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Online Communities: Designing Usability and Supporting Sociability

ISBN: 978-0-471-80599-1
468 pages
October 2000, ©2000
Online Communities: Designing Usability and Supporting Sociability (0471805998) cover image


The purpose of the book is to set up a framework for discussions on social and technical issues of online communities. Designing usability and supporting sociability lays a solid foundation on which online communities can grow and thrive. Intended for both students and computer professionals, the book addresses the development of new online communities as well as the improvement of existing ones. It is divided into two parts - Getting Acquainted with Online Communities and Developing Online Communities - along with a preface and a concluding chapter which explores the future of online communities. For sample chapters and other resources, please check out the web site for the book at:


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Table of Contents





Community Tours.

Sociability: Purpose, People, and Policies.

Usability: Tasks, Users, and Software.

Research Speaks to Practice: Interpersonal Communication.

Research Speaks to Practice: Groups.


Community-Centered Development.

Selecting Software.

Guidelines: Sociability and Usability.

Assessing Needs and Evaluating Communities.

Development Case Studies.

Looking to the Future.


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Author Information

Jenny Preece is Professor and Chair of Information Systems at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she teaches online communities and human-computer interaction. Prior to coming to the USA she chaired the first distance education course at the Open University in the UK. She has authored a leading text on Human-Computer Interaction and numerous other publications.
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The Wiley Advantage

The goal of this book is to help developers (both professional and amateur) bring together people with mutual interests and concerns, be they business-related, health, educational, or cultural. The unique writing style of the author lends to making the technical topics very fascinating to read.
  • Emphasis is on design and evaluation of effective communities.
  • Underlying analysis of what enabling technologies can do and what they should do.
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"provides a good balance between theory and practise"   (Software Focus, December 2001)

"I like the slightly zany drawings"  "People will say I wish I'd had this book before now"."   (Computer & Education, No. 36, 2001)

"…an excellent book…my best recommendations…" (Jnl of Computing and Information Technology, March 2003)

Anyone interested in growing virtual communities would benefit from this well-researched and well-thought-out exposition of the human interface and social issues underlying virtual community design. Jenny Preece provides an important perspective on social cyberspace that has not been available before. The social infrastructure provided by thoughtful user interface design.—Howard Rheingold, Author of The Virtual Community

.....a great contribution.....The Internet is, after all, the center of virtual culture; everyone now needs to know about it.—John M. Carroll, Virginia Tech

Preece's book is especially important in three ways. First, it focuses on the important and pervasive growth of Internet communities. Second, it presents a comprehensive user-oriented approach for designing online communities. Third, it applies a variety of methods to test and analyze her ideas.—Ronald E. Rice, Rutgers University

This is the first book that I am aware of that really focuses on the issues of usability and software design of online communities... an excellent organization and mix of topics to address this increasing important area of research and development.—Jean Gasen, Capital One Services Inc.

Who should read this book? Clearly, developers of next-generation virtual community tools, services and applications should adopt this as their bible. The struggle for the soul of cyberspace has begun, and Preece goes a long way toward opening up this process.—From the Foreword by Doug Schuler, Seattle Community Network

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Related Websites / Extra

Online Communities - Companion Web SiteContains cover image with link to author site, which has sample chapters, instructors resources and links. The URL address for the website is: http://www.wiley.co.uk/preece
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Instructors Resources
Online Communities - Companion Site
Contains cover image with link to author site, which has sample chapters, instructors resources and links. The URL address for the website is:


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