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Website Design as a Consequence of Network Forces

When a new product becomes introduced onto the market, several factor attribute to either it’s successful adaptation or failure. Successful network products realize the world isn’t static, and are constantly working to improve the design and usefulness of their sites, innovating new features and interface to entice users, and evolving to meet new social and technological trends. Typically with social sites predicated on network effects, the more a user posts to the site the more benefit they’ll take away from the experience, and more likely they are to continue using the service. More posting leads to more responses from fellow users, and propagate a cycle of deeper engagement.  Website design plays a critical role in its benefit for the user, and perceived value, further contributing to whether a product is adopted successfully. Products with network effects create dynamic points of equilibrium, determined by the perceived benefit evaluated against the amount of users and the cost to use.
Websites like freewebs.com offered users the opportunity to build their own website, either through code, design software, or preset templates. Although this allowed users very high levels of control as to the design and content of the site, the links between sites was rather weak, not able to generate a high enough traffic volume that would generate enough continent to keep the site interesting.
Social networking sites offered an alternative, in exchange for constraining the user entirely under their confines of their domain, as a member of their network component you would have stronger connections between people. MySpace was among the first to gain mass user ship, with a design that allowed strong communication between users. Typical of social media sites, each person maintained an individual profile page, on which they posted information about themselves, photos, etc. However, while other networking websites were extremely strict in regards to the content that could be posted, MySpace offered users a high amount of control and customization.
MySpace’s lenience for its high level of customization was also a major downfall, as teenage users with no sense of design created profile pages with unreadable font colors set in front of high contrast, poorly tiled, image backgrounds, and inundated with videos, music players and games that made the pages unbearably slow to load.
With a similar framework as MySpace, Facebook was far more organized and standardized; each profile had the same blue bar and grey background, the name, profile photo and information were always in the same location. It almost seamed ironic that a generation adamant of “expressing themselves” migrated from a fully customizable platform to one where each profile is far more uniform. But Facebook’s lack of customization far from hindered its public adaptation. The website displayed content and created connections between pages in a manner far more engaging than the structure of MySpace and other sites. Each profile included a section for a “wall”, where friends could post messages directed at the users, but visible to everyone who can view the page.
Initially, the “home” location for visiting social media sites was the user’s own profile, but in September 2006 Facebook introduced the News Feed, where upon logging in a user will see an overview of events and posts that occurred between friends. This exposed users to far more content than they’d see, lowered thresholds for commenting, and promoted a deeper engagement in the site. Often the type of content that was being displayed was subject to controversy by the users; either being described as invasive or unimportant. Facebook responded by heightening its privacy controls, allowing users to select what type of information can be posted, and the option to remove undesirable content.
During this time Facebook also introduced social gaming, where users were able to install games into their profiles and play online against friends, introducing a competitive element to the site which publicly posted user’s rankings against each-other.   In 2011 Facebook released the “Timeline” profile space. Essentially, this created a digital life history for every member of the network. The site introduced connections with multiple other social services users take part in, creating a central location that synchronizes and manages music subscriptions, online orders, instagram, news services, integrating itself as a vital part of a user’s non-internet life.
Such strategies are attempting to elevate the payoff from using Facebook over MySpace, which had a far larger user base. In accordance with the basic cascade model described in Chapter 19, q=b/(a+b), meaning the threshold ratio of neighbors of adopting the Facebook technology is equal to the payoff received from MySpace divided by the sub of the payoff of Facebook and MySpace. If the payoff from using Facebook is high, the denominator grows, and the fraction of neighbors required to make the use beneficial is lower. A growth in the number of users equates to a better experience for everyone using the site, allowing the superior design of the website to drive its popularity further, despite initially being at a quantitative disadvantage.

Articles/ Links:

Continuing to build News Feed for all types of connections
https://code.facebook.com/posts/1535185823471329

Facebook redesigns profile pages
http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-11927390

Facebook Develops Network Portals, New Inbox and Updates Site Design
https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2007/04/facebook-develops-network-portals-new-inbox-and-updates-site-design/

Timeline: Now Available Worldwide
https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2011/12/timeline-now-available-worldwide/

How Facebook Should be Designed
http://thenextweb.com/dd/2015/08/25/how-facebook-should-be-designed/

 

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