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Linda Erzah, CBAP
Linda Erzah, CBAP

Why do web sites like Facebook thrive?

With more than 150 million active users, Facebook has become one of the most visited and most used website out there. It started out as another lame social network that students could join and waste their time by checking up on their friends. Today, everyone is on it. And by everyone, I mean even my parents are on it. Can you imagine? Age doesn’t define who joins and networks. Businesses are strongly pushing to have some presence on the site and other entrepreneurs are looking for the next best applet to attract those users.

I mean, Facebook is the way to go.

But why did they do so well? Why hasn’t Myspace or other social networks like Hi5 gained the same kind of the popularity? Facebook unlike others has features that make users come back for more. They also take the time to listen to their users and take them seriously by quickly implementing what the users say they need.

Great Features
The goal of any social network is to connect people and provide them with a way to communicate. Myspace does that! Hi5 does the same thing! But Facebook does it as better. The difference between Facebook and the others is found in some of its features.

With Facebook the user doesn’t have to go look at what happened while they weren’t there. Facebook brings news to the users in their own realm.
Features such as alerts let the user know when their friend tags them in a picture or left them a wall message. Then you have news feed and live feed that give you a snippet of what friends are doing… etc. The key is to play on people’s desire to talk about themselves and to be in everyone’s business.
I know Mark Zuckerberg is a genius for implementing those ideas but I don’t think he woke up one day with dreamed up requirements to build those features.

Requirements from Users
Facebook, like many websites out there allows for their users to provide feedback on things that work and things that don’t work (which usually outnumbers those things that do work, by the way). I remember when Facebook came up with the ‘Status’ feature, which let users write about what was going on in their lives. Great idea, but this feature was limited and would only allow for users to complete the sentence “User is…”. So you couldn’t write any sentence that didn’t use the verb “to be”. Some users took it upon themselves to provide feedback either directly to Facebook or by creating a coalition using the group feature. They sent Facebook the message that it would be better to allow more than one verb to be used while updating status.

Turn around time to produce
It wasn’t long before Facebook turned this feature around. They still show the “User is…” but the verb can be edited. Now the user can write “User loves banana” if he wants. I am sure this little change could have taken 10 months to build using methodologies that I am not going to mention. But they didn't make it a 10 months project because they knew the users thought it was important so they made it their priority. Crucial, little decision can make or break a web site.

The last important thing is the ability to develop a feature as quickly as possible in order to keep your users coming. In order to thrive in a world where if you want to gain popularity you have to satisfy the population (what a concept), listening to and getting your requirements from the users is very important. The voice of the users will help you build features. It’s not always a matter of creativity. Developing listening skills to hear what is needed could mean life or death for a web site.

This entry was published on Jan 26, 2009 / Linda Erzah, CBAP. Posted in Business Analysis. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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