Key features of social networking service design elements are associated with high levels of intractability, high levels of personalisation to the user, at the same time when maintaining high levels of simplicity.
Design elements can be specified as one of the most important critical success factors for social networking sites. Generally, design elements for social networking websites include personal profile, news feed, navigation features, advertisements and others.
The majority of social networking sites offer customers the possibilities of customising design of their personal profiles to varying extents. Moreover, enabling an adequate extent of design customisation for users can be specified as one of the most important critical success factors for social networking services.
This point can be illustrated by referring to the case studies of My Space and Facebook. Although, Facebook was launched more than one year after the launch of MySpace, the former social networking site has become more popular than the latter in a matter of few months due a range of reasons including an adequate balance between fixed service design and customisation.
In other words, while MySpace offered an excessive level of design customisation to customers, creating a visual clutter, Facebook offered more simplistic and standard design features and offered more limited design customisation, and this difference has played certain role in higher level of popularity of Facebook compared to MySpace.
Effectiveness of Facebook’s approach to design has been further confirmed when a similar design template has been followed by Google in its Google+ social networking site launched in 2011.
Relevance of Social Networking Service Key Features to Customer Needs
The relevance of key features of social networking services to customer needs is not a straightforward issue. While social networking services aim to satisfy a set of customer needs such as communication, self-expression and recreation, innovations introduced to social networking sites’ key features attempt to address these needs with an increased level of effectiveness.
For example, the need of communication is addressed by the majority of social networking services in more than one way: customers can communicate with individuals within their network by status updates or they can send instant personalised messages.
Similarly, social networking sites offer a wide range of key features service design instruments that customers can use to satisfy their need for self-expression. These key features include, but not limited to possibilities of selecting covers for profiles, specifying favourite books, movies, music, artists etc.
Key features of social networking sites that address customer need for recreation have developed to a significant extent during past several years to offer music, videos, games and a wide range of entertaining applications, however, still the potential for recreation in social networking sites is far from being exhausted.
Changes in Social Networking Service Key Features to Address Changing Customer Needs
Providers of social networking services attempt to increase the range of features in a constant manner. To be more specific, customer needs of social networking services are constantly changing and this tendency is fuelling the evolution of new key design features.
For example, starting from around 2009, social networking sites customer needs changed to a certain extent in a way that customers wanted their status updates to be visible only to a specific members within the network. For example, college students writing a status on a social networking site about the party on the previous night did not want the message to be visible to their parents because their have ‘friendship’ on the same social networking site.
Google promptly addressed this specific change in customer need related to key service feature designs by designing its Google+ social networking site in a way that customers were provided with the possibilities to create groups, and write status that was visible only to members of chosen groups within their social networks.
Latest features in social networking services relate to providing interface to customers to build their own applications. There are opinions among some business researchers and professionals that value proposition of social networking sites may soon extent to offer opportunities of making money through building of applications to millions of people worldwide in the same way as blogging.
It can be argued that changes in social networking service key features are going to continue in the future because of the highly dynamic nature of customer needs. At the same time, it is impossible to forecast the direction of these changes.