We’ve spent the last few weeks discussing community management on the Heavy Chef blog and we decided that it was time to put some of the theory into practice. To do this, we’ve developed a home-page wireframe for Homer Simpson’s community blog.
Wireframes are often described as the stickmen of web design – they are simple mock-ups of a web page that allow us to quickly determine which elements need to appear on a page and their relative priority. The wireframing process is usually the first step after you have taken the time to understand the website requirements from both the business and user perspectives.
The idea for the Homer Simpson community blog was to create a place for Homer and his friends to write about topic which interested them (i.e. beer, donuts and TV). Based on these topics, Homer then wants to build a community of like-minded people (starting in Springfield) with the goal of getting them to discuss the pressing issues around beer, donuts and TV.
Navigation and banner
The main navigation for the community blog is created around the blog topics. This structure allows visitors to the site to quickly find articles about the topic that they find most interesting. This structure works best if the topics which you are going to be focussing on are well defined. Non-blog related pages are put together on the secondary navigation.
From a community management perspective, it is important have a clear content strategy – this means that the topics you are writing about should be well defined and fit in with the business and website objectives. Having content that is consistent, on-topic and well written means that users will want to come back to Homer’s community blog because they know that is the best source for information relating to beer, donuts and TV.
Below the navigation is a large banner which can be used to promote something important or popular. The banner be the first thing that the user will notice when they land on the home page and it should therefore be used effectively. It also helps if there are recent articles on the home page which relate to the banner so that users can continue reading about the topic if they find it interesting. Once of the key elements of successfully building a community is to give your community a cause which they can get behind – i.e. an emotional reason to get involved. In the case of the Homer Simpson’s blog, we have decided to use the banner to encourage users to donate to his foundation. Through the donation process, users will be encouraged to sign-up as members so that they can follow the progress of the fundraising and be involved in the handover of Duff and donuts.
Below the fold
Scrolling down past the banner and the top of the latest post reveals that the rest of the home page is made up of widgets on the left-hand column and recent articles on the rights-hand side. The first widget is used for a big, clear call-to-action that encourages the reader to become a member.
By making the top article bigger and better designed, we hope to direct the user’s attention to it. For each blog post, the following information is shown: title, author, category, date, comments and shares. Each of these elements has a specific benefit with regards to community building.
By showing the authors name for each post and by having a featured blogger widget, we are able to highlight the different personalities of the bloggers. Users who read the blog often will start to form an emotional bond with the different authors as they see their stories beginning to emerge through their writing. Relating posts back to authors also helps remind the user that the blog is run by real people who are knowledgeable and passionate about the topics discussed.
Showing the date that each post was posted to the blog shows the user that the blog is alive and being updated constantly. When building a community, users will always be looking for reasons to keep visiting the website – having up-to-date content is one of the main drawcards.
Finally, making the number comments, shares and likes clearly visible indicates to readers, at a glance, that the community is active and vocal. This lets the user know that they will not be alone in joining the community. Another one of the benefits of giving the like and share buttons prominence is that they encourage content syndication which in turn will bring new people to the site.
Social networking integration
Facebook and Twitter integration indicates to users that your community extends beyond the blog. This is important as a lot of people would rather join Homer’s community through a social network that they already part of. Twitter and Facebook are very different tools with different communities and communication styles. It is important to not just syndicate content automatically to both but to rather talk to the communities on both sites in the way that they like being talked to.
Together all these elements provide the basis for community building but at the end of the day, it takes good content that is updated regularly by bloggers who engage with their audience to build a community on a blog.