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.