Online Communities: Usability & Sociability

Tonight I finished an article by Jonathan Lazar & Jennifer Preece (2003), which discusses the factors which lead to and possible measures by which to gauge success in online communities.  One factor is usability — how useable the software and internet interface is.  The other factor discussed is sociability, since “[i[nformation from a disembodied source has limited value and soon lacks appeal” (p. 128).  This statement relates to ideas about human interaction which we have been discussing.

The authors refer to three general principles for software uability, proposed by Shneiderman (1998).  I found these interesting, since they are part of the strengths of machine-interaction.  They are:

  1. consistency
  2. control
  3. predictability

Web usability must also consider these factors: navigation, access, and information design (content comprehension & aesthetics).

The authors write:

Success of an online community is encouraged by a blend of welldesigned software (i.e., usability) and carefully crafted social policies (i.e., sociability. (p. 134)

In applying the idea to my research, I wondered if you could also say:

Success of a blended course is encouraged by a blend of well-designed machine interaction (i.e., usability) and carefully crafted social or human interactions (i.e., sociability)

The authors listed three sociability issues to consider, namely: registration, trust & security, and governance.

Finally, this quotation from the authors ties in to my research about human versus machine interaction in blended learning settings, and the effect those types of interaction can have on becoming:

The way that information is conveyed can affect your emotional reactions to it and the way that you subsequently behave. (p. 129)


Lazar, J. & Preece, J. (2003). Social considerations in online communities: Usability, sociability, and success factors. In Cognition in a digital world, 127-151.



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