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The past few weeks have been a very productive period for us. With the release of the first JomSocial 2.4 Alpha last August, we are now gearing up to present you with Alpha 4 next Friday, 23rd September 2011. Before getting your hands dirty with the Alpha version, let us enlighten you with the experiments that we have gone through and the outcome which were later made as the principal guideline in the development of the next major iterations of JomSocial, your favourite social networking platform.
Although seemingly young in age, the analytical and statistical information that we have amassed through our demo site, internal development lab, and our experience in building up the Joomla People Portal is so ginormous that it would easily dwarf the biggest of all dwarves. The accumulated information was then put under a thoughtful scrutiny before the eyes of the JomSocial team.
Each department in the office was instructed to relate the information to their field of expertise. For example, the Sales & Marketing team which ehemm, knows really well on how to bring in more users to the site will look at the data, propose their findings and come up with suggestions on making your users stick to your community area. The designers (we have 5) will look at existing features and usability issues in JomSocial, compare them with other social systems out there and they will also come up with their own set of improvements to be made.
A number of the improvements overlap and fused into one huge chunk of ideas which we can simply name as ‘content discovery’ (does it sound hip enough?). Allow me to elaborate on the importance of content discovery and how it is central to keeping your users glued to their seat, browsing your social network with delight.
User behavioural study
Let us analyse user browsing patterns in a typical JomSocial 2.2 community area.
The above chart shows a fair representation of current user navigation flow in JomSocial, first by authenticating into the site and then being redirected to his profile. If the user wishes to see a reply to his participated discussion or simply wishing to re-visit his thread, he would have to
- Go to Groups > View a listing of Groups > Select related Group > View list of Discussion > Select the Discussion > reply
Referring to the above image, we can metaphorically say that it imitates natural content discovery path similar to what we found in reality. This trunk-branch-and-twig organization while being clear and straightforward, is unnecessarily deep and require users to have multiple action/clicks before the intended content is presented to them.
Now, let us imagine that the user wants to reply other discussion in another group
First off, the user will have to:
- Navigate back to the Groups toolbar > Locate the Group > Locate the Discussion and only then he would be able to reply
- Some users might even go back to Group B discussion listing > go up to Group Listing > Locate Group E > Locate the Discussion > Reply
The extra clicks required to simply reply a discussion is an unnecessary hiccup that a user has to go through. This translates into less user interaction caused by hidden barriers that we have identified in our statistical data.
In JomSocial 2.4, we have a ‘related content’ feature
This feature would allow users to quickly jump to another discussion within the same group. This is what we call as ‘content discovery’ whereby we make it easier for users to discover/participate/stumble upon new content, which result with possibly more activities.
This is by far the shortest route and require the most minimal click to explore new discussions. Seriously, it could not get any simpler than that.
We have implemented content discovery techniques in major social areas of JomSocial. The images posted below show improvements that we have done in Photos, Videos and Group discussion.
More content from the user. Oops, notice the album pagination? ;)
More videos from the user
More discussion from the group
Calendar segment to let users quickly locate past and future events.
This couldn’t be just it, right?
A mere listing of related content in JomSocial social nodes just couldn’t cut it. So how do we further improve this behaviour?
In the image above, notice how the linkage into all discussions start at the listing of Groups and paths trickle down from there?
Let us take advantage of user submitted content
By the time you are reading this, I am sure your site has already generated quite a list of materials that have been submitted by your users. The question is, how do we redistribute the content and make it more appealing?
Current method of listing (MyGroup segment for example), do not serves much purpose, and holds little information that entice users to browse your community area in droves, apart from the obvious use as a mere listing.
What if, instead of a typical & stagnant listing of groups, we inject some form of quick updates into the My Groups listing to make it more personal and engaging?
In the next version of JomSocial 2.4, the My Groups area will list updated content which is aggregated from groups that the user has participated.
- The content will display discussions that he has commented on and subscribed with (to complement a feature that is planned in JomSocial 3.0).
- Since the content relates to the user, the relevance and quality of the listing is very high and holds much individual interest.
- And obviously, the listing will be fluid, and contain an ever-changing list of information. The set of content is sculpted by the user’s participation history.
- Which of course, translate into more activities.
- This essentially creates a one stop center for the user to get quick round up of his groups.
Beyond JomSocial 2.4
We find that there are plenty of areas that can be improved on at the end of our journey in developing JomSocial 2.4. As such, a continuation of this set of improvements will find its way into the next JomSocial 3.0 with a complete removal of the legacy categorization system and evolves into a more dynamic method of content classification. But that would require another round of blog after the release of JomSocial 2.4. ;)
Team Bravo consists of (from left) Neil as the team lead, Wawan (see him underneath the facial hair), and Fazli. The team is responsible for updates in Groups and Events.
The Bravo team trying to stabilize the Date/time issue in JomSocial 2.2.
It is Wawan's birthday today! There goes Azrul with a present for him. :)