Purpose– To explore the relationship between emergent user roles and perceived importance of user requirements in a social‐oriented community.
Design/methodology/approach– A field study was designed to uncover hidden online social networks, and to elicit and rate user requirements.
Findings– User roles might have an impact on their perceptions of requirements. The study showed that significant differences of perceptual requirements on regulation and links exist across user roles.
Research limitations/implications– Only a small‐sized online community (approximately 300 members) participated in this study. One‐quarter of the population filled out the online survey.
Practical implications– Online community builders should invite a handful of different user roles to participate in the design and evolutionary processes of information systems.
Originality/value– The paper challenges popular views about the design of online communities.