Preece, J. (2001). Online communities: Usability, Sociability, Theory and Methods. In R. Earnshaw, R. Guedj, A. van Dam and T. Vince (Eds) Frontiers of Human-Centred Computing, Online Communities and Virtual Environments. Springer Verlag: Amsterdam, 263-277.
article sets out some areas of future research etc… but spends some time talking about design, usability and sociability.
on online communities and impact of software design:
online communities evolve and change constantly depending on their membership. What may be important early in the life of a community may not be significant later on. Success is determined by three key factors: usability, sociability and their affect on the interactions of community members. Developers have little or no control over community members, except in some e-commerce communities where interaction is strongly managed. However, developers can do much to set the tone of a community by designing or selecting software with good usability and developing suitable sociability.
on software usability:
Software with good usability supports rapid learning, high skill retention, low error rates and high productivity. It is consistent, controllable and predictable making it pleasant and effective to use. Usability is a key ingredient for the success of any software. Good usability supports people’s creativity, improves their productivity and makes them feel good. Poor usability leads to frustration, wastes time, energy and money.
on usability and sociability:
The relationship between usability and sociability in design of online communities is important for their success. As in any software development it is essential to have a detailed understanding of users’ needs (i.e. requirements), and these will determine functionality and usability. However, software design alone does not determine success. While online community developers cannot control social interaction, they can strongly influence it by the policies that they put in place and how they manage these policies. With careful planning, well-designed policies can help the community to develop.
3 areas of usability in online community software:
Three areas of central importance for online community development are: design and representation; security and privacy; and scalability.