January 30, 2003
With much spam, IKEA launched its "unböring" community, where "non-professionals" are encouraged exchange tips on home design ideas. This prompted me to jot down a few thought about online communities.
It has a rigid but productive format. Users either, "GIVE" or "GET" advice. The format for the advice is presented as 5 steps: "inspiration -> tools & materials -> how to -> time to complete -> see photo". When buidling community sites, it seems that when users are given too much freedom, it becomes counter-productive. In this case, any entry into the board is forced into a productive, relevant and sharable format.
BENEFITS OF INFORMATION CHUNKING
When people have an experience to share, the strict format provides an automated system for them to think out their ideas in "chunks" and present information in a way that the recipient does not have to think too hard about or read through. (Did I tell you I hate longs posts on bulletboards?)
The format of the advice also promotes the user to enter succinct descriptions for each of the steps when "giving" advice. This is also really useful for the ones "getting" the advice, since they have the information presented to them in clearly defined chunks.
SEARCH NOT THIS LIST
Any board that expects to have a good number of posts requires a solid method of searching for relevant content.
There are very simple methods for searching and sorting the list, which may be suffient for now (when there are about 20 posts), but as soon as the posts reach the 100's or 1000's, this may be problematic.
AND IF A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND...
I think I speak for most people when I say, seeing the photos first would inspire me more easily. That's the principle that drives eBay's lists where buyers are more likely to click on an item with a photo. It would have been really nice if they had a well labelled gallery of project photos. Otherwise how else are we to believe that your home improvement idea actually buildable?
Flash... fixed window size. ummm. I know they *really* wanted to use the proprietory IKEA font to promote consistent brand image, but I am sure they could have achieved all that without having to confine the list and its content (which incidentally is *the most important* item) to a tiny 16 line window.
This leads me to think they may have planned the site to have the lifespan of an average piece of furniture from their store :-)