The trend towards UX design has far-reaching implications. Web designers and developers are looking for new, value-generating ways to leverage user-generated content to promote their platforms.
People trust their social circles for purchase recommendations more than all other factors combined. Customer reviews, in particular, have demonstrated great success in the world of e-commerce – far beyond what any other form of advertisement can offer.
These facts have led to websites leaning on large-scale platforms to promote themselves to new customers. But they don’t necessarily promote their products in a direct way. They rely on users to promote their products, capitalizing on the web’s DIY-hungry user culture to establish a sustainable, self-actualizing web experience.
This is how platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr work. Neither Pinterest nor Tumblr creates its own content. They encourage users to create content that focuses on the things they care about and then help brands establish relationships with those users based on that content.
The core relationship between user-generated content and branded bridge-building is what makes self-actualizing websites work.
Designers and developers who want to lean on the success of web platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr need to support and facilitate their users’ success. This means using design to drive innovation and inspire users.
Designing Content-Friendly Frameworks
Creative users aren’t looking for websites that offer them the same kinds of products, services, and solutions as everyone else. They’re looking for websites that operate as vehicles of expression.
What makes self-actualizing websites special is the fact that they respond to their users’ various creative expressions. People who give up their time and energy to generate content on these platforms are doing so to satisfy cultural and creative needs.
As a result, designers and developers should look at these websites not as fully formed web platforms but as frameworks for users to fill in with substance. This perspective is key to making the right design choices throughout the development process.
Some of the ways forward-thinking designers achieve this effect include:
1. Present Content in a Brand-Effective Way
One of the things Pinterest does particularly well is present widely varying types of content while retaining a very specific brand identity. Content is designed for portrait orientation ideal for mobile users and always presented in the same format across devices.
Even landscape-oriented photographs end up achieving a portrait-style presentation because Pinterest populates the otherwise empty space with a title and description text. The obvious effect of this decision is encouraging users to think vertically when creating content for the platform.
2. Encourage Great Content Through Categorization
If users only generate content that distracts and vaguely entertains other users, the overall effect of your self-actualizing platform will be disappointing. There is enough distraction on the Internet already. Your users demand more.
The first thing to do is clearly define the subjects that your users should generate content about. The best way to achieve this is through easily navigable categories that help build communities.
Instead of doing one big website about a topic and asking people to contribute, the self-actualizing website needs to present subtopics in a way that encourages participation. These subtopics don’t need to be set in stone – Reddit has a potentially unlimited number of them.
3. Put the Spotlight on User-Generated Content
E-commerce landing pages love to utilize user-generated testimonials to showcase their wares and build rapport with new visitors. The same concept applies to self-actualizing content platforms.
Build your landing page around highlighted user-generated content and create a positive brand image around that content whenever possible. If you can enable multimedia content to do the work for you, you should. This can be as simple as embedding YouTube videos or as complex as giving highlighted users space for a strong statement.
The greater the spotlight you put on your users, the more encouraged they will feel to contribute content to your platform. Websites that build communities around users who gain legitimate celebrity status are able to leverage content creation even further.
A Final Tip: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
Navigating an unfamiliar web platform can be disorienting. UX designers know this and do everything they can to make the experience intuitive and easy-to-understand. But sometimes the best tactic is to reach out and ask users to contribute. Don’t be afraid to use a call-to-action to tell users exactly what you want them to do.