14 Counter-intuitive design discoveries that might surprise you

Joel R

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From FeverBee (full article: https://www.feverbee.com/improvecommunitydesign/)

Counter-Intuitive Discoveries You Should Know​

In the time we’ve been doing this for clients, we’ve made some discoveries which seem to apply to most communities. So here’s a cheat sheet of things you might want to think about when developing your own community experiences.

  1. The majority of visitors read almost nothing. The overwhelming majority of visitors won’t read more than 2 to 3 words on your homepage. They scan to find the ‘thing’ of interest and then jump to that. You should reduce static homepage text to a minimum.
  2. Members really struggle to follow conversations. Members really want to find the discussions they’ve participated in previously (to check for updates), but they often struggle to do so. They forget what category they posted in and can’t find it from the homepage. This is a huge frustration. It needs to be dead simple for members to find a list of discussions they’ve participated in.
  3. Members switch to a different site quickly. Rather than spending just 5 to 10 seconds trying to get your SSO or two-factor authentication to work, they’re more likely to switch to a different site to find what they need. It’s just too much effort. Sites which have a tendency to log people out often for security reasons cough Salesforce cough struggle with this most.
  4. Most people make a couple of searches for the answer. Asking a question is usually a last resort. Most people with a question will make a few searches and then publish a question.
  5. Members post questions in multiple places. People care more about getting an answer than where they get an answer. Around 50% of people seem to post questions in the community and support at the same time.
  6. Average visitors browse the homepage for 5 to 10 seconds. The average person wants to feel a sense of progress. They browse a homepage for 5 to 10 seconds and then click on something (anything), to feel a sense of momentum. People hate feeling stuck.
  7. Only a tiny percentage of regulars scan the latest discussions. This really surprised us. Despite the common practice of putting the latest questions at the top of the homepage, very few people scan them. Most consider them irrelevant to their problems right now.
  8. Members browse top-level navigation before searching. Most members view what’s in the top-level navigation and click the word that most closely resembles what they’re looking for. What appears in the navigation and how the navigation is structured is critical. Members must be easily able to browse for what they need.
  9. Almost nobody seems to look at the leaderboards. Even the people on the leaderboards don’t seem to look at them often. This is especially the case for static leaderboards based upon cumulative activity since launch as opposed to monthly leaderboards or the past 30 days.
  10. No one reads the welcome message. It really doesn’t matter what appears in the welcome message unless people are confused about the nature of the site. If they don’t understand the community itself, they might glance at the welcome message to comprehend what it’s about. But these are very rare situations.
  11. No one reads the code of conduct. Theoretically, you could put terms and conditions you like in there and people would still agree to it. Although, interestingly, they will read articles titled “The Five Rules Of [community]”. So, maybe give it more of a Fight Club vibe?
  12. Popular discussions. Members generally like seeing the list of popular discussions in a community. This list works best on individual discussion pages as much as on the homepage. However, once a member has seen the list once, they dislike seeing the same discussions again.
  13. Related discussions matter a lot – but only in high-volume communities. At low volume, the related discussions usually aren’t relatable enough. They simply appear because something has to appear.
  14. Recent activity really, really, matters. If the community seems dead, few people ask questions. Recent activity labels are far more important than any static copy/text on the page. No one can recall the liveliness statistics, but they might build up into a more subconscious understanding of how busy the community is.
 

zappaDPJ

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There's nothing much in that article that I haven't already either posted in these forums or been practicing on my forums for years.

That probably means it's all complete b******s :LOL:
 

Nev_Dull

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Agreed. If you've been running a forum for more than a year and don't know this stuff, you haven't been paying attention. That said, it is good info for a beginning admin to take to heart.
 

Stojan Tim

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Informative post Joel R

Actually a great many long term forum owners ignore most of that.

Look at the number of forums with bloated welcome messages (or worse, stacks of notices that don't even apply to first time visitors or guests). Especially ones with them force-pinned at the top of every.single.page.

Look at the number of forums where you can't for the life of you just get to the latest content to see if the forum's alive or dead. That's one thing Xenforo does well - has clear latest activity lists.

Interesting no-one reads the rules and that won't surprise any forum admin. I like the idea of condensing it down to "Five golden rules" or similar, maybe as a pinned post which then links to the full rules. I should note here that I also send new members a welcome PM with the main rules condensed a lot - they still don't read it.
 

zappaDPJ

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Interesting no-one reads the rules and that won't surprise any forum admin. I like the idea of condensing it down to "Five golden rules" or similar, maybe as a pinned post which then links to the full rules. I should note here that I also send new members a welcome PM with the main rules condensed a lot - they still don't read it.

I'd argue that reasonable people shouldn't need rules to post. If you engage with someone in the real world on any level you rarely do it under a set of written rules.

Rules are really only useful for staff or people in the real world when somebody needs to be reprimanded. I consider rules to be more of a guide for staff rather than members.

I'm sure I've posted this before; one of my larger, quite active forums has within the rules a line offering the first claimant a fairly substantial reward. It's gone unclaimed for years which is proof positive no one ever reads the rules.
 

Zero Numbers

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I'd argue that reasonable people shouldn't need rules to post. If you engage with someone in the real world on any level you rarely do it under a set of written rules.

Rules are really only useful for staff or people in the real world when somebody needs to be reprimanded. I consider rules to be more of a guide for staff rather than members.

I'm sure I've posted this before; one of my larger, quite active forums has within the rules a line offering the first claimant a fairly substantial reward. It's gone unclaimed for years which is proof positive no one ever reads the rules.

I'd say the same is true for things in the real world about people not reading or taking the time. Things go on and people just want to get on with the next thing and not be stuck on one thing for too long. You could be up all day or night reading about something.
 
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