Raise your hand if you have been through a redesign project? Does it stress you out just thinking about it? Or do you envision the beer bash afterwards where you celebrating a 25% increase in conversions? Either way I’ve been there with you! It is a long, hard process with lots of opinions however over the years I’ve learned the following tips when it comes to redesigning a community:
1. Always think of your customers
Sounds obvious but sometimes forgotten. You’ve been working on the site for 5 years and you think you know your customers – but wait! You haven’t surveyed them or done any focus groups. I’d highly recommend that and it doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg. Look up who your active contributors are in your community now and give them a call or even better meet in-person. Ask them what they want to see in a community and why they would engage with it. That can help shape your site, the engagement methods and even your internal community business process.
2. Use Activity Data within Your Design
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The worst thing about going to a party is there is no one there that you know or just no one there at all – the same can be said in a community. If it doesn’t look like there is anybody to answer your questions then you might as well just leave the site and go to the competitors. Activity can be shown in many different ways either by latest conversations, # of registered users, # of users online, # of active conversations or perhaps your Twitter conversations, Try and incorporate one of those data points within your design.
3. Feature contributors/active community members
Reach out to the users that are providing great content in the form of answering questions in your boards, active on Twitter or even in the offline world (yes it exists) like conferences/meet-ups/events. This will allow visitors to the community to see who the other members are and at the same time allow your featured members to bring to their networks that they were featured on your site. That last part will hopefully bring you more traffic.
4. Empower your community to share
In 10+ years fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, one of the biggest mistakes that I learned is people don’t donate because they aren’t asked! Don’t assume that people won’t donate and just ask them. Who knows they might be the big $1000 check and will find the next cure for cancer. How does this relate to empowering your community? Of course, sharing content is all about creating content that is visual, engaging and sparks an emotional connection. If you do all of that you still need the sharing functionality on your blog, discussion boards and wherever on your site to allow community members to share to their favorite network (email or social network). Look into sharing platforms like addthis or sharethis. Use the analytics to determine how your content resonates with your community and their community.
5. Scale your community content throughout your website and emails
The future of community design in my opinion is that it is going to weave into your main website. Most sites now they have a community tab in their main navigation and the sales process is totally separate. The future (in 1 to 2 years) will change the design of communities and they will be treated as product features within your website. For example, you go to your product page to learn about the product but what would happen if you are given the opportunity to sign-up for the site to get notified when the product comes out (people do this now) but join in a conversation about how excited they are about the product, share it with their friends, find other friends who are interested in buying or a local meet-up that will be giving a demo in the next month. This is a fundamental change in philosophy for the web designers and marketers who are usually separate from the community or social media function. Here are a few simple ideas without breaking the budget (this assumes you have a community now):
- incorporate RSS feeds of your blog or featured conversations in your product pages or homepage
- highlight members of the community in your e-newsletter and website
- add reviews and ratings functionality (ping me if you need vendor recommendations)
Hope this has helped you think about community in a whole different way and make you think how your members or potential ones react to your content.
Image courtesy of Flickr user _dChris’