53. Solicit feedback or information from followers when appropriate
          7. 54. Don’t ask for input or suggestions on something you are considered an expert on
          8. 55. Be careful with posting user-generated content
          9. 56. Be a thought leader
        5. Profile Information and Design
          1. 57. Include your company or organization name in your username
          2. 58. If possible, use a short, concise username
          3. 59. Use your official name on your profile page, especially if you use an acronym or unofficial name as your username
          4. 60. Use title case for your company or organization name
          5. 61. Include a brief mission statement or summary of what you do in your profile
          6. 62. Include a URL to a relevant page or website
          7. 63. On Twitter, use a short URL that will show fully in the available space on the profile page (if possible)
          8. 64. If an individual or team provides the messages, identify them by first name, last name, and job title
          9. 65. Avoid associating your company or organization with an age or gender
          10. 66. Choose a meaningful and eye-catching profile picture
          11. 67. Choose one icon or picture for a profile picture
          12. 68. Only use an image of a person as your profile picture to represent a company or organization if the individual is very well-known and recognizable
          13. 69. Create a profile design that matches your brand
          14. 70. If you have a presence on Facebook, create an official fan page
          15. 71. Use a short, readable, and predictable URL for your page on social network sites
        6. Building a Following and Promoting a Social Network Presence
          1. 72. Accept friend requests within 24 hours
          2. 73. Try to attract a high number of followers, fans, and friends
          3. 74. Follow your followers on Twitter
          4. 75. Follow, friend, or become fans of reputable companies and organizations
          5. 76. Place links to follow your company or organization on social networks on your homepage or within your footer navigation
          6. 77. Pair calls to action on your homepage or within your footer navigation with appropriate logos
          7. 78. Place links to social network content within the main site navigation
          8. 79. Include a page on your site dedicated your company’s presence on social networks
          9. 80. Explain the types of information users will receive through social networks
          10. 81. Ensure that searches for social networking related terms return the page describing your presence on social networks
          11. 82. Provide information about your social network presence in email correspondence, especially newsletters
          12. 83. Place information about your presence on social networks on purchase confirmation pages
          13. 84. Occasionally mention your presence on social networks through your messages
          14. 85. If your social network presence can no longer be supported, provide details on how users can continue to receive information
    9. Design Guidelines: RSS/News Feeds
        1. News Feed Content
          1. 86. Focus on one topic in each item
          2. 87. Include no more than 10 words in each headline, and place information carrying words at the beginning
          3. 88. State the key point of the content in the headline
          4. 89. Include a 2- to 4-line explanatory blurb for each item that supplements the headline and summarizes the article
          5. 90. Write a blurb specifically for use in the news feed. Do not use the first paragraph of the story as the blurb
          6. 91. Push information-carrying words to the beginning of the blurb
          7. 92. Do not repeat the headline in the blurb
          8. 93. Consider placing the location of a news story (a dateline) within the blurb
          9. 94. Restrict the length of longer items, such as blog entries, with concise editing. Use formatting to help users scan content quickly
          10. 95. Include a relevant and informative image, as appropriate
          11. 96. Avoid placing advertisements within news feed items
        2. News Feed Frequency
          1. 97. Send news feed items on a regular basis. Base message frequency on how often you can provide unique, compelling, timely content
          2. 98. Don’t send too many news feed items at once
          3. 99. Send updates when readers likely access their feed readers
        3. Promoting RSS News Feeds
          1. 100. Place links to RSS content and subscription information in the main site navigation or at the bottom of each page of the site
          2. 101. Use the term news feed or feed in links to RSS content
          3. 102. Link to RSS feeds via a news feed icon (), rather than an XML or RSS icon
          4. 103. Ensure that the page describing your feed(s) appears on top of your site’s search results listings for common queries
          5. 104. Include an explanation of RSS on your site, with information about what it is and how to use it
          6. 105. Don’t interrupt users with interstitial advertising if they click through to your RSS page
          7. 106. Clearly name RSS feeds. Provide descriptions of each and, if possible, content from the current feed
          8. 107. Clearly indicate if any feeds require site registration or a paid subscription
          9. 108. Avoid referencing other methods of communication, such as newsletters and social networks, on the RSS subscription page, and vice versa
          10. 109. Link to RSS feeds on the unsubscribe confirmation page for email newsletters as an alternate method of information delivery
    10. Subjective Satisfaction: Message Ratings
        1. Usefulness
        2. Information
        3. Writing
        4. Trust
        5. Value
    11. Methodology: First Study (RSS Feeds)
        1. One-on-One Usability Test Sessions
          1. Participants
          2. Recruitment and Participation
          3. Pilot Study
          4. Tasks & Questions
            1. Task 1: Explore tool and read items of interest
            2. Task 2: Locate a headline from a specific source
          5. Test Logistics & Considerations
            1. Using the Eyetracking Technology
            2. Setting up RSS readers
        2. Field Studies
          1. Participants
    12. Methodology: Second Study (Social Networks and RSS Feeds)
        1. One-on-One Usablity Test Sessions
          1. Participants
          2. Recruitment and Participation
          3. Tasks and Questions
            1. Pre-Assignment
            2. Task 1: Message expectations
            3. Task 2: Review messages received as part of the study
            4. Task 3: Review messages received from companies and organizations (for personal or business, work, or career reasons)
            5. Task 4: Find a way to receive updates from a company or organization through social networks and/or RSS
          4. Test Logistics & Considerations
            1. Selecting Companies and Organizations for the Test
            2. Matching Users’ Interests
            3. Sending Pre-Assignment and Follow-up
            4. Keeping Track of Messages
            5. Clearing Cache, Cookies, and Browsing History from Browser
            6. Unsubscribing from Messages from Companies and Organizations
        2. Diary Study
          1. Participants
          2. Recruitment and Participation
          3. Pilot Study
          4. Assignments & Sample Emails
            1. Pre-Assignment
            2. Message Evaluation Assignment: Sent on Mondays and Thursdays
            3. Surveys of General Usage: Sent on Tuesdays
          5. Test Logistics & Considerations
            1. Setting up an Email Account
            2. Creating Online Surveys
            3. Signing Up to Receive Messages from Companies and Organizations
            4. Receiving Signed Consent Forms
            5. Sending Assignments & Reminders
            6. Responding to Participant Emails
            7. Sending Incentives
        1. Companies and Organizations Included in Study
          1. Facebook
          2. Twitter
          3. MySpace
          4. RSS
    13. Acknowledgements
    14. About the Authors