When you think about reward and recognition, your thoughts instantly move to gamification. Yet, gamification is just one small part of reward and recognition.
In fact, effective reward and recognition starts before the community visitor has even decided to register to your community.
How is that possible, you ask?
A visitor's first reward on the community is achieving their goal. That goal is finding what they’re looking for, whether it's content that helps solve their problem, inform their buying decision, and more. They find it quickly, easily, and at a time that suits them.
Whatever method they take to reach the community, they’ve decided to visit. Once that user’s decision is rewarded with the achievement of their goal, they are motivated to use the community again in the future when they’re in need.
That's it, right there, the first hook.
So what can you do to make sure that first visit is successful?
Well, first and foremost, you need to understand how successful it is today. Using value analytics, you can determine your community’s success rate, ensuring you can set realistic goals and measurable outcomes.
Once you know how well your community performs today, you can think about how you improve it. Your goal is a smooth, intuitive user experience, one that enables visitors to find what they’re looking for with ease. Sounds simple! But there’s often a tendency with user journey/ experience to think design, and while design is an important part of the user experience, it's not flying solo.
Design and architecture (the configured organization of content) are committed partners in creating an effective user experience. The experience can look great, but if you fail to support it with the right underlying architecture - and the visitor cannot achieve their goal to find content - it doesn't matter how great it looks, they’ll leave. In other words, form should always follow function.
So what should you be looking for?
Topical navigation - does your configured structure support the user journey, reinforce signs of life and vibrancy in the community? As a best practice, you should review your community structure annually or whenever you’re making significant changes to your community experience. It's not uncommon to find communities that haven’t reviewed their topical stricture in many years. Yet, over time, it's expanded to accommodate the brand’s changing needs, taking it further away from the user’s needs.
A good starting point is a quantitative ‘gut check’ of your community structure. You’re aiming for a minimum of 5 - 10 posts per board, per day (avg.). It's this rate of participation that we find reinforce signs of life, which encourages participation and growth. Less than 5 - 10, and you risk the perception of inactivity, which can deter visitors from participating.
While a qualitative review is needed, this initial gut check can signpost you to how big or small of a problem you potentially have and clear the fog between your perception and the reality of how well the structure is working.
Design for the user!
One of the most common mistakes we see with topical navigation is the tendency to over-engineer, creating dedicated spaces for every possible scenario or topical theme a visitor may wish to find or discuss. This approach is often driven by the belief that creating multiple niche topical areas can make it easier for the user to see what they’re looking for. In a help/knowledge base environment, that makes sense; however, the opposite is true for a community. The more areas there are for me to pick from, the more you risk diluting signs of life, the more steps you add to my journey, and the harder it is for me to reach my goal… to find what I’m looking for.
Consider how the topical navigation leads them intuitively to their desired destination and do so with a careful eye on the balance between the size of structure and volume of discussion.
While getting the architecture right is important, there are other ways to support the findability of content.
Don’t let beginners luck be just an accident
Gamification just doesn’t have the same effect without an end goal for the user. The community should be designed so it leads its visitors to their first achievement, and ultimately on a path to success.
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