Lately I’ve been asked to help design or add input to several widgets designed to create a sticky and viral presence in places like Facebook, Blogs and other “New Media” outlets.
Here are some rules of thumb that I’ve come up with. As I see it now, there are 5 basic requirements to make these successful. The importance of each will vary according to the goals (don’t neglect to examine yours) and context of the widget.
1. Compelling seed content.
Text, Video, Flash, Game-like interaction, or – heavens – Utility! Whatever, but you need a reason for people to look at it. Some kind of clever, meaningful, interesting or compelling hook. Humor is a good one. The chance to “do good” is another. Entertainment (puzzles, etc), a third. The Bob Dylan Facebook app does this in spades for me, even though its not very useful.
Every good widget must have some easy way of sharing it or otherwise spreading the word. Otherwise you’re shortsheeting yourself. Super Groups on Yahoo have some great features for this. Check “John Stewart for Moderator“.
3. User contributions
Most new media widgets should have some way of allowing users to contribute – either through comments, or ratings, uploading pics, or something. The easier and more creative the better. But be careful about having people harshly rate people who are trying to do good.
4. Look and feel.
This is New Media. Design is IMPORTANT. It needs to be hot, fresh, and interesting. And it needs to be ergonomic. Think about what links and actions need to be visible and make them boldly so. No boring hotel room art, you know what I mean?
Also – you need to be sensitive to who’s using it and how. Do you really want consumer ratings of people’s earnest thoughts? Frame your language and your functionality so that people feel good about using it, not insulted (well I guess there are some rare funny things where insults work, but who looks at those every day?)
No good product should go unmeasured. Continual Improvement (aka learning) relies on objective measures.
Number of interactions, number of referrals, and number of productive referrals should all be tracked. Return visits – people who come back to check on it should be counted.
Got more? Please share what you’ve learned in the comments.