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Design to Thrive: Creating Social Networks and Online Communities that Last Paperback – February 23, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0123749215 ISBN-10: 0123749212 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann; 1 edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0123749212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0123749215
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This book provides the necessary antidote to the thoughtless, random and in too many cases desperate nature of many of today's attempts to build online communities." - Carl Zetie, Strategist, IBM

"Howard's theoretical stance is firmly grounded in a lifetime of practical experience which makes fascinating and sometimes very amusing reading. Have you ever wondered why some networks and communities thrive and others fail? Read this book and find out." -Dr. Jurek Kirakowski, Senior Lecturer, Human Factors Research Group, Cork, Ireland

"Professionals in technical communication will find this book packed with relevant information, especially given the evolving role of communicators in new media. Writers and editors can put best practices to use in working with their employers, with clients, or within their own professional lives."--Angel Belford, Technical Communication, Volume 58, Number 1, February 2011

"This important work fills a gap in the literature in its proposal of methods to fuse technology with practical community growth and sustainability. [Howard] more than knows the subject, considering the very prominent place he holds in the human computer interaction and usability communities. [Howard] very smoothly conveys his thoughts in an eloquent, easily accessible manner that any level of reader would be able to penetrate.. This surprisingly deep yet easily readable book seamlessly incorporates the research of people such as Bruce Tuckman, Leon Festinger, and Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, among others. Highly recommended. All levels of academic and professional readers, especially those who create and maintain online communities."--CHOICE

From the Back Cover

Social networks and online communities are reshaping the way people communicate, both in their personal and professional lives. What makes some succeed and others fail? What draws a user in? What makes them join? What keeps them coming back? Entrepreneurs and businesses are turning to user experience practitioners to figure this out. Though they are well-equipped to evaluate and create a variety of interfaces, social networks require a different set of design principles and ways of thinking about the user in order to be successful. Design to Thrive presents tried and tested design methodologies, based on the author's decades of research, to ensure successful and sustainable online communities -- whether a wiki for employees to share procedures and best practices or for the next Facebook. The book describes four criteria, called "RIBS," which are necessary to the design of a successful and sustainable online community. These concepts provide designers with the tools they need to generate informed creative and productive design ideas, to think proactively about the communities they are building or maintaining, and to design communities that encourage users to actively contribute.

More About the Author

Dr. Tharon W. Howard directs the Master of Arts in Professional Communication (MAPC) program at Clemson University and teaches in the Rhetoric(s), Communication, and Information Design (RCID) doctoral program. Howard is a nationally recognized leader in the field of usability testing research. As Director of the Clemson University Usability Testing Facility, he has conducted sponsored research aimed at improving and creating new software interfaces, online document designs, and information architectures for clients including IBM, NCR Corp., AT&T, Microsoft, etc. For his work promoting the importance of usability in both industry and academia, and as creator and listowner for UTEST, an online community for usability testing professionals, Dr. Howard was awarded the Usability Professionals Association's "Extraordinary Service Award." Howard also directs the Multimedia Authoring Teaching and Research Facility where--in addition to producing scholarly journals, books, fliers, and brochures for the College of Architecture, Arts, and the Humanities--he teaches MAPC graduate students to create and maintain digital publications on CD-ROM, mobile devices, and the web. Howard is receipient of the J.R. Gould Award and under his guidance, faculty and graduate students in architecture, arts, and humanities learn to develop fully interactive, multimodal productions and experiment with social media, emerging instructional technologies, and interface designs. One of the CD's development which he oversaw won the STC's prestigious Best of Show Award in International Online Communication. Howard is the author of Design to Thrive: Creating Social Networks and Online Communities that Last, author of Rhetoric of Electronic Communities, co-author of Visual Communication: A Writer's Guide, co-editor of Electronic Networks: Crossing Boundaries and Creating Communities, and has articles in journals including The Journal of Usability Studies, Technical Communication, Technical Communication Quarterly, and Computers and Composition.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 21 customer reviews
He addresses something most of the books on this topic seem to neglect - the AUDIENCE!
M. Cheung
This book has given me the confidence to start designing my own communities and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to design online communities.
Jacob C Farny
As a forum and social media manager for several online communities, I really enjoyed this book.
Jill Florio

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael S. Greer on April 20, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everyone seems to be jumping on the social media bandwagon, but few are doing it well or thoughtfully. As Design to Thrive argues, it's simply not true that "if you build it, they will come." As Tharon Howard writes, the "field of dreams" approach to designing social media "may have worked for Kevin Costner and baseball fields in Hollywood's version of an Iowa cornfield, but it doesn't ensure success when you're developing the architecture for an online community." Design to Thrive offers an effective blend of academic theory and applied, practical advice, based on the author's deep experience building and testing online communities. The theory is important and not at all dry. You have to understand why some online communities thrive while most wither on the vine. The practice is the fun part, and Howard draws examples, many illustrated with color screen shots, from a wide range of online communities, from academic associations to World of Warcraft guilds.

The heart of the book is the RIBS framework, a discussion of the four key elements necessary for the success of online communities: remuneration, influence, belonging, and significance. Each of these concepts is developed in a separate chapter, and the result is a solid framework that can be used to design, build, and test online communities of many different flavors.

I work in publishing, and have already been cribbing ideas from Design to Thrive to use in conversations with our new media and marketing teams. I find myself frequently citing Howard's vital distinction between social networks and online communities, two very different things that most folks I know tend to confuse. Whatever your role, if you work in media, publishing, or web development, you will find useful strategies and ideas in this book. If you're serious about doing social media right, this book can provide you with a framework, practical strategies, and a language for talking with your peers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chen Sun on October 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
12/5/2010 This is one of those books whose teachings grow on the reader. Upon further reflection, I've upgraded this to a five star.

Below is my review written in 10/2010

An analogy can be made of this book as to having to read a dry, boring book in a required college course, but later realizing that the book's teachings really were useful.

This potentially powerful book is written by a tenured professor, and is halfway between a textbook for a required class and a popular marketing book, not being particularly readable in either case, but providing valuable methodology. Like many professors, the author states he doesn't care whether the book becomes popularly read, as he wrote this strictly for community designers. If you're NOT a community designer, I recommend reading the last two chapters first, as later explained.

The topic is how to attract and retain users to build web communities, using users' benefits of Remuneration, Influence, Belonging, and Significance to evaluate the community's potential for success. The synopsis of the book in Amazon's book description and other reviews here will give you a feel for this RIBS model.

Web community building is, in its essence, an understanding of the sociology of the web and how to harvest its groups. This understanding requires volumes of books, and this small book and RIBS can acts as partial guideline for web community guideline.

Is reading this partial and dry guideline on web community building worthwhile? The answer is definitely yes, and this is actually best explained in the final chapter, where the author describes the political power, marketing influence, social behavior influence of potential web communities.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By MyUndecidedPenName on September 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Drawing on his extensive experience building successful online communities, as well as some sociological research on how groups form and evolve, author Tharon W. Howard shares with readers of this book some learnings on the care and feeding of online communities to make them thrive and prosper.

Mr. Howard discusses four design tenets for delivering user experiences that will draw new members in and keep existing ones committed to an online community. Together these tenets form Mr. Howard's R.I.B.S. theory of successful online community building, with R.I.B.S. standing for: Renumeration, Influence, Belonging, and Significance.

Discussing these tenets individually in separate chapters, Mr. Howard begins by defining the goals for each tenet, then provides examples of things that can be done to help achieve those goals.


Renumeration: the goals would be to meet the stated purpose of an online community and make members feel they're getting what they signed up for (e.g., knowledge sharing, information exchange, collaboration, etc). Creating a safe and welcoming environment for novices and veterans alike to continually mingle, interact, and make contributions is a necessary step towards achieving these goals.

Influence: the goals would be to make members feel they have a voice in the community, and their efforts to make contributions and help out are appreciated. Providing mechanisms for community members to "tip their hats" to (e.g., positively rate or comment on) quality contributions and rewarding "points" for active participation are some ways to achieve these goals.

Belonging: the goals would be to make members feel "they've arrived" and the relationships they've formed with community members are "special".
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