Communities are living, breathing systems. They can either be growing, thriving, stale or dying, and this state of the community is defined by the community’s health. A healthy community is filled with growth.
But how do you know what state your community is in?
To figure this out, it’s time for a health check. Look at your community’s experience from the perspective of a user, and answer questions for your community as you would when you go to the doctor for a health check.
You can either answer these health check questions on behalf of your community or by asking actual members of your community. You can also create a mock persona and use this persona to go through your community experience journey, from finding the community to signing up and participating based on the goals of that persona.
How to apply the check
The main question you’ll be asking as you journey through your community experience is a simple one:
Is this working?
- If so, everything is awesome!
- If not, why is it not working? How could it be fixed?
And you’ll collect answers into 3 lists:
- Insights list – possible answers as to why some part of the community experience is not working.
- Issues list – parts of the community experience that need fixing.
- Opportunities list – answers to the “How could it be fixed” question.
You now have both a diagnosis of what is not working well in your community, and a list of ways to potentially fix it. That’s the goal of a health check.
Community Experience Journey
While an individual’s journey in a community can be very detailed, we will arrange them into 2 overarching parts:
A. Community Onboarding – how users initially find and become members of your community.
B. Community Experience – how users participate over time and gain value from your community.
A. Community Onboarding
This part of the community experience journey is about a members’ first interactions with a community, beginning with the search, then finding and potentially joining your community. This is where they decide whether they want to be a part of your community while evaluating their options, and this is where you want to woo them in.
1. Finding and searching
Start at the beginning. Consider:
- How are users finding my community?
- Is it through a web search or some other form of search like on a specific social media platform or a community directory of some sort? Through other communities or events? From people; friends or colleagues?
- Is it easy to find where you would expect your potential users to naturally be?
Write out your answers and fill up your lists; are users finding your community easily? What is working, what is not working?
2. Joining and Signing up
Once users find your community, look at how they enter:
- How are they joining or signing up?
- What is the signing up experience like?
We recommend signing up yourself using an incognito or anonymous browser session. Both joining and signing up should be smooth and painless. Answer these questions and apply the health check.
B. Community Experience
This part of the community experience journey is about a member’s interactions within the community, from when they first encounter the community and are welcomed in, through their continued experience over the years:
Look at how new users are welcomed:
- How exactly are new users welcomed into the community?
- How are new users brought into the community’s activities for the first time?
Look at the community platform and check if using it is an enjoyable experience for a member, depending on their specific goals. Check for visual and technical issues.
- Is it easy to access and use the community using the tools or browsers or apps your user base uses when connecting to your or with your community?
- These tools could be mobile phones, so is your community mobile responsive on the web or does it have an accessible app?
- Are there any issues, bugs or complaints when your members use the community or its extensions?
3. Information architecture and design
Look at how the information (content, media, topics, threads, posts, wikis, guides) in your community is arranged, structured and presented:
- How are they categorized, how are they tagged?
- Is it easy for members to find the information they need?
Look at how members are relating within the community and with each other:
- Are they helpful and welcoming?
- Are they friendly and civil?
- How are members using the community? How do they show care and respect for each other?
- Are they following the community guidelines?
Look at how well members are engaging within the community and getting what they need:
- Is it easy for members to take the actions they need to get the value they want?
- Look at the roles the members take in the community; readers, helpers, event organizers, learners, etc. Is it easy to perform these roles and engage via these roles in the community?
- Can the member roles and actions they need to perform to partake in the community be accessed easily and done easily?
- Can they easily start an event or a program? Or share an article or some new content? Is catching up in the community easy?
- Are the value offerings of the community to its members quick to get and easy to access?
When individuals join a community, it is to engage and achieve specific goals that they have. By participating, they consciously or unconsciously grow. The community becomes more valuable to them as it helps them become better versions of themselves. Consider:
- Is there a clear path to take in the community to become skilled at the community’s theme or topic?
- Is there a clear path to growing as a user within the community, in the knowledge and value the community offers?
- How does your community help members be better in life, in their career? This speaks to growth the member can relate to personally and answers a key question: How does this community help me?
Through the questions in this health check, you’ve covered all the key aspects of your community’s experience and the user journey through your community, from beginning to end. You can now use the answers to these questions to improve your community’s experience and help it thrive by becoming a welcoming, growing community. 🤗