In social software, little design changes can make a big difference – US Mil

One of the interesting rubber hits the road things about social software is that it is all about the user. How do you engage them? make them productive? and leverage them? Below is some interesting insight about how in fact, with this focus on the user, that small changes can make a real difference. There has been one project we have worked on where we have been making small changes to the user experience for certain features in these communities (which happens to be Military, inside the enterprise firewall). Check out the results for a fairly static growth in membership. Little changes can make a 350% + improvement!

Item > Sept-Dec (avg) > Jan-Apr (avg) > % change
Page views > 48,442 per month > 60,479 per month > 25%
Unique visits > 4973 > 6381 > 28%
Community “A” new members > 206 > 209 > 1%
Community “B” new members > 265 > 289 > 9%
Blog > 140 > 320 > 129%
Comments > 20 > 97 (125) > 385% (525%)
Tagged > 333 > 380 > 14%
Metacard views > 2036 > 2402 > 18%
Emailed pages > 85 > 109 > 28%
Bookmarks > 51 > 214 > 319%
Replies > 245 > 465 > 90%

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alex stobart


As well as the stats, can you not tell us what you did ? Otherwise they are meaningless – the military numbers could have grown ; their general could have told them to read a page.

How do we know it was your input that made the numbers change ?



Eric Sauve

Sure, one of the things we did was take our status update/ micro-blogging capability and moved it to the top of the page (as opposed to the side where it was). We also enabled comments on these blogs, inline, so if you were looking at the blog, you could see right there how you would comment on it. So as an example, making the micro-blogging more obvious, and using it to kick start second order discussions/ comments is one example that represents some of the big gains.

In terms of whether this was really what made the numbers change, this is our assumption based on the fact that A) we changed the things that increased and B) we didn’t identify any other major contributing factors.

Adam Harvey

I’m glad to hear that some simple rearranging resulted in such astounding usability improvements!

The changes you made sound like they were made using a user-empathetic approach. I highly recommend watching this video on the user empathy by Jeffrey Zeldman, the man who founded the Web Standards Project, and A List Apart, which are invaluable resources for any web designer.