Trends don’t happen overnight. It is the gradual process of change in an industry that initiates new trends silently. We might not notice the “new” trends in an industry unless they actually become new trends. I covered the trends behind hotel web designs just because I could see a pattern emerging amongst all the well known hotel web designs. Nowadays, community based news sites have become very common. Such sites push the end user to share news and vote for news articles that are worth it. Digg lost its fan following but Reddit is still killing it. Somehow such news based community websites have followed a set pattern which has always been the success formula. This discussion will focus on such trends that have kept the community based news sharing websites going since a long period.
From The Archives - While you are here, don’t forget to check 45 Best Social News Websites To Garner More Traffic that we did on 1WD a long time back. Most of them are still as effective now as they were back then.
What is a Social News Website?
Well, everyone is fully aware of Digg, right? Digg is the perfect example of a Social News Website. Users can either visit their fave news websites directly to read the latest news or they can register for RSS feeds of that website which will keep them updated about the latest news. Social News Websites are another way to keep yourself updated with the best possible news that is recommended by others in the community.
Social News Websites are link generators to be precise. The links are submitted by the community that is part of that social news website. In some cases Social News Websites use automated ways to generate news links instead of depending on user based submissions. After aggregation of links these websites sort the links on the basis of categories and lastly manual votes by the community. These votes decide the importance of some news and increase the reach of that news article.
Read - Pligg: A Social Network Content Management System that can be used to launch your own Social News Website.
Trends that Stick with Social News Website Designs
Quickly, here are few of the trends that have kept social news websites sticking around even when most of the startups have come and gone in the last few years:
- Focus on Content - As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, Reddit is still around due to its focus on content. Reddit has done well to minimize everything other than the stories which helps the readers focus on stories and vote for them if necessary. Some of the social news website designs leave space for a thumbnail which supports the article and explains it better. It is important that the social news platform include a brief descriptions for every story if headings are not being displayed completely. This will make more sense to the reader and keep him looking for more.
- Easy to use Vote Boxes - A voting system is important for any social news website but sometimes these voting buttons don’t do their jobs the way they should and end up ruining the experience. A smooth voting system which doesn’t reload the page every time a new vote is cast must be used by all social news websites. Also, the voting buttons must not interfere with the rest of the design and vice-versa.
- Pagination - The basic purpose of Social News Websites is to collect fresh news from multiple sources and showcase it all on its homepage. These sources are so many in number that the homepage tends to be too small to showcase all the collected news. This is when pagination comes into play. The bottom of the homepage must have links to other pages in order so that older news can be access easily. Also, these pagination buttons must be smoothly blended with design so that they don’t kill the experience.
- Comments and Discussions - These are an integral part of Social News Website Design and a reason why users stick around for longer periods. Designers should be careful while designing the comments section as overdone comments section can be a serious turn off for users.
- Profiles - Social Networking has become trendy and having a community system of your own is really very fancy. This is when a profile system for users on a social news website can really add up to the user base of that website. Users indulge in creating profiles and showing of content which they have been reading on that particular social news website which indirectly benefits the social news website.
- Groups - A social networking platform without groups is almost meaningless. Groups helps users to indulge in discussions and invite more friends to those discussions. Such activities help the website concerned and StumbleUpon is one social news website that has utilized the concept of groups at its best.
Now, let us quickly go through some of the in-business social news websites that we have been appreciated for a long time.
Reddit is one of the few social news websites that has survived all competition. Go to the homepage of Reddit and the number of votes or comments that an article on the homepage gets are enough to explain the traffic that this social news website will generate for a link that tops its homepage. Reddit was created to focus particularly on the headlines which is why it is sticking around. The focus on stories was so important for the designers of Reddit that they minimized the size of everything else which helped the stories stand apart on every page of Reddit.
This content based minimal design helps the readers scan through most of the stories and find which is of interest to him. Reddit avoids description fields which is why more number of stories show up on the homepage increasing the chances to webmasters to dream of extra traffics. Reddit features a random Sponsored Section on the top of the homepage which is almost similar to the rest of the homepage except that the background color is different. Such sections helps Reddit pay its bills (and probably pocket away a bit which is perfectly alright).
I have been referring to Reddit for ages and it looks like I will continue to do so for many more years to come.
Slashdot is a technology focused social news website where users initiate discussions and share its stories. Slashdot has been famous for its inspirational discussions on open source software movements. Stories are more or less related to the big guns like Microsoft, Apple etc. Slashdot has also been famous for its Gadget based review and book reviews. Such stories have always found a place on Slahsdot.
Like any other social news website Slashdot gives users the options to categorize the stories and start discussions on the same. Slashdot is one of the few social news website designs that have done well to stick with its user base which are tech lovers or book lovers. It is mainly because of the quality of content that Slashdot continues to garner some of the best possible content on day to day basis on their homepage.
Now, let us discuss something about a design based social news website. Design Newz is one of the few design based social news website which is famous for the quality of its content. Design Newz is based on hand picked content which is only shared after a lot of research.
Design Newz does not permit users to leave comments and vote for stories which can be a turn off, but the quality of content is enough for you to trust the stories that Design Newz generates. If you are a design lover the Design Newz is for you.
StumbleUpon took the world (and the websites featured on it) by storm. It crashed plenty of servers and made plenty of websites super famous. Sometimes the traffic that StumbleUpon generates isn’t completely relevant but the numbers are so pleasing that you will wish for repeated effects.
StumbleUpon has its own community system which helps users interact with each and create groups for relevant discussions. The website will send you notifications if you register for one thus keeping you updated with fresh links. Users can review and vote for various webpages which actually decides the fate of these pages. StumbleUpon’s biggest advantage is its toolbar which when integrated with your browser helps you find new content on the fly.
This is it. I don’t want to discuss Digg because it been discussed time and time again.
Social News Websites are here to stay as they are based on some of the simple trends that we saw above. New website might come and old might die down but the concept will continue to evolve as it is end user friendly. Let us know if you are aware of some more social news websites and your experiences with them.
Salman Siddiqui is an alpha geek, design guru and seasoned WordPress critic. Writing, for him, started out of ego but it has become the most luring and enlightening career option of his life. He is walking that extra mile for his freelancing dream.