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Online Community Results specializes in private social communities for associations, providing outsourced day-to-day community management, coaching for community managers, consulting, and community strategy services. This post was originally published on their web site: Think Like a Product Designer When Launching Your Online Community
Steve Jobs was a brilliant product designer. He would have been a great online community manager. Let’s consider the following quote from Jobs:
“When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions.”
Let’s talk about building elegant and simple online communities.
I can picture an online community launched by Jobs. It would have simple, yet elegant design (think Apple website) and contain just the features that he felt his community members needed (think Apple products).
You use your iPhone and you think, “It’s easy to use, it’s simple. Not much to that.” You login to Steve Jobs’ (fictional) online community and you might have similar thoughts. But I bet Steve would have spent a lot of time noodling over finding the essence of what his community members wanted.
When launching your online community, think like a product designer. Think like Steve Jobs. Simpler is better.
For Features, Think Minimalist over Kitchen Sink
Online community platforms have lots and lots of features: discussions, Q&A, ideation, blogs, gaming mechanics, etc. Conventional wisdom is, “turn them all on and let’s see where users gravitate.”
“Wrong,” says Steve. Figure out the essence of what your community members want. A membership community (for an association) is going to have an “essence” that’s quite distinct from a customer support community (for a B2B vendor).
While Jobs would intuitively know what his customers need, you may need to have conversations with your members (or potential members) and even run a few focus groups.
DNN, we deployed our Evoq Social online community solution as our intranet and enabled a few select features at launch. We evaluated the initial needs (of our employees) and activated just the features that would address those needs.
Measure and Iterate
For the features that you do launch, review every single metric available from your online community platform. You’ll want to track visits, page views, comments, social shares, likes, up-votes, down-votes and more. Establish benchmarks prior to launch, then track your progress on a monthly or more frequent basis.
Tweak and adjust if necessary. If one particular feature is not seeing the adoption you targeted, try some changes and see if the numbers improve. Only consider enabling new features (in your online community) once you’ve surpassed an initial set of milestones. And if you find a particular feature just isn’t resonating, deactivate it.
When you do roll out those new features, use the same cycle of measure, iterate, measure. Even Steve Jobs didn’t always get it right the first time.
If you think about it, community managers, part of your role is to design and create experiences to delight your target “customer.” Sounds like a product designer to me! Whether your community is to be utilized for profit or for goodwill, you’re creating experiences in a manner similar to product designers and product managers.
Take the time to design it well. And at launch, err on the side of less features over more features.
For a related resource, I invite you to download
The Online Community Playbook, which provides you with strategies and tactics for launching the Evoq Social online community.
Community Management Blog Series
Colleague Clint Patterson published a great blog series on how to create sustained engagement in online communities. Check out Part 1 of Clint's series, where you'll find links to Parts 2 and 3.