In 1966, T.J. Watson Jr. wrote “Good design is good business.” Nearly 50 years later, this is still true, and with the rise of mobile in a highly connected world, good design is more essential than ever before.
During the Higher Logic implementation process, we often see associations separate the community strategy/management components from the design process, which can produce sites that feel disjointed and disconnected. eConverse believes this segmentation is completely unnatural – design should be an integral part of the implementation process with the goal being to drive strategic value, usually in the form of user ENGAGEMENT.
Heading into your launch, make sure you have a good grasp on how strong design can help drive usability (i.e. engagement) within your community:
Good design = Good community management
By this, we mean the design of your site should be informed by information such as audience demographics, strategic objectives, the tone of your community, and how you want your members to feel when they’re on your site. Conversely, the management of your community can be informed by design elements like information architecture, user interface, button labels, site colors, and images.
Since the two areas are so intertwined, they can have a very “chicken or egg” relationship. To bridge this gap, ask yourself “what are my overall community goals?” and “who is my audience?”
The answers to these questions should be the driving pillars for both the site design and community management.
Here are some examples of how an association’s goals and audience can affect strategy and design:
- Through exploring your audience, you recognize that they are less tech-savvy and may require some hand-holding to navigate the community
- Your organization establishes a goal to encourage networking and connections between users, so those features need to appear more prominently
- You realize that a portion of your audience may have vision limitations or be using assistive technology
- Your website analytics inform you that the majority of your traffic comes through mobile device
Once you’ve done an analysis of goals + audience, you’ll be armed and ready to make all the decisions needed to build a compelling online community with a strong sense of belonging and engagement.
Three Key Secrets
After helping member-based organizations around the world with both their strategy and design, we’ve learned three key secrets:
- The best communities not only provide your members with great ways to connect, but they’re really pretty too. In addition to great content, a site that catches the eye will bring users back to the site.
- The best sites are designed to be simple to use, easy to navigate and convey to your members exactly the kind of information they are looking for.
- Great design optimizes the collaborative functions of your site, allowing your members to connect, share and grow – which is really what online communities are all about.