A Pattern Language is a book about architecture that was written in the 1970s (christopher alexander), before the Web as we know it was even conceived. But the book provides hundreds of valuable patterns for community planning and architectural design, many of which can easily be applied to online communities and social networking websites.
Niche social networks are popping up online all the time, with many designers and developers taking advantage of pre-built social network platforms and making little modification. It makes sense, after all: why reinvent the wheel when perfectly good ones are available?
But if you step back and really consider how your social network or online community is set up, you might be able to improve the user experience and overall user satisfaction by leaps and bounds. Looking to other fields, such as architecture and civil engineering, is one way to gain new ideas without having to reinvent the wheel.
C. Alexander on Local Town Halls
In the real world, a town hall is where citizens go to voice their opinions on matters of public concern and to interact with their government. Online communities should have similar forums for their members to give suggestions, ask questions and interact with those who govern the website. On some websites, this could be an official support forum, while on others it could just be an open support form. Open forums are especially effective in large communities because fellow members can often answer questions faster than official community leaders. In any case, support forums should always be moderated and monitored to ensure that questions are answered correctly.
A pattern langauge