That's my advice for creating a successful online community or social network. Keep the entry points simple, elegant, and uncluttered.
One thing that I've learned while developing community sites for our clients is that the best social networks are the ones that pull the visitor into the community by inviting them to answer a single - very simple - question.
Where do you want to go today?
What do you want to do?
Reebok launched an online running community this week. Your entry point?
A single question. Where do you want to run?
The best online communities start out very simple. It's only after you get drawn into the community that you see all of the different areas to explore. Like pealing back an onion, the community opens up as you go deeper into it. The key is to make sure that you don't inundate the first time visitor with a million things to see, do and learn as soon as they get there.
Here's two examples of terrific communities that have a ton of great features and tools, but at the same time, have very simple entry points:
There's a lot going on in Flickr once you begin uploading photos. But when you first get there, here's what you see:
Linkedin has become extremely robust in the tools you can use to connect with others. But when you first register for Linkedin, here's what you see:
The best online communities - simple entry points.