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Design to Thrive - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780123749215, 9780080957203

Design to Thrive

1st Edition

Creating Social Networks and Online Communities that Last

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Author: Tharon Howard
Paperback ISBN: 9780123749215
eBook ISBN: 9780080957203
Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
Published Date: 9th February 2010
Page Count: 248
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Social networks and online communities are reshaping the way people communicate, both in their personal and professional lives. What makes some succeed and others fail? What draws a user in? What makes them join? What keeps them coming back? Entrepreneurs and businesses are turning to user experience practitioners to figure this out. Though they are well-equipped to evaluate and create a variety of interfaces, social networks require a different set of design principles and ways of thinking about the user in order to be successful.

Design to Thrive presents tried and tested design methodologies, based on the author’s decades of research, to ensure successful and sustainable online communities -- whether a wiki for employees to share procedures and best practices or for the next Facebook. The book describes four criteria, called "RIBS," which are necessary to the design of a successful and sustainable online community. These concepts provide designers with the tools they need to generate informed creative and productive design ideas, to think proactively about the communities they are building or maintaining, and to design communities that encourage users to actively contribute.

Key Features

  • Provides essential tools to create thriving social networks, helping designers to avoid common pitfalls, avoid costly mistakes, and to ensure that communities meet client needs
  • Contains real world stories from popular, well known communities to illustrate how the concepts work
  • Features a companion online network that employs the techniques outlined in the book


web designers, information designers, information architects, content managers, usability engineers, web application designers, user interface designers, HCI academics

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

I. Why are virtual communities and social networks so popular?
II. History of virtual communities (spans 30 years -- what is fad and what is not)
III. Business justification for implementing virtual communities
a. “Return on Investment” argument through scenarios
b. External Communities (outside of a company’s or institution’s intranet).
c. Internal Communities (inside company — among employees)
IV. Differences between “adhocracy,” a “forum,” a “group,” a “virtual team,” a “social network,” and a “virtual community”? People are often sloppy with their use of these terms, which creates problems for designers.

Chapter 2: What are the factors needed for sustainable online communities?

I. What is a “heuristic” and why do we need one?
II. RIBS theory/process
a. What is RIBS (remuneration, influence, belonging, significance)
i. Means of generating and provoking design ideas
ii. An analytical tool intended to help designers better understand how communities and social systems work
iii. Means for designers to project new ideas and to think proactively about the communities they are either building or maintaining
iv. Process to help guide designers? thinking in creative, productive ways?
b. RIBS helps designers make informed decisions about where the design of a community does or does not need attention.
c. Helps avoid wasting time in areas of the design that don't need work.
d. The RIBS heuristic helps focus on where you do need to spend time on the design or maintenance of your community
e. Defines goal of design strategies

Chapter 3: Remuneration

I. What is “remuneration”?
a. Characteristic necessary for the construction of successful online communities and social networks.
b. Individuals will not become members of a social network unless there is a clear benefit for doing so.
c. Community designers need to consider what the individuals give back to the community
II. Case studies / popular examples?
III. What are some best practice strategies for ensuring remuneration is functioning?

Chapter 4: Influence

I. What is “influence”?
a. Most important and most overlooked area for and designers.
b. Designers fail to recognize and provide structures that allow the members to have influence in the community
c. Designers must put systems in place where members of the network can voice their concerns
II. Case studies / popular examples?
III. Best practice strategies for ensuring influence is functioning?

Chapter 5: Belonging

I. What is “belonging”?
a. Area of community development and design which, at least in the electronic world, is all too often ignored
II. Case studies / popular examples?
III. Best practice strategies for ensuring remuneration is functioning?

Chapter 6: Significance

I. What is “significance”?
a. Significance is analogous to publishing in a peer reviewed magazine versus publishing in a newsletter read by ten people
b. Design plays an large role in heightening feeling of significance to members
c. Without this, communities, while they may start out strong, generally fail.
II. Case studies / popular examples?
III. Best practice strategies for ensuring significance is functioning?

Chapter 7: Conclusion

I. Summative discussion — lessons learned and how to apply them to designers’ work
II. How RIBS can be used to think about designing for emerging media and delivery systems—particularly those involving mobile computing and video
III. RIBS’ potential for the future of virtual community and social interface design


No. of pages:
© Morgan Kaufmann 2010
9th February 2010
Morgan Kaufmann
Paperback ISBN:
eBook ISBN:

About the Author

Tharon Howard

With over 30 years of experience researching and effectively applying social networks, Tharon W. Howard is a nationally recognized leader in the field. He is a Professor at Clemson University where he teaches in the doctoral program in Rhetoric(s), Communication, and Information Design and the Master of Arts in Professional Communication program. As Director of the Clemson University Usability Testing Facility, he has conducted sponsored research aimed at improving and creating new software interfaces, online document designs, and information architectures for clients including IBM, NCR Corp., AT&T, Time-Warner, etc. Howard is the author of A Rhetoric of Electronic Communities, co-author of Visual Communication: A Writer’s Guide, co-editor of Electronic Networks: Crossing Boundaries and Creating Communities.


"This book provides the necessary antidote to the thoughtless, random and in too many cases desperate nature of many of today’s attempts to build online communities." – Carl Zetie, Strategist, IBM

"Howard's theoretical stance is firmly grounded in a lifetime of practical experience which makes fascinating and sometimes very amusing reading. Have you ever wondered why some networks and communities thrive and others fail? Read this book and find out." –Dr. Jurek Kirakowski, Senior Lecturer, Human Factors Research Group, Cork, Ireland

"Professionals in technical communication will find this book packed with relevant information, especially given the evolving role of communicators in new media. Writers and editors can put best practices to use in working with their employers, with clients, or within their own professional lives."--Angel Belford, Technical Communication, Volume 58, Number 1, February 2011

"This important work fills a gap in the literature in its proposal of methods to fuse technology with practical community growth and sustainability… [Howard] more than knows the subject, considering the very prominent place he holds in the human computer interaction and usability communities… [Howard] very smoothly conveys his thoughts in an eloquent, easily accessible manner that any level of reader would be able to penetrate…. This surprisingly deep yet easily readable book seamlessly incorporates the research of people such as Bruce Tuckman, Leon Festinger, and Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, among others… Highly recommended. All levels of academic and professional readers, especially those who create and maintain online communities."--CHOICE

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