As readers of this blog may or may not be aware of I am a Registered Nurse. I rarely if ever talk about my job or nursing or anything else to do with my career. In fact I make a point of not doing so. You can read all about this in posts that I have made before. But I think that given my career this site was worth talking about. I found late last week a social networking site for nurses. On the whole NurseLinkup is a fine effort and has all the elements to be successful with the target audience.
On first look this site is simple. But I think that is important. The reason being is that I am an exception; most nurses are not tech savvy. Sure we are where it counts, in what we do but RSS feeds, forums, podcasts and social networks… nope. So simplicity with this audience is important. It is also important because nurses are efficient people and more often than not tired. They don’t want or need a plethora of options to choose from. The information has to be easy to obtain, clear in it’s purpose and topic and it has to be quality content worth reading. Five out of five in my opinion. Niche social networks should learn a thing or two from the implementation shown here.
I could see this site as a wonderful place of information exchange and mutual support and discussion of issues that are important to the nursing profession. It has a number of features that it employs to accomplish these things.
Apart from the front page there are News, Articles and Forum tabs. All obvious and accessible from the front page. Although I would suggest that they source more than one site or service for their news and update more often. I do not know if this is a user contributed thing or not. So it may be that the users are not that involved yet. I have found that in cases like this then the best thing to do is to lead by example, which it appears they are doing if this is the case.
The inclusion of “most viewed” and “most popular” is a nice touch. However, what makes them different? If it has something to do with the comments then one tab needs to say “most commented”. But other than that this is a good tool to see what is relevant and felt most passionately by the users. There is a predominant U.S feel to the site but then that is where this is based so I would not expect less. In time should the service gain traction it will be good to see input from around the globe. The networking element of this as time goes on will be invaluable to nurses from everywhere.
The articles seem to have an educational focus. In addition to expanding your practice and getting the most out of your career in nursing. I noticed that there were articles on travelling with nursing and career paths in nursing. Along with a whole heap of other quality articles that are well written and researched with references. Users can also rate and comment on articles. I have not seen this as well done in this type of format before. I was also pleased to see that the articles are “on site” and not just links to articles elsewhere.
The forums are as you might expect. But the options are simple but as I said they need to be. There are forums for students, general nursing and speciality areas plus some others. Once you click on an option the various forums are displayed and the layout in it’s simplicity and ease of use is to be commended. I love the fact that they are making this technology accessible to people that would otherwise not bother or have the knowledge to do so. Any nurse out there would be able to access this service and be able to participate and get something out of it and most importantly put something back.
With these features there is also all the things that make for top usability and simplicity. Tagging is a well utilized feature, although I would question the validity of some tags (a sentence a tag does not make). There are lists of active users. Profiles and most importantly to me an RSS feed in addition the ability to subscribe via email if you don’t have a clue what RSS is. I like the thinking here. Again this makes the technology and therefore the content accessible via a medium that people both understand and trust. Users are able to blog on the site, add friends and upload photos. I would consider these features as standard for social networks but again simplicity at it’s best; well implemented and functional. Nice job.
The site is graphically very appealing and not over the top. The site speed is good but the user base is small and yet to be truly tested. I would however question their picture use in the header. It seems a bit “old school” to me. You have to look at your demographic. Sure nurses are all ages, but what types of nurses are going to be making their way to these sites and services? I think that it is going to be the slightly younger crowd or those of a more modern thinking ilk. Or at least those that have the ability to use a computer and trust the Internet enough to join. This is definitely a younger crowd and I would argue skewed male. I think that a more appealing graphic to cater to this crowd would be better. But not over the top so you would still catch the rest. In my experience it just seems in stark contrast to other social networking sites. These services usually rely on good coding and appealing layout with a nice simplistic logo as opposed to a picture that I might find in a nursing journal. It is not a bad picture, but I can’t help but think it is out of place. But that is just my opinion.
One other criticism that I would have is that of their default avatar. It depicts in silhouette an image that would be considered a female. This may well be associated with the Bio that users set up. But if there is not the option to choose between a male and a female avatar; should you choose not to display your own, I would consider this a stereotypical assumption. I am a male nurse and I am constantly being mistaken for or thought to be a doctor only because I am male. It pains me that this is still the case in the 21st century, it would disappoint me more if this is the case in a community built by nurses for nurses.
These are minor gripes on a social network that is well built and implemented for the target audience and user base. Clearly a lot of thought and effort has gone into presenting a site that works and contains good quality content. I am very proud that we nurses are up there competing with major, better covered and known sites in design and usability. If anything this is an excellent example of how a niche community should be done compared to some if not most that I see (and that is a lot). This is no throw together service. I wish them all the best and hope that they see the growth that a site such as this needs to become a rich source of information and collaboration.
March 14, 2007 at 1:46 am
Hello, Dave. First of all, thanks for the review and the kind words about our website, NurseLinkup.com. It is particularly satisfying that you wear two hats, as a tech blogger and a registered nurse, and that you provided positive feedback from both perspectives.
There are so many things that you mentioned in your post that were intentionally integrated into our site design and structure that I was beginning to wonder if you were somehow listening in on our planning sessions last year. We spent hours working as a team to develop a site that recognized the unique characteristics of the nursing community. Nurses generally have limited time and limited computer/Internet skills so the site needed to be easy to use and easy to navigate. At the same time, we appreciate the professional nature of the nurse community and are dedicated to providing resources and information that are useful for our nurse members.
Social networks are not just for kids and they are not just for fun. The ability to interact with other like-minded individuals in a responsible, productive and enjoyable environment can and should be available to professionals and others in specifically defined groups with a particular interest. Nurses have a great deal they can share, personally and professionally, and deserve a community that provides as many tools and resources as are available to facilitate dialog, interaction and personal expression. (And have some fun at the same time).
We are committed to providing new functionality, upgrading and enhancing features, offering content and other resources that will be truly useful for nurses and those interested in the profession. We are also committed to listening and responding to the members. Nurse Linkup exists for the nursing community and will be as good as we can make it and as good as the community challenges us to be.
By the way, the “criticisms” you expressed in your post touched on issues that have been sources of lively debate within the Nurse Linkup team and are being addressed. Thanks for weighing in. We sincerely appreciate and respect your feedback.
Nurse Linkup Staff
July 8, 2007 at 2:57 pm
I found your review, of the Nurse Linkup site, to be very interesting. It is helpful to me, as I am involved in developing a new social and action network for nurses. Thanks for your article.
May 31, 2008 at 5:12 am
Rooster I really enjoyed this review, however it is two platforms old, maybe you would like to re-review the latest version?
NurseLinkUp has gone through many changes in the past several months. It now features a much easier to use interface. “Simple For Everyone” is the goal for all of our sites.
People like Terry McDermott ^^ and previous OnlineLinkUp employees failed to grasp the concept of “Simple”. Now 2 years after the company formed, there is finally something everyone can enjoy.
We are now accepting Nurses from the entire world, feel free to give us a visit!
OnlineLinkUp Development Team
May 31, 2008 at 12:24 pm
@Johnny Not sure I agree with your assessment on the previous iteration of the site. I thought it had remarkable potential the way it was.
I am not sure I could positively review the service as it now stands. Joomla as a platform? No social networking options for sharing, confusing layout and site nav, poor design. There may well be a future for what your trying to do but based on the standard of other social networking sites and services, as the site is now – there is no comparison. The site is way below par.
Changing the platform and structure was not the best decision to make. But then that is my opinion and I wish you the best.
June 1, 2008 at 10:43 am
I was a member of the first nurse linkup in April – May of last year. I was not too impressed with the site. I have stumbled upon this article once again a year later, and was quite intrigued when I visited the new nurse linkup. The site is much easier to use, and has more for its members to do. It is a very clean site, looks professional.
It appears you may of known someone in their first iteration that fueled your response. I think the new guys are doing it right, I have used joomla on other sites, they have molded it into an entirely new feel. The site is much more efficient than the first version. Were you an actual member? or just a passer by? A big improvement with member features if you have not yet signed up to their new site.
Great work with the new version I am excited to see what the development team does next.
@johnny & rooster
The best part about the new nurse linkup that you both left out .
It Works! So many sites I visit have errors and time out.
June 8, 2008 at 9:34 pm
I love the new NurseLinikUp! The old website was boring, old fashioned and DID NOT WORK!
I’ve used Joomla and it’s a perfect fit for us nurses – easy to use, full of great features and the layout is clean and uncluttered.
In my opinion, the new development team at Online LinkUp understands how to put a social networking site togther. It’s pretty obvious the previous team di’nt have a clue – and that includes those associated with them. Cheers! Phil
November 2, 2008 at 2:31 am
I just wanted to let everyone know about a new social networking site that’s geared toward the nursing community called socialRN – http://www.socialRN.com.
It’s really cool. Everyone needs to check it out and let their friends know about it.