Social Design workshop at UX Week

Next week I’m excited to be running a workshop at UX Week – an excellent annual event run by the good folks at Adaptive Path. I’m finalizing the details around what is in and what is out. Below is the draft agenda. If you are going I’d love to hear what you’d like me to cover. We’ll have lots of time for discussions around the topics below but anything big missing that you’d like me to talk to? Thanks!


1. Why social design is critical to UX professionals

- We are a social species and social interaction drives much human behavior

- The web is being rebuilt with people at the centre

2. Why current UX practices don’t work well for social design

- Why the classic UCD process doesn’t work well

- Why personas and goal driven design don’t work well

- An alternative approach

3. Doing research on social behavior

- Why 1:1 qualitative research has severe limitations

- Why front loaded qualitative research has limited value

- An alternative approach

4. A framework to use

- Identity + Privacy / Relationships / Connections / Communication

5. Design patterns around Identity and Privacy

- Designing for social versus personal identity

- Designing for consistency with past behavior

- Designing public interactions

- Designing for privacy

6. Design patterns around Relationships + Connections

- Designing for groups

- Homophily and designing around common ground

- Designing for strong and weak relationships

7. Design patterns around Communication

- Designing conversations and the power of lightweight interactions

- Designing to build relationships

8. Conclusion and discussion



  1. Ermolay Romanoff

    Dear Paul,

    that is a challenging agenda – I hope you’re ready for some hard work.

    From my point of view it makes sense, it’s clear and gives the perspective and toolkit. I have two ideas for you.

    1. Patterns are cool, they make give you a measure. Patterns also may restrict you in creativity. Take a step back in the end to address that and to give some kind of process of nurturing new instead of following patterns. Do I make sense?

    2. What I am longing to see for a long time already, is someone like yourself, coming to an event and dropping his occupation from the topic. Leave Facebook for a day. Come as an entrepreneur, sharing his ideas and knowledge. Mention Facebook when you talk about who you are, give examples from your experience at Facebook, but be a friend and a mentor while trying to avoid any affiliation in the end, so they don’t say “that Facebook person told us”. Just a thought. There is nothing bad in working at Facebook, it’s just a topic that attracts attention – and you want attention to be at Social Design, right? Be delicate.

    Thanks for listening, unfortunately there is no way I am going to be there. Looking forward to a recording or a blog post on the subject.

  2. Hey Paul,

    Looks like a great outline! I am very excited to attend your workshop next week and to meet you. One question I have that I’d love to hear you expand on is how do you integrate social into applications (desktop or mobile) when social isn’t the main feature? For products like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Quora, etc. their main feature is the social aspect. Its integrated into the site. But what about products that have a social aspect, but its not the primary task of a user? For example, my primary task is to do research into a topic. A secondary (or farther down the chain) task is to share research, follow what others are looking into, etc. How can you have social as a secondary task for a user? Where its there and readily available, but isn’t the strongest aspect of the product.

    Very interested to hear whatever you teach on.


    Timothy Whalin

    • I’d love to hear about that too!

      And I think it will be great to hear a different approach about personas and goal driven design.

      Carol Janovik

    • Thanks Timothy, we’ll definitely cover how social interaction works in environments where it may be secondary to something else.

  3. Hello there!

    I’m super excited to spend the day in your seminar next week (though I hear that you’re going to be missing the Facebook company picnic!), and this schedule sounds like what I’ve been needing to explore for quite some time now!

    As requested, I do have something to ask you about. I work for a web product-based company, and increased social integration is extremely important to our present and our future. That said, now is really a time for Social to really start growing roots and evolving beyond simple sharing. What sorts of discovery/ideation methods do you feel are going to be the most successful for product organizations as they begin creating unprecedented experiences that tie the strengths of their own products with the backbone of social networks?

    Best regards,

    -Christian Sabyan

    • Thanks Christian, I’ll definitely add more on this in the agenda. The main thing for people to realise is that ‘social’ is not something abstract that we should think about in isolation. So we will have a good discussion on that too.

  4. Paul,

    I think it’s a great agenda and I am really looking forward for this workshop!

    The only one one thing I would like to understand is what would be differences designing for personal relationships versus business relationships (personal communities and groups VS. business), since I think behavior might be a little different in these situations.

    Thank you,


    • Thanks Andre. Great question. It would help me if you could explain in more detail what kinds of customers/users you have so that I have better context to help answer you next week.

  5. Mohini Wettasinghe

    This is an action packed agenda, and am certainly looking forward to it. I would have the same questions as Andre with regards to applying social in business relationships. How can we make social more context relevant and is anyone really making the best of social yet.

    I am looking forward to your alternate approach to UCD, persona and goal driven design practices and research, as well.

    • Thanks Mohini. Same as with Andre, it would help me if you could explain in more detail what kinds of customers/users you have so that I have better context to help answer you next week.

  6. The agenda looks great, and it’s actually more than what i expected to learn. I would have the same questions as Mohini & Andre with regards to applying social in business relationships.

    Our users are (business, design) professionals. they told us (during interview) they will not share (our) things on Facebook and Twitter. I am wondering how can we make the our user closer to us and each other, and how can we improve the interaction. How can we set up an enviroment or setting for it. Also, what’s the better practice according to this agenda in professional setting. I felt it’s harder when it’s business (professional) setting. (Since people share on personal network is different than what they do in professional network)

    • Thanks Danny. Same as with Andre and Mohini, it would help me if you could explain in more detail what kinds of customers/users you have and what it is they say they won’t share so that I have better context to help answer you next week.

  7. edward stojakovic

    somewhat building on previous threads, would like to explore the success/failure of concepts like Google+ Circles where we have different identities based on audience

  8. Hi Paul,

    First of all, just like to acknowledge your great talks at last year’s UX week and in your book. Some of the thinking I still practice day in and day out. So thanks!

    I like to ask some question regarding building a social network (online)

    In the early stage, the focus is on growth. So the interaction and operation of the service/site is focus on simplicity, intuition.

    Then when the social network is established, you have the noise problem. So lots of managing functions, grouping functions, privacy functions come into play….interaction and operation of the service had became more powerful, but complex at the same time.

    So the question is, how you pace the design between these stages? Where you draw the line between simplicity and lack of feature? How to increase the design decision quality, but not always rely on AB testing?

  9. Hey Paul, looking forward to your tomorrow’s workshop. Here’s a question I’d like to know answer to:

    - We, as a designers, employ number of methods and techniques to know our users and design best fitting experiences for them.
    - I’m curious, if there are of user researchers (slash designers) who are able to 1) utilize deep knowledge and principles from sociology, anthropology and psychology 2) combined with knowledge of technlogy to predict rise of products like computer games, IRCs, Twitters, Facebooks etc.
    - Because these products, judged retrospectively, seem so really logical now but would have seem like unreal in the past.
    - In case of computer games the reasoning would like “Well, people love to play, they look for casual amusement, they love to play with each other and love to try new things. Surely, why not to use computers for playing games! Hey, Nintendo, start developing digital games!”

    I’m not sure if I put it into the the right words but I hope you get the idea…

  10. Hi Paul,

    the contents list seems interesting. Do you have the presentation available to view anywhere online?