The team at SAP told me that their long established community was loosing members at an alarming rate.
They had some feedback from members, but hadn't implemented any of it.
My task was to validate the feedback, and suggest a fix for the problem.
I think it's safe to generalise that most businesses offer community facilities (functionalities) so that customers and/or users can transfer knowledge. And that they offer a sense of belonging to members, from beginners through to advanced and very knowledgeable users.
And that implies members uploading content, but also finding & referring to content.
Although I'm no where near as geeky as most of SAP's community members, a few things were clear early on;
#1, The community had a huge worldwide user base and frequent visits (with over 3 million registered users and more than 250k daily visits)
#2, There was a massive amount of user-generated content (i.e. blogs posted at a rate of at least 4 per hour, 24/7, and questions asked at a rate of at least 20 per hour)
#3, A monumental amount of text-heavy content combined with a developer's design & UI made viewing & finding content unnecessarily difficult
#4, Most of the feedback had to do with viewing & finding content
I studied the members' feedback, explored how the content was found (searched for), and tested how it was used.
That allowed the identification of four major types of content type, in this order:
#1, Questions - users dive quickly in & out for questions and answers
#2, Blogs - users bring enough time get into a topic & to read a blog
#3, Off-Topic - users are distracted & engage in off-topic discussions
#4, Activity Stream - a display showing a mix of 1, 2 and 3 together
The entire community needed to reflect those three major types.
That meant they needed to look different, yet they were all predominantly text-heavy & user-generated.
I needed an overview of the community, to see the connections, and to see the customer journey in action.
I roughed up a user-flow on a whiteboard, discussing it within the team. Then digitalized it into the flow you see here on the right.
How do newbies arrive?, how do members arrive?, what do they see?, how are Q&As related to blogs? and all those other questions...
I'm a great fan of colour-coding different things, if it helps differentiate things, all the while asking the question, do things need to be differentiated?
Yet I'm acutely aware of the "Smarties" effect (aka the "M&Ms effect"), where an overuse of color leads to a deterioration in legibility.
Highlight everything and you highlight nothing.
The color-coding for SAP started out as an over-the-top amount. It was then reduced iteratively ("less is more") to just the right amount of highlight, supporting differentiation without getting in the way.
Parallel to all other developments, the filtering needed looking at.
The filtering was literally all over the place... sometimes at the top of the page and sometimes at the side.
I insisted that it needed to be in one place, and of the two obvious places to locate the filtering, the side bar had more room for growth.
Easy-to-use filtering isn't all that easy to conceive.
But I did it... I found the common denominators which allowed very similar filtering, with similar terminology, in the same place on each page.
The filtering for SAP was placed in the right hand side-bar and ran from top to bottom, and had the unique element for each page at the top, with the common elements below.
Lean UX & iterative design
Build - measure - learn
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Dad of two brilliant girls
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