Healthy Debate

Healthydebate.ca home page screenshot

Healthydebate.ca is a vibrant, expertly curated, community-driven website aimed at fomenting active discussions by community leaders, activists, healthcare professionals, and engaged members of the Canadian public. The scope is healthcare in Canada, and the topics are broad and varied.

Zeitguys was engaged to bring this social media project from the pages of the research grant to full online reality. Our deliverables included:

  • Information architecture and UX design
  • Visual design and WordPress theme customization
  • Plugin research, implementation and customization
  • Custom plugin and widget development
  • Project management and testing
  • Documentation and end-user training

From Blog to Social Media Platform

The really exciting part of the project was taking the raw materials of the WordPress platform and crafting them into a usable and compelling social media destination that engages the site visitor at every turn. We supplemented WordPress’ already powerful commenting system with approval ratings, and also added rankings, polls, social media controls and popularity filters throughout the site all aimed squarely at getting even the casual visitor involved in the feedback process.

By carefully selecting and leveraging key add-ons, and with a healthy dose of home-grown coding, we adapted WordPress’ blog-based technology into something much more sophisticated and interactive.

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Readers are encouraged to contribute thoughtful, well-written comments to articles by rewarding the best comments with a prominent “featured” placement. Comment excerpts are hand-chosen by administrators using a highly ergonomic user interface on the back-end.

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The site encourages participation by engaging the audience in a variety of social ways. Most articles feature a simple poll that requires very little commitment to complete, but still increases the user’s investment in the community.

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Commenting is a highly desirable activity and is encouraged through a friendly user interface that offers little barrier to entry, easy navigation to the most recent responses, and flagging of “hot debates” right on the home page.

Social Intelligence

Beyond the ubiquitous “Like” and “Tweet” buttons, we have built some scary intelligence into the social channels that this site taps into.

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The “popular debates” slider is powered by a complex ranking system that monitor’s an article’s touchpoints in the social sphere, touching on metrics from Google analytics, Twitter, facebook and LinkedIn.

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Early each morning, the website scours the targeted social networks, searching for occurrences of the articles within Tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn status updates and Google+ shares. These metrics are merged with Google Analytics page views and WordPress on-site comment counts.

The entire data set is then run through a ranking algorithm that gives each type of social activity a “weight” that can dramatically impact the promotion or demotion of an article in terms of its calculated “popularity”. The result is an uncannily accurate and dynamic snapshot of the healthiest debates!

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Rankings and Ratings

Star rankings, comment rating and popularity filters

Each article has a visitor-defined ranking score that is generated by allowing any reader of the article to select from a 5-star rating. Each visitor may only rate the same article once. The process is easy and casual (no registration or verification is required) and so user adoption of this behaviour is high.

The user commenting system also benefits from its own “thumbs up / thumbs down” rating system. Coupled with a custom popularity filtering tab, this democratizes the commenting process and ensures that the most useful and well thought-out comments bubble to the top.

Survey Says…

Polls abound throughout the site

The next tool that encourages user participation is the polling / survey system. Polls can be easily created and added to any article – some articles contain multiple polls. Users select from multiple-choice answers and only see the poll results once they themselves have participated in the poll (or the poll expires).

A Featured poll also appears in the sidebar

A site-wide “featured poll” is also available in the ubiquitous sidebar, and is often used by the site curators to solicit feedback about what the next topics or articles should be.

The Social Scene

These days, no website is complete without the standard suite of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking links. In addition to these links, we built in a tight integration with Facebook, leveraging the Facebook API, and added a comprehensive sharing tool that covers nearly every current mode of digital communication from email to digg and beyond.

Social networking and sharing tools

But wait, there’s more…

We could go on and on about this project, talking about how we implemented an integrated opt-in mailing and newsletter system, user feedback forms, easy flash and media embedding, metrics and analytics and a host of other customizations that make the day-to-day administration of the content straightforward.

But we won’t. Instead, we will just encourage you to jump on over to healthydebate.ca and join the debate!