On Wednesday, Richard Millington led the latest webinar in our Community Talks series on Community Platform Design and Development. Your community's design is the first thing that prospective members see when they visit your community. Are you putting your best foot forward?
Richard is a bit proponent of the emergent approach in community: designing not for an end goal, but for a stage within the community lifecycle. You start with something small, focusing on just what your community needs, and build more as your community grows.
The most successful communities prioritize activity over content. While your community may look better with a pretty content slider up top, if you're designing to cater to how your members actually use your community, having activity right at the top is more important. Seeing how active a community is begets more activity. If members know there's always going to be something new for them to check out, they'll visit more regularly.
You want to find a sweet spot in terms of activity - too much activity makes it hard for members to participate. Members either feel intimidated when too much is happening and fear they can't keep up. When starting out as a community, you may need to balance the social density by concentrating activity, but as your community grows, you'll need to dissipate this activity by introducing new groups, forums, etc.
Advanced Social Sciences for Community Builders is part of the Ning Community Management Talks series. Past presentations cover topics including strategies for generating activity, managing growth, facilitating member engagement, metrics and measurement for community health, and the science behind it all.