Integrating community and web to improve your business
January 8, 2013 Leave a comment
How do you integrate your dynamic community with your static website to improve your overall business? It is easier than you think but requires some thought and planning. Four months ago we started our journey to integrate our community into our existing website. It was something we had put quite a bit of thought into so when I was asked what I needed to accelerate the project and roll it out in 3 months I already knew the answer.
If you are a new company just getting started then you aren’t looking to build a website, you are looking to build an interactive community which just happens to look like a website. I’m a bit opinionated on this concept which you can read in my post “Web 2.0 is Dead”. However, if you are an established company that has evolved with the technology over the years then your business likely has a website, microsites, partner portals, communities and social pages all in an attempt to reach your customers. This is the problem most companies are facing and here is how to solve that issue.
First up is the design and user experience (UX). I am going to keep this focused on the design aspect because UX includes items, like single sign on, OAuth registration, User Behavior Profiles and analysis, traffic patterns, etc… all of which are important and need to be considered but when limited to a short deployment timeline with a hard go live date you have to focus on what has the greatest impact and work the rest into phased agile releases after.
Our community looked similar to our website from a branding banner perspective but it wasn’t really unified, they were still two very distinct web sites that didn’t have a consistent look and feel between to the two. In our case because the community design was lagging behind the web design it was fairly easy to apply the design theme to the community which mostly included the header navigation and ensuring the Website had a “Community” navigation in the main menu so when you switched between the web and the community the top navigation and banner remained consistent. However, the problem we ran into with this is communities are dynamic and are discussion forums are often created by members for products that your company may no longer sell, support or has been consolidated and renamed into another solution offering on the website.
So, the design was probably the least of our worries. Breaking down the silos and categorizing over 200 communities into 14 product solutions to simplify findability and navigation would now be the challenge we needed to focus.
In the next post I’ll build on this and share more details on how we defined and leveraged our community managers and members to help categorize communities for improving navigation.