For more than 70 years, Disney has been engaging children and adults alike with clean, wholesome entertainment. Now, as the world of online content and media expands, Disney.com is following suit, implementing new features to bring the familiar aspects of the Disney brand to web users. To further achieve this goal, in late August, Disney Family.com will launch a free social network designed particularly for parents and family called Disney Family.com Community.
After launching Parentpedia.com, a resource website for parents, the creators of Disney Family.com realized that parents were willing to share their lives and embrace a sense of community. Capitalizing on these factors, it decided to create a unified social network by combining Disney Family.com, Wondertime.com, and FamilyFun.com into one community that will better serve the Disney audience. While each of these sites will remain distinct, the thread that weaves the sites together will be community. Targeted at women, particularly mothers, Disney Family.com Community gives users the chance to make connections with other parents who are dealing with similar experiences. "Moms are looking to have a little bit of fun and want to ask questions and get answers," says Maria McManus, director of interface design and community. And having good fun is at the heart of Disney Family.com.
The fun starts the moment users create an account and continues as they customize and decorate their profiles. Disney tries to enliven the process of filling out the typical account information by using visuals instead of just the typical text boxes. "The nice part is that it is information gathering made fun," says Maureen Bergmueller, director of marketing. Users make avatars of themselves, their spouses, children, and even pets. Immediately after registration, they are taken to a homepage with a family portrait of the avatars they just created. Users can then customize their spaces by dressing up the avatars, changing their backgrounds, frames, and the patterns and colors displayed.
These visuals are an example of how the Disney Family.com Community works to distinguish itself from other community sites, such as Facebook and MySpace. "Sites like Facebook are fantastic at tapping into needs for young adults, but they are geared to the individual," says McManus. "Disney is geared toward parents and family. Becoming a parent is a new self-definition; you now define yourself by your family." With Disney Family.com, mothers have the ability to show who they and their families are through features such as "stickers." Similar to information found in blog signature lines, these stickers, or thumbnail visuals, range from subjects such as "proud to be a c-section mom" to more brand-affiliated subjects such as "Target lover." These visual queues allow users to discover information about each other at a glance.
Disney Family.com Community users have the ability to create updates called "In the Moment," which are displayed as thought bubbles next to their avatars. These moments are similar to status updates found on other social sites and are archived and accessible from the Family.com homepage so that any user can see them. Unlike sites such as Facebook, the Disney Family.com Community allows users to see anyone’s profile, not just people they already know.
Users also have the opportunity to take quizzes, such as "Which National Monument Are You?" These results are then displayed on the user’s profile for others to see. If users decide to increase their level of commitment to the site by joining a group, the ability to see quiz results in other profiles, along with a user’s demographic information, helps people make decisions about which groups they want to join.
According to McManus, "We are trying to allow people to connect and reach out to others in ways that are non-threatening and that increase the possibility of being heard." And, of course, have a little fun.
Extending the Disney brand and reaching out to a wider audience is an important element of this social site. "Disney has been there for parents for generations, helping them celebrate family," says Bergmueller. "This site is a clean, well lit, respectful place where people can have time to themselves."