How to Make a Market-Leading Social Media Website, Following this Website Design Checklist

October 21, 2022

By the looks of it, 2022 is set to top the record as the year with the highest daily time spent on social media - a whopping 2 hours and 27 minutes on average. Stats suggest that the bulk of that time comes via mobile devices, even though desktops are still a worthy opponent with over 45% share of total web traffic.

It appears desktops aren't much favored when it comes to using social media - and why would they be? For starters, Instagram's website doesn't allow posting via its website, and on Facebook's feed, it has become virtually impossible to discern a friend's post from an ad.

Still, desktop websites aren't going anywhere just yet, and 45% of the global Internet traffic makes a great opportunity for an emerging social media platform to find its place in the sun.

This article will be helpful to everyone who ideates setting up their own social media platform or ponders tweaking their existing website looks and features. Read on and learn about our ultimate website design checklist for creating a top-notch social media website.

How to Make a Market-Leading Social Media Website, Following this Website Design Checklist

What are Social Media Websites?

Social media is an umbrella term for websites and applications that primarily rely on community-generated input, created through user interaction, content-sharing, and communication. Just remember, most websites track your 3rd party cookies as soon as you click on them!

So, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok fall under social media, but the term encompasses many other platforms people use to stay in touch with family, friends, and communities.

There isn't a definitive distinction between types of social media, but these platforms can generally be divided into groups such as:

  • social networks: Facebook, Instagram - focus on user interaction, content creation and sharing, and building a network of contacts
  • professional platforms: LinkedIn, Glassdoor - content generation and sharing concentrating on topics relating to business, from sharing industry knowledge to seeking employment
  • discussion forums: Quora, Reddit - from expert advice to sharing day-to-day life troubles, information social platforms allow users to ask and answer questions
  • dating websites: Tinder, Badoo - usually chat-based platforms where users create profiles and seek romantic relations
  • user review platforms: Yelp, TripAdvisor - consumers can discover, share and review products, services, or brands
  • blogging platforms: Tumblr, Medium - enable users to share lengthy content pieces
  • social shopping networks: Etsy, Fancy - shopping websites where the products are user-generated and sold by individuals or brands

So, social media comprises a variety of online platforms where we can chat about our interests, share our thoughts, and meet new people. Therefore, you need not have a Zuckerberg-like idea up your sleeve to make use of our social media website checklist; this article is meant for anyone with a vision of how to innovate an aspect of our online interaction.

Why do Social Media Websites Still Matter?

We prefer to immerse ourselves in the world of social media through our smartphones, so - you may wonder - why build a social media website in the first place?

Well, recent news on TikTok surpassing Google as the most popular website in 2021 may be a signal of a glorious comeback for desktop versions of social platforms. It's a clear indication that users seamlessly engage with TikTok's short form video content and features on the platform's website as well.

Furthermore, a recently published The New York Times piece suggests that for gen Z, TikTok is the new search engine. The article quotes Google senior vice president, Prabhakar Raghavan, who said months earlier that "almost 40 percent of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

Of course, Google is still far from gone, but social platforms encroaching on other aspects of our lives other than entertainment - such as education or job search - may signal a shift in our device preferences.

Last but not least, in May 2022, Instagram began expanding its features to the desktop version as well, adding the options of changing account status and uploading an IGTV video directly from a desktop browser.

If you now feel more convinced that desktop websites are a wise choice when developing a social platform, it's time to dive into our expert-curated social media website design checklist.

Ultimate Design Checklist for Social Media Websites

The social media landscape is quite competitive; thus, your first hurdle to jump will be creating a platform people will be happy to sign up to.

Nailing some of the key website aspects such as design, usability, and functionality is possible with a smaller investment - but only if you know what you're doing.

Lucky for you, our guide is here to help you get the gist of designing a successful social media website.

#1 Blueprint Your Social Platform's Basics

If you're reading this article, you probably already have a rough idea of how your platform could bring people and communities together. You probably have most of these questions answered, but reiterating your future social platform's basis won't hurt.

So, your first step in designing a successful social media website is:

  • decide how users will interact on your website: short-form videos, forum-like discussions, video calls, photo sharing, anonymous profiles... the options are endless
  • select your social network's niche: a platform for people to share anything and everything, or an online space dedicated to cooking, education, dating, etc.
  • identify your target users: who would engage with the content on the platform
  • perform a competitor analysis: discover and examine the pros and cons of platforms that provide similar experiences and leverage that knowledge for your site
  • develop your social media's brand: a strong brand story, authentic and transparent communication, and memorable, consistent branding are key to building user trust

Defining the basics of your social media platform is key before moving forward with your social website-building process.

#2 Create an Immersive Website Design

Social media is all about enabling people to connect and meet like-minded people within a digital space. Therefore, your website's design should make it easy for users to express themselves and have meaningful conversations.

The design's specificities will largely depend on the way people will interact on your platform. In other words, websites that focus on visual content require a strikingly different approach to design than those that publish textual content.

Nevertheless, there are some design musts to follow, and this wouldn't be an ultimate design guide if we didn't outline them, right? So, here's your social media website's design checklist:

  • provide compatibility across devices and browsers
  • use your brand's color scheme and fonts to increase brand recognition
  • ensure the website is accessible to people with disabilities: add alt tags to images, enable keyboard navigation, allow font size enlargement, keep contrast sensitivity in mind, etc.
  • create simple and intuitive navigation: preferably use visual cues instead of text as they take up less space and are more comprehensible internationally
  • emphasize CTAs: make it one click away for users to do the thing they joined your platform in the first place - post a comment, share a video, or make a purchase
  • bring user-generated content into focus and minimize the complexities of your site's design: cut down on eye-catching backgrounds and animations that distract users from the content
  • enable users to effortlessly search through the platform's content and find the content they like

#3 Opt For a Stable Development Technology

Ready-made development solutions are easier and less pricey alternatives to building a social media website. However, it might not be the smartest investment if you're shooting for the stars.

This is primarily because out-of-the-box websites generally cannot support the features and technologies social media platforms need. Moreover, they are less stable, less secure, and less user-friendly.

On the other hand, developing a custom social media website is an investment in the long run. Custom platforms allow adding functionalities, greater data security, design tweaking, and an abundance of other options that help you build a social media platform with an impeccable user experience.

Furthermore, as your platform grows, you'll need stable and secure technology to support the growing number of users, process terabytes of uploaded content daily, and safely store personal data on thousands of users.

To achieve maximum results with your social media platform, you will have to allocate a significant budget and build a website from the ground up. It calls for extra time and money, but going custom will save you lots of resources in the future.

#4 Develop a Content Personalization Algorithm

Being welcomed by content on topics you're interested in and made by creators you love is what makes social media so addictive. Hyper-personalization is so powerful that it is leveraged beyond social feeds, and companies across industries are pouring tons of money into developing personalization technologies.

To feed your social media website's personalization algorithm, collect and analyze user behavior data, such as:

  • interests through content users engage with
  • frequency of engagement with a user
  • session duration

Most of these algorithms use machine learning to sort content on a user's feed based on these behavior signals. Developing such an algorithm may require a considerable investment, but with a wise approach to content personalization, your social media website can earn much more.

#5 Integrate Tools to Attract Businesses and Creators

Social media platforms have become full-fledged marketing playgrounds for businesses worldwide. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are only some of the social networks whose profits heavily rely on user advertising.

On the other hand, these platforms have birthed an array of content creators that have become international celebrities. Countless YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch creators achieved global acclaim thanks to these social networks.

Of course, it will take time for your social website to build an audience and become a household name for digital marketing endeavors. However, you can nudge your social platform's popularity by integrating valuable features that businesses and content creators can use to broaden their content's reach.

Most top-performing social media platforms boast advertising features for users to monetize their content creation, through advertisements, brand promotions, or collaborations. Additionally, integrating profile analytics is great for users who wish to use a data-driven approach to growing their following.

#6 Ensure Data Compliance

The concept of social media is virtually based on users creating personal profiles and sharing their information with the platform. From granting access to our smartphones' contacts and location to uploading photos and credit card info, we entrust social platforms with much of our private data.

And while this "oversharing" enables a more personalized UX on the platform, data misuse has become a major source of concern. Facebook is just one of many social apps that faced public scrutiny over how they handle user info, and its poor data security policies are one of the main reasons users decide to leave the platform for good.

As a future owner of a social media website, you'll need to ensure your site complies with data privacy requirements. Depending on your platform's concept and features, your users will probably be able to:

  • sign up via personal email
  • create a profile with a name and a picture
  • upload personal photos and videos
  • add their credit card info and address
  • allow the app access to their contacts, location, and camera

To ensure your users' data are safe on your platform and that users are aware of how their data is processed, your social media website should incorporate the following compliance checklist:

  • inform users whether the website uses cookies (preferably via a cookie banner with an opt-in option)
  • make the terms of use and privacy policy visible to visitors
  • for websites that process and store credit card info, ensure the website has an SSL certificate and is PCI compliant
  • include user request forms to allow users to download, change, or delete their collected data
  • ensure third-party services are compliant
  • request double opt-in email verification for mailing lists
  • use strong passwords and two-factor authentication for admin users

Data regulations differ depending on the countries your platform will serve - e.g. EU countries use the GDPR, and different US states have developed their privacy policy requirements - so it's best to consult an expert in online data laws before launching your website.

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