Developing a Set of Online Communities in UK: Reactions and Responses to User Preferences, Perceptions and Patterns of Participation

K. Webb (UK)


National Project, Designing Online Communities.


This account of a major initiative to establish a set of online communities in UK gives particular attention to the requirements and reactions of the users. The communities are being designed for specialised professional practitioners and the developers are themselves practitioners operating in the same context as the users. The project team had therefore expected to be able to anticipate quite accurately what features would be required and how they would be used. Even so, the development strategy emphasises the need to ascertain and respond to the requirements of participants. Quite elaborate means have been employed for monitoring user preferences, perceptions and patterns of use. These generally reveal the users’ requirements as being close to those expected, although this has not always been the case and the developers have had to make some significant changes in order to retain engagement with the communities. Some of the differences that emerged may be context specific, but there may also be a basic difference in the underlying perspectives of those who develop online communities and those who use them. Experience here confirms more speculative reflection on the need for developers to adopt techniques to ensure that users are central to the process.

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