By John Gibson, VP Creative Services
Often when designing a site I find myself spending a good deal of time organizing content and thinking through how the end user can best absorb the information displayed on a page. Recently many companies are beginning to include social media as another method for viewers to become engaged with their site and their company. This becomes another level of content that needs to be well planned before the site moves to the design phase. Below are a few important considerations.
Level of Presence
The first step is to determine which forms of social media the client wants to be involved in. For instance, do they want or have a Facebook, Twitter or YouTube page? Then you need to find out the degree to which this media will feature on their main site. Would they like a simple link or something more attention-getting? You also need to determine whether this needs to be integrated into the landing page or located within a news page.
Adding Social Media Icons
The easiest and most understated approach to show that a company is involved with social media is to include a simple link or icon to the site. This can be placed easily within in a footer or strategically within the main content. Each social media has its own distinctive icon available as a download. Many sites also offer a wide variety of free icon styles from buttons to hand-sketched looks. One good source for finding unique social media icons is Smashing Magazine.
Using Social Media Widgets
As discussed in a previous blog post, social media widgets provide an easy way for a web site to display a few lines of recent news, drive more site traffic and generate a higher level of awareness of their social media involvement. When including a widget within a site design, it’s important to know how much you can customize these small applications. For instance, can you change the size, background color, text color, etc. to fit your design. Some widgets are more customizable than others, which can help determine which style of widget to use or whether to include one at all. Take the time to show the client how it will appear on the site and what the widget can do. Each method of social media offers its own type of widgets and there’s also opportunity to use third party widgets.
For example: a YouTube Video Bar widget allows users to watch the selected video channels without leaving the site.
Twitter offers a Profile widget that displays recent Twitter updates on the site.
And Facebook offers a Fan Box widget which invites site visitors to become the company’s Facebook fans.
One last thing to note as you begin the site design process is to be aware of and understand this growing form of communication. As designers we need to continually seek out fresh ways to incorporate this media into our layout and adapt our design to fit the customer’s social media needs.
Coming up next: Tips for Designing Twitter Pages