Company: Vodafone Australia
Entry submitted by: Timothy Hanslow (Tim_h) Community Care Manager
Community: Vodafone Community (http://community.vodafone.com.au)
Lithy category: Best Community Design
Vodafone Australia is the third biggest mobile network provider in Australia and has a 20-year history of providing excellent value to its customers. In 2010, network issues driven by the sharp uptake in smartphone use created problems for our customers, that saw our customer sentiment and NPS drop rapidly. The launch of Vodafone Community came at a time when our customers needed support, a place to share, talk to one another and to get information to us, and for us to talk to them directly.
Vodafone launched the Community almost three years ago as a way for customers to communicate with us. It gave customers a voice to talk to us openly and publicly. We loved the Community for the customer interactions, their honesty in saying “me too” with other’s issues, and their support and information in solving one another’s issues. Lithium provided the platform we wanted to get the incredible expertise our customer base and let them work together. We named the Community because of its goals. Our customers were going to be having these conversations anyway so we wanted to ensure we were part of them.
We set out to redesign the Community last year to deliver a better user experience and to freshen our design to keep up with our other web properties. The core goals were to get users to contribute more, remove the barriers for new users, to focus on our members and to get information to people as quickly as possible.
We began by first tackling the core page design and sliding the right-hand sidebar into all of our pages from the homepage to threads. We use the space to create consistent, usable elements for our members.
The top right of every page is the customer’s voice. Every page has a comment, reply or post topic button. We’ve added a dropdown selector to choose a board when posting from the front page. We’re taking away the need to hunt or dig for joining in and letting customers engage in the conversation as soon as they are ready.
Right alongside the “voice” is the stats. Our numbers dive into every conversation showing the total posts, kudos, contributors and views. The stats help people to see how conversations are moving and how active things are. They update in real time and give users a quick visual view of what’s popular.
The last addition to the sidebar is our two post widgets to keep users abreast of the Community from within a topic view. We’ve used a ‘recent posts’ widget to show a user their most recent contributions. Keeping this visible in the sidebar on all pages lets super users keep track of updates to recent conversations without needing to navigate through boards or the homepage. A user receives a visual reminder of updates to recent conversations by the bolded thread titles and can easily continue in multiple conversations at once.
User avatars have been rebranded into hubs of information. We use smaller square avatars across the design to show who is taking part. Avatars are easier to recall than a long list of usernames and they provide a constantly moving parade of people to interact with. The visual anchor of the avatars responds on mouseover to a hover card with the user’s core stats and details. From the sidebar, to the frontpage or in a thread, a user’s avatar is a moving card of their real time stats.
Into the thread view, We’ve split things into three columns, and then reduced the left column to only the avatar. Like other social networks the avatar provides a visual cue to the author but the post stands on its own. Unessential information from a post is moved into the avatar card leaving the conversation in the spotlight. The footer of each post contains an “action bar” at the bottom right allowing users to reply, quick reply, share on social and kudos. Just like the “voice” button at the top of the pages, users have a single location to interaction with a post – We’re removing meaningless mouse movement across the page as they navigate.
Threads also received a makeover in the form of labels. We’ve designed them as physical tags like a filing cabinet and placed them across the top of each thread. These bright, colourful labels show users the mobile device being discussed in the thread with a different colour for each manufacturer for easy recognition. And if a thread is about a device the user says they own, we mark that for them too. It’s fast and simple for our users to know if they can contribute to the conversation at hand.
The front page received an enormous overhaul to fit with our goals. We’ve replaced the tall vertical category list with a three-quarter width navigation menu without tabs or options. Users can quickly see the list of available boards and categories without needing to scroll around or dig through a list. It was a core part of the redesign to let users move around the Community quickly.
Narrowing the navigation down to a shorter vertical element freed up space on the page to introduce a feed of recent posts and solutions, ensuring a dynamic looking page with fresh content whenever a user visits. We chose recent posts over topics because of the sticky nature of many of our conversations. Keeping users up to date on the full conversations continuing and not just those recently started lets hot topics rise to the top and stay there.
We’ve rounded out our user focus by shuffling of the profile page. The avatar has been doubled in size and is followed by a new custom component showing the mobile device a user is currently using. These bold visuals keep user profiles looking fresh and colourful with lots of white space to let your eyes flow across it. We fill the rest of the page with recent topics contributed to, and an activity feed showing the users actions step by step.
Since our redesign we’re seeing an up lift in super user engagement and resolution rates. As well as the average posts per thread has increased. Conversations are stickier and people are spending more time on site. The overall post volumes have increased slightly because we’re getting more quality content in front of people more often, so casual users have less need to post, but still actively participate.
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