What’s on your home page?

(Priscilla McClay) #1

I’m thinking about changing the home page of my community and wondered if anyone had done something similar.

The community is divided into six categories (topic areas). At the moment, the homepage is a list of these categories, with the number of discussions in each and the title of the most recently updated discussion. You need to click on the category to see all the discussions in it.

There is also a button on the homepage which says “all discussions” – it takes you through to a page with a list of all discussions, most recently updated first, and also shows the category and number of posts for each one (More similar to the discussions homepage here on Feverbee). I think this page is much more engaging – it shows much more user-generated content and changes more often.

My opinion is that we should skip the first page and make the second one the home page. It would need some changes though – for example, we would still need some way for people to get to the individual categories.

What do you think? If anyone has made a similar change, what evidence did you use to support it? What was the impact on engagement?

(Richard Millington) #2

Hey @Priscilla,

Would you mind sharing a link? It would be a lot easier to share opinions if we can see it.

We made a big change last year from showing my blog posts in full (up to 20 of them) to having boxes which showed each post. There were plenty of trade-offs there, but I think we made the right decision.

I wanted 3 to 4 big things on our homepage:

  1. Our own posts to appear at the top.
  2. The ability to pull posts from the community on the homepage itself.
  3. Infinite scroll - not everyone agrees, but I like it.
  4. Future ability to customise what we like i.e. with popups etc…

We looked at average time on site, sessions, clicks to each article, SEO rankings, and conversions naturally.

I love the TED site and a few others for the dynamic elements of it.

(Sarah Hawk) #3

I think I know exactly what you mean and have made this decision a couple of times myself.

If we liken it to Discourse, you are essentially talking about the Categories view and the Latest view (which we use as our forum homepage).

From a UX perspective I’d strongly recommend the Latest view. The rationale essentially comes down to the paradox of choice. When someone arrives at your site, it makes more sense to show them what is interesting and popular, than to present them with an immediate list of choices requiring further drill-down.

Some CMs prefer the Categories view because it looks more like a ‘traditional forum’, but I prefer to think in terms of the way people use our site, rather than how they perceive it.

At SitePoint we made the change that you are suggesting and saw an immediate and positive change in engagement stats.

For lower activity sites the ‘Latest’ option is better.

For very high volume sites, or those with very segregated categories (Jeff Atwood uses Israel vs. Palestine as an example here), the Categories view is possibly better.

Appearance and descriptions of categories at a Discourse site: thoughts please
(Jason Hill) #4

Change it. You definitely want to highlight what’s new and what’s popular. A static list of categories/boards that doesn’t change is not the way you want to present your community. You want to present it as a lively place, full of new and interesting discussions. Think about other ways that users can navigate straight to categories if they want to, like drop down menus or tabs, or just push the list you have to the bottom of the home page or a secondary page.

Appearance and descriptions of categories at a Discourse site: thoughts please
(Richard Millington) #5

Completely agree with this. Static homepage are probably the worse thing you can have.

(Mark Williams) #6

I generally agree with @HAWK . However, I will argue strongly for the “it depends” option. It depends on the purpose of your community and site. Both infinite scroll and grouped views can have an deleterious effect on user way finding. If your site is support related, a category view may be appropriate to segment your customers to different products. This is especially true if one of your sub-categories crushes the others in terms of volume. In that case the “recent” view is going to be all about that one thing.

Also consider there may be a hybrid approach where the categories are listed with recent activity for those categories under/beside/nearby. This only works when you have a few items.

(Sarah Hawk) #7

Very good point re support communities. In those cases it would almost definitely make more sense to categorise.

(Jason Hill) #8

I don’t think support communities are any different. The number one goal of a support community is usually call deflection. So you desperately want visitors to search or post. You are much more likely to encourage a new visitor to search or post if they immediately think that this is a lively place with lots of activity and questions that are getting promptly answered.

(Sarah Hawk) #9

I can see both sides of the fence here. If you have a support community that services a number of very different and unrelated products, categories make sense. In those cases, demonstrating engagement can be done using sidebar widgets (for example).

I guess bottom line is that every community is different, but ultimately your design decisions should be made based on how people use the site, not how you think they will (or even want them to).

(Priscilla McClay) #10

Thanks so much for all the input. Yes, the examples Sarah gave are pretty much what I meant, but I will share the links if you’d like to have a look:

Categories (current community home page)

I work for a hospice charity, so it’s very different to a product support community. I looked into why it was developed this way (I wasn’t recruited until shortly after launch) and some of the initial research showed that people felt it might be less upsetting to only see relevant content - so, for example, someone caring for a loved one who is dying wouldn’t want to see posts from bereaved people.

However, this research was done fairly early in the process with focus groups, rather than actual users of the site, so I’m not sure how much stock we should put in it - what people say doesn’t always match what they will do. So far, people actually seem fairly willing to respond to those at different stages and in different circumstances to themselves.

(Colleen Young) #11

Thanks for the links @Priscilla. As you know, at Virtual Hospice we also organized and display the community by category. It was designed this way back in 2007 and definitely would benefit from a review and update on many fronts. Any functionality that can help members connect is high on my wishlist. Can members of your community subscribe to a category so that they get notifications when new posts are made?

I am leading the redesign of 2 communities at the moment (works in progress) and would appreciate any feedback.

First the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network This is a community of practice for health orgs and providers using social media for their practice and institutions. The homepage is pretty much done and focusses on community activity: The banner announces upcoming events, the columns are user-generated content/activity as well as webinars (which have a simultaneous discussion thread), below is a curated newsfeed and the right box is also used for community-related content like featuring a member, something we create or in the current case certification for members.

The second is Mayo Clinic Connect - this one is really a work in progress and the homepage is not complete and much work remains to update the inner pages too. This is a community of communities (over 22 and will grow), so we decided to organize using tiles much like Feverbee’s forum showing featured groups and latest posts. Eventually there will be a row of “MyGroups” at the top which will show the groups the user is a member of (has subscribed to), top blog posts, and there will be a banner space between the rows of tiles to announce upcoming webinars and events. Design to the newsfeed at the bottom will also be added.

(Priscilla McClay) #12

Hi Colleen,

Unfortunately not at the moment - email subscriptions are to discussions not to categories. By default, members get them to discussions they start, or post in - they can also subscribe or unsubscribe to any individual discussion.

The issue with that is that no one is getting notified when new discussions get posted, so virtually all initial replies come from either the newsletter (basically an editorially created digest), or from me contacting members and asking them to reply. This is probably not terribly scalable, so some sort of improvement to the automated notifications is a job on my list.

The first site looks good to me - at a glance, it gives an insight into the sorts of topics being talked about, and the three columns would all update regularly with fresh content.

The second one is obviously more of a challenge, as you’re covering such a wide range of conditions. I agree that ‘My Groups’ would be a good addition - presumably most members will only need to join one sub-community, so the general homepage won’t be of much use to them once they have found and joined the right one.

What will display there if a member has created an account, but joined any groups yet? Some sort of more prominent prompt to search for a group might be good.

(Colleen Young) #13

Unfortunately not at the moment - email subscriptions are to discussions not to categories.

Same issue on Virtual Hospice. It is quite limiting as you mentioned.

What will display there if a member has created an account, but joined any groups yet? Some sort of more prominent prompt to search for a group might be good.

If a member hasn’t followed or posted to a group(s), then My Groups doesn’t appear. The VIEW ALL from the Featured Groups will bring the user to the group listing page, which at the moment isn’t complete. Coming soon…

(Mark Williams) #14

I recognize that I am resurrecting an old thread, but since I’m considering a similar move, I wonder if you can give us any update? It looks like you made the change to “latest”. Did you see any change in engagement? Thanks!

(Sarah Hawk) #15

No problem at all.

Are you asking @Priscilla?

(David Powles) #16

Resurrecting this again although my question might be better off in a new thread.

We’re currently adding a community homepage to our enterprise support website. The community is only one section of the site, and unfortunately it’s under a tab rather than featuring content on the main homepage, but I still want the landing page under that tab to be a dynamic and useful community hub.

Firstly, the website includes community features integrated into many sections of the site - for example there’s a typical support forum, and then comments on knowledgebase articles, videos, blog posts and so on. I want to collate some of this dispersed activity under a “trending activity” section on the community landing page. In a separate column there’s a simple “Latest discussions” view showing the most recent threads posted to the forum.

There’ll also be separate leaderboards for the most helpful contributors, most active users for the past week, and most active internal (employee) members. There’s a small section for a featured community member, and then static links to the main forum view, blogs, etc. It sounds a little busy already, and it might be, but I have this opportunity to customize the homepage and I want to make sure I get it right. So my question is - is there anything else you’d like to see on an at-a-glance overview page for a community? Anything you’d remove from what I’ve listed?

(Sarah Hawk) #17

Do those things change with enough regularity to make them interesting?

And is this sustainable on an ongoing basis without it becoming a chore?

Assuming both answers are yes, and you can get a design working that doesn’t look distracting, then this sounds interesting IMO.

My only concern would be stale or static data.

Would you have flexibility to remove sections later if they don’t get traction?

(Richard Millington) #18

Agree with @HAWK here.

I’d probably consider removing the most active members, most helpful members, leaderboards etc in favour of the latest activity, trending activity etc…

I wouldn’t worry so much about it being busy. The biggest thing really is that people can see things they want to make a contribution to. That’s the critical thing. Maybe this might help.

(David Powles) #19

thanks @richard_millington and @HAWK. One issue is that we have a very broad range of software products so there’s no guarantee that anything showing up in the list of latest or trending activity will be directly relevant to a given user browsing.

(Sarah Hawk) #20

Heh, that’s an interesting situation. Are there some boards that are general?