The Purpose of Community Platforms

The platform for a community performs a single function: to facilitate interaction between members. An excellent community platform improves the quality and quantity of interactions between members. A bad community platform inhibits interactions between members. 

Unfortunately, many organizations use platforms which restrain the growth of their communities.

The platform is one method of facilitating interactions since for most online communities it is the only place where members will interact with each other. This is not a certainty, though. Many organizations develop platforms that are aesthetically pleasing, in line with other brand material, and clearly adhering to modern user experience principles. There is a problem with each of these aspects, but first we need to understand the biggest flaw in organizational thinking towards community platforms.

A content-led approach is common amongst branded online communities. Aesthetics and content is given higher priority than the interactions. This platform prohibits interactions between members. Many organizations develop a platform using a similar approach as a traditional website. In this approach, the designer/developer identifies what is needed and embraces this knowledge to design the platform. However, a community platform and a company website serve two different purposes. The former services to facilitate interactions between members, the latter serves to provide information to the target audience.

Ignoring the positive examples

Many organizations fail to research positive examples of online communities before embarking upon the development of their own platform. This means these organizations ignore best practices in favour of developing a community that adheres to more aesthetically pleasing concepts like those found in company websites.

Thus, whilst most successful communities use a simple, proven, interaction-focused platform, most organizations develop a custom, unproven, expensive community platform. 

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