User Generated Opinion ButtonsThere are many ways to engage your users, one of these ways is to allow them to register their opinion in a quick and simple way.  This trend is a nice way to engage the majority of people will never actually construct a written comment or craft any other type of content.  It's the "low barrier to entry" User Generated Content (UGC). You often see this done with a nice set of buttons that range from approval to disapproval depending on the social environment of the application. Facebook for example only allows you to "Like" something, which is perfectly appropriate, as there is  no sense in giving people tools to be mean spirited with. A person can do plenty of damage with the current set of features.  Although, it would be nice to have a range of "nice" or constructive" opinions you could register via a simple button.

One thing to remember when designing this type of User Generated Opinion (UGO) functionality is that you must have a scalable plan.

The plan needs to consider the effect of these opinions at project launch and a year later. It needs to envision how will they impact the experience when you have 100 participates, 1000 participates or tens of thousands.

How can these ratings establish and maintain value, usefulness and creditability over time?

Consider:

TIME: Are the responses permanently attached to the content or only available for a limited amount of time? REACH: Where are they visible? Who will be able to see them and is this a good thing? INTENDED INFLUENCE: Are they meant to influence a user's decision making process or just promote conversation between a small group of people?

The effect of this UGO can be quite ugly if you fail develop rules for displaying it. Take Honk.com . It just launched and on my visit to the site this morning I found an unfortunate display of UGO right on the home page

honk_ dislike 2

honk_ dislike 1.

It maybe true that Matt Hermann dislikes many cars but is this The Matt Hermann Personal Rant website?  Is this the brand experience Honk would like to project in the first months of the project being live?

It's ok to manage and curate your site

Just because you ask users to participate doesn't mean you have to allow this participation to rule your site.  It's also more than likely that your users are trusting you to manage the participation in a way that is benifitcial for everyone. I doubt Matt realize he was going to be presented in such a way on the site. He is an early participate and was "rewarded" for this by being plastered on the front page in all his critical glory. He'll probalby think twice about participating again.  I know I would.

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Authortyesha