Social software is very often a misnomer. The explosion of conversation-driven web applications in today’s world is a sign of technology beginning to fold in upon itself; tools that facilitate little more than continued use of the same tools, driving people to spend more time online than ever before. Yet, outside the mega-sphere of self-referential San Francisco geek influence, what makes a website truly great is the way it can influence behavior, and make an impact outside cyberspace.
You can measure success for a website in terms of clicks, hits, little markers of addiction, and continuous partial attention.
Or you can measure success in terms of change and outward social effects. More difficult to quantify, but key to understanding the microscopic differences in tone and execution that determine macroscopic effects.
Joshua Porter brilliantly summarizes this in Designing for Social Traction:
Instead of asking: Can people fill out our sign-up form?
Ask: Are they motivated enough to care?
This is a shift in vocabulary – in the everyday language we use to talk about web design and usability. We have traditionally thought about these aspects from the perspective of understandability, but with the onslaught of hyper-connectivity, the role of a UX designer may need to shift, be to about promoting humanity.