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Using Social Media-Based Metrics to Display Popular Content

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Posted Feb 23 2011 08:34 PM

In this excerpt from Designing Interfaces, Second Edition the author provides a few ways to approach the use of a Content Leaderboard when wishing to display popular content. Below we take a look at when to use a leaderboard, how to format it, and some of the best options to implement.
Show a list of the most popular articles, blog posts, videos, or other content pieces. Use social media-based metrics such as most shared, most emailed, and most blogged.

Use when
Your site generates a large amount of content, authored either by your organization or by other participants. You may already have an organizing principle for all that content, but you also want readers to see what other readers found interesting. You have enough readers and sharers so that clear leaders can emerge among the content you publish.

From the Wall Street Journal

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This is a way of crowdsourcing a “top 10 list” for your site. Metrics for sharing and emailing show what a readership likes—or at least what those readers think their own followers will like. If the readers have excellent taste, they’ll pull the best-quality pieces from your content; if not, they’ll at least find the wackiest or most dramatic ones. (You may not agree with their taste!) Either way, your other readers are likely to be interested in the same kinds of things.

Gather data about which items have been shared, emailed, and so forth. If you haven’t already, make sure a Sharing Widget of some kind is shown beside each piece of content so that readers can easily share things in the first place.

Show a list of the most popular items for that day (or week, if the pace of your site is slower). The items in the list should be links to the original posts. Sites that track multiple such lists—emailed, blogged, and so on—often put them together into Module Tabs.

Content Leaderboards are usually displayed as small sidebars on the home page and internal pages. Most sites primarily present content according to some other priority, such as freshness or editorial choice; leaderboards don’t usually belong in center stage.

The New York Times has an archetypical Content Leaderboard that you’ve probably seen (see below). It contains four leaderboards tabbed together, one of which shows search terms and not articles. When you read an article in a particular section such as Business the leaderboard changes to show the most popular articles in that section.

Figure 9-39. Content leaderboards on the New York Times’ website

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Engadget uses an eye-catching leaderboard, shown in the first image below, to display the most heavily commented posts. Compare this very bright display to the more neutral content leaderboards in the second image below. Note also the different tab names, which reflect the different criteria these sites use to determine the “hottest” articles—though we can’t tell what criterion Mashable (at the top right) uses.


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Content leaderboards from Technology Review, Mashable (top right), and Wired (bottom)

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Designing Interfaces

Learn more about this topic from Designing Interfaces, 2nd Edition.

Despite all of the UI toolkits available today, it's still not easy to design good application interfaces. This bestselling book is one of the few reliable sources to help you navigate through the maze of design options. By capturing UI best practices and reusable ideas as design patterns, Designing Interfaces provides solutions to common design problems that you can tailor to the situation at hand. This updated edition includes patterns for mobile apps and social media, as well as web applications and desktop software.

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