Hi, I’m Gia Lyons, Program Manager and Strategist for Jive Software’s public community. Previously, I worked as a Consultant with several of our largest global customers to develop strategies for planning, designing, launching, and managing their employee- and public-facing social business platforms. And before joining Jive Software in 2008, I was IBM’s social software technical evangelist for the Americas.
I’m going to share four things today. Before you design your employee- or public-facing community environment, you must first know your company’s objectives, your user’s needs, and your key scenarios. That greatly informs your design, and helps you avoid some common pitfalls. After you design your environment, be sure to routinely check for design health. Let’s get started.
MAIN THOUGHT: Different from designing for intranet or public website Many times, organizations approach designing their community site much like they approach designing their intranet or external website. While this might work in terms of look and feel and brand identity, it doesn’t adequately serve the business needs of both the organization AND the community members.
So, before you jump into design, answer these questions
MAIN THOUGHT: typically see three levels of objectives, each supporting the next. Here’s an example from one of my customers who implemented an employee-facing social business platform. I typically see three levels of objectives, each supporting the next. In this case, employees wanted to reach more people, find information faster, and be more aware of others and the business. All of this social business activity is leading to better customer interaction orchestration, more innovative conversations, and overall work transformation. And this directly supports some of the company’s strategic initiatives, Improve Customer Intimacy, Achieve Technology Superiority, and Flawless individual Execution. Doing this exercise will do wonders in scoping your design. If it doesn’t serve these objectives, it doesn’t belong in your initial design.
Here’s a similar example from a customer-facing community. This will be available in your materials after the conference.
MAIN THOUGHT: In addition to nailing down your company’s objectives, you need to understand what your users want to get out of the community. This example is from the wireless division of a large technology company. It addresses a specific business problem that social business software can help remedy. They didn’t have any reliable way to find and connect to people or information related to their wireless business, or share wireless-related messages, ideas, insights, and expertise with employees outside of their organization or locations. When you explicitly state the problem this way, it further informs how you design your information architecture and user experience.
MAIN THOUGHT: Understand the concerns of your users This example goes one step further, in that it defines the concerns of specific members of a specific public-facing community, one dedicated to implementing electronic health record systems. This will also be available in your materials after the conference.
MAIN THOUGHT: Understanding the needs and concerns of your community members is perhaps the most critical difference between designing a community and designing an intranet or website.
Alright. Now that you’ve scoped your community’s objectives and understood what your users need, Let’s start designing. There are 5 steps: Identify characteristics, Express them in specific ways, define activity flow, structure for ease of use, and seed with content and interaction. Let’s take one at a time…
MAIN THOUGHT: Identify one primary and one or two secondary characteristics to scope design Oprah.com = Conversations CNN iReport = Content + Reputation A thriving community usually has a primary and one or two secondary characteristics. For example, if you’re a member of a forum on Oprah.com, the primary characteristic is most likely Conversations. If you participate in CNN’s iReport site, the primary characteristic is most likely Content, with Reputation being a close second (people want to become iReporter Superstars). The trick here is to make sure to identify your primary characteristic, because that helps to scope your design and information architecture even further.
MAIN THOUGHT: Express characteristics in design by answering these questions from the user’s perspective Once you’ve ID’ed your primary characteristic, and perhaps one or two secondary ones, do this little exercise that I like to call the PCME Exercise. Purpose Calls to Action Motivation Example If you can successfully answer these questions, you’re ready to start designing the landing page of your community.
Here’s an example. What’s the purpose? Calls to action? Motivation, example of desired behavior?
MAIN THOUGHT: The more newbies you have, the more your design needs to guide them. Now that you’ve defined community characteristics and expressed them in purpose, calls to action, motivation and examples, you need to answer the user’s question, “What happens when I click here?” This is all about catering to the user’s level of familiarity with several factors by including a level of “concierge service” in your design. If your users are primarily newbies in terms of familiarity with basic computer skills, willingness to learn new technologies, exposure to online community or social networking concepts, perceived value of same, low social technology activity level, and knowledge about your community’s topic, then you need to design a higher level of concierge service.
Here’s an example. Let’s say that your community’s primary characteristic is Relationships, and that one call to action is to Introduce Yourself. For newbie users, that click might lead to a page that explains what Profiles are intended to be used for, the benefits of networking, profile guidelines, and even feature a member’s completed profile as an example. An additional call to action to complete their profile then flows the user to the ultimate goal. For savvy users, who most likely understand all of this, the click takes them directly to their profile in edit mode.
MAIN THOUGHT: Worst thing to do is structure similar to intranet, org chart, public website – community serves different purpose. Alright. Now that you’ve designed your landing page, it’s time to create a simple structure to serve the community’s and the company’s needs and objectives, within the context of the community’s characteristics. The absolute worst thing you can do is structure your community along the lines of your intranet, your organizational chart, or for public-facing communities, your public website. Your community serves a different purpose. This is why defining community characteristics is so important! The best thing about implementing a social business community is that the structure can, will, and should evolve over time to meet the needs of its members first, and secondarily, meet the needs of the organization. The good news is that, regardless of what social business software you choose, organic structure evolution is relatively painless to enable.
MAIN THOUGHT: There’s no ambiguity here. Brand-new visitors understand what to do and the rewards for doing it. Here’s an example from the community that I manage. This is an area that serves as a vestibule for brand-new visitors to the community. It’s primary characteristic is Conversation, and the calls to action are Register, Join the conversation, and Ask a question. There’s no ambiguity here. Brand-new visitors understand in less than 5 seconds what they can do here, what the motivation is to do it (get answers to their questions in a timely manner), and examples of people who’ve already done it successfully.
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