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We had a web app that acts as a travel portal for consumers - tours, hotels, attractions and so forth. It has recently been decided that a facebook-type platform be integrated as well.

I am struggling with the transition from "Website" to "Social Network". If it were just a forum it would be easy, but because the social network has a whole host of it's own features, this becomes more tricky.

The layout also changes quite drastically as well so there is little continuity; but this could be addressed easily enough.

I have toyed with opening a modal window and an iframe, allowing access to the social site, close it and return to the website but I'm not so sure that will be particularly mobile or user friendly.

I suppose what I'm really looking for is a UX-friendly way of having "Back to the Website" and "Back to the Social Network" buttons in a prominent location.

Are there any similar case studies I could perhaps take some lessons in usability from?

We basically want it to be a seamless experience but it's essentially merging two websites together!

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I don't really get how intertwined the website and the social site will be. Is the idea almost the old site with a social community site on top of it? And if so then what is the purpose? Raising user activity? –  AndroidHustle Dec 14 '12 at 13:17
    
What sort of social networking is even appropriate to this particular application? How does it tie in to the primary objectives of the user (presumably, booking travel plans)? –  Yamikuronue Dec 14 '12 at 15:03
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Did you first ask why? Why do they want to go down this path? Whats the advantage to the end user? What does the company think they're going to get out of doing this? More users? More registrations? More purchases etc.

This seems like someone had a spark of an idea and then came into you and said this is what we want to do. Unless they can competently answer the above questions. Tell them to come back to you when they can. Push back on who ever it is. Even if it's the CEO. As a UX person it's not only your job to build a great UX for the end user but also to look out for the company that might make a really dumb mistake. I do this all the time and have never lost a job because of it. I get told I'm opinionated but I can live with that.

It's like some one thought. Well, social media is doing great lets change what we do so we can have the same type of success. I can tell you how it's going to go.

  • A lot of time is going to get spent thinking about how it should be done.
  • A lot of money is going to be spent paying for that time, resources etc.
  • The same person or team is going to expect you to deliver Facebook in 4 months.
  • In the end it will fail due to the lack of users and/or user interest and you'll go back to what you had before.

So, save yourself the headache and months of pulling your hair out because the first questions I asked and you should be screaming about haven't been answered prior to starting.

Get them or whoever to competently answer those first. Then test that concept with some existing users. Get their input. If what your being told to design and/or build doesn't jive with what your users are telling you. Then it shouldn't get built. Unless the gap between the two get a lot narrower.

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this is some really good advice, thank you. –  darren Dec 23 '12 at 20:26
    
Glad I could help. Remember. Designing a great UX has nothing to do with the UI. It has everything to do with the questions you ask and the answers you get. –  Tony Dec 24 '12 at 4:51
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