I once heard a webinar by Arielle Tannenbaum and I found it very helpful. It was always my concern to design the best user experience for my community members.
To get to that point, I learned that I need to first know about the cyclical nature of communities, why that is important to think about, and how to design unique community experiences for members at different stages of their community journey. Let's explain it in more details.
1. Cyclical nature of a community
Why we say communities have a cyclical nature? Because communities are human, active, always moving, and always changing.
There are always new members joining, curios members who decide to join a discussion for the first time, members who start to post more regularly, members who want to setup as leaders, and once-involved members getting less involved. Therefore, it is important to always remember that communities are not static. As a result, you can always use some methods to scale your relationship in the community, but you cannot automate the human relationship. That is why community takes time and effort to be built. More effort and time you spend on your community, more activities you will receive from the other community members. And the cycle continues.
2. What is community experience design
Designing the community experience always comes back to the needs of your members. As there are different types of community members (mentioned in the previous paragraph) their needs are different too. Also, the needs for each group change during the time.
User experience design is a lens for community building. User Experience (UX) design is the design for a user's experience with a product or technology or a website. In a community, it is design for a community members within the community environment. And those community members have some needs, which is why they are a part of your community. Uncover those needs and this should shape the whole experience.
Before you start designing the experience, have these mind sets:
- Put yourself in the perspective of your community members: Do interviews and Surveys, or hop on a call with your members to understand their needs better.
- Design for the why, before the what and the how: Always look for why did your members join your community? Why they are staying in your community? When you find the answer to this question, you can uncover the member's needs.
- Design for different needs: Know different types of your members, discover each groups' needs, and try to cover these different needs within the design of your community.
3. Community Journey:
Design the journey for different community behaviors and different level of users' belonging. Design different community journeys for different types of your community members. To do this, you first need to know different types of your members:
- Potential Members
- Meat them where they are: How / Where do they discover the community
- Speak for their needs: How do you invite them to really become a member
- Set the stage: What is the registration process like for this group
- New Members
- Great new members like you would do in person
- Show them the ropes: send them welcome emails or guideline notes or respond to their post in the community
- Step into their shoes and anticipate their questions
- make it really easy for them to get involve: prepare onboarding process and open events
- Curios Members
- Get them coming back: This group is very valuable as they are usually the majority for many communities
- Know they are there and have gratitude for them
- Facilitate great content being shared
- Send lots of reminders
- Keep them in the loop by weekly emails or newsletters
- These are the people who comment and port from time to time
- Offer low-barrier-to-entry activities
- Engage when they engage (validate behavior)
- These are the people who show up and post their own contents
- Setup recurring events and activities
- Help encourage when they start traditions
- Offer opportunities to built deeper connection: For example do video chat with them.
- Look out for people already acting as a leader
- Why would someone want to be a leader on your community? Look for the why!
- How can you make the experience meaningful for them? Send them badges or gifts and give them other exceptional attentions to appreciate their being
- Make clear asks
- Express a lot of gratitude
When you know your members well, put yourself into their shoes, and go through their experience.
4. Tips for intentional community building
- get into detail
- visually communicate into clearly
- surprise and delight as a gratitude to your members
- keep asking your members what their needs are
- don't make assumption what your members needs are. Ask them!
- be consistent
- but don't be afraid to iterate
- teach your community building skills to the leader members
So my writing ends here, but the discussion is always open. Please if you have a comment or you want to add something to this discussion, leave me a comment.