Now more than ever, increasing and maintaining engagement amongst online communities is vital to capturing insights. With the current state of the economy and the increased cost of living, individuals are seeking meaningful reasons to take the time to provide their feedback, whilst researchers are striving to capture insights where they can in the most efficient way possible. Standing out from the crowd to different generations, individuals with varying personalities and interests has never been easy. Using tools such as design and creativity with UX in mind, online communities can thrive to all. So, let’s explore the factors that can help to spark online community engagement through design and creativity.
Highlighting Key Tasks
When planning the look and feel of an online community, one of the main aims should ultimately be to make it as easy as possible for individuals to take part in the available activities. The all-important landing page is crucial as to whether or not individuals will engage. The first few seconds have passed and the individual has likely already made up their mind about their thoughts, feelings and intentions. This is where design tools come into play – you can create meaningful and lasting first impressions.
|When planning the look and feel of an online community, one main aim is to make it easy for participants to navigate and take part in research - this is where UX design comes in.|
Step back and put yourself in the individuals’ shoes and look at the design – is it functional? Does it capture your attention? Does it pinpoint ‘call to actions’ easily? Would you be likely to engage if you were a member of the online community? Take the example below, the FlexMR’s Camp InsightHub – our in-house demo platform used to showcase all that the InsightHub has to offer. It is clear to see on the page where to access each activity type, highlighted with contrasting colours, clear links and buttons.
It may also be valuable to seek out the opinions of other individuals whose experience, advice and expertise will prove useful. Consider consulting professionals in design, copywriting, marketing, community engagement and research.
Rather than causing confusion with the overuse of links and text all over the screen, participants respond well when we get to the point with a dedicated to do/my activity list that updates automatically when a new task is created and another task is completed. Take the example below, this Trailblazers homepage is a mockup we use to illustrate exactly these points, and has a dedicated ‘to-do’ list, which is straight to the point:
The design in this homepage focuses on highlighting the most important task links by making them stand out on the page, that will grab the attention of community members instantly when they enter the community. When a user first lands on a page, they will automatically begin to scan the page, seeking out a point to focus on, so make the focal points clear and easy to understand as these are the important ones to driving engagement.
Minimising clicks is also key in maintaining community engagement, another challenge that insight experts struggle with on a daily basis. The use of ‘no login required’ activities such as surveys and quick polls means that individuals can open an email, click on a link, and share their feedback straight away without that login step. However, this doesn’t replace the need for a set online place dedicated to research, it is valuable to allow individuals to access research on their own time, they may be more likely to take part in more than one task or even provide more detailed, open feedback whilst they are there, in the community environment.
Visual and Design Techniques
What we see influences our thoughts, choices and actions. In the realms of Insight – ensure to create a friendly, non-overwhelming community environment. Engagement will flow more naturally when individuals feel as comfortable as possible to share their thoughts. So, how to do this? Firstly, use language that is welcoming, straightforward, and understandable. Secondly, use imagery that has elements of familiarity, inclusivity, and relatability. On the one hand, white space may make a page seem sparse, but is also important to highlight elements – so don’t fear simplicity! (Think: less is more).
It is also crucial to maintain accessibility for all users, including those with disabilities such as visual impairments, additional needs and more. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. Make sure to add clear descriptions on all media used, including link/button descriptions, and use colour schemes and combinations that are aesthetically inclusive to those with sensitivity issues. Throughout all of this, try to use specific wording in headings, links and descriptions that is clear and easy to understand.
|There are man facets to creating a friendly, safe, and truly accessibly online insights community - UX Design is one of the most important to get right.|
Trust and Brand Familiarity
An online community should feel trustworthy and safe. The higher the trust levels are amongst community members, the more likely they are to fully engage in all market research tasks that interest them by sharing their honest feedback, even when that feedback might be more sensitive in nature. So, ensure that the community creates a familiar, consistent, and comfortable environment by guaranteeing that the branding meets any brand requirements such as logos, colour schemes and imagery.
As mentioned earlier on, although reaching out to all audiences is good and goes a long way to being an inclusive researcher – think about who your online community is designed for, what is the purpose of the research community, as well as any other factors will capture the attention of the given audience.
Ultimately, engagement levels will vary depending on many different factors, including personal contexts that are fully out of our control, but for those participants who do log into a community, a strong base for building engagement is in the design; design and creativity are great tools that all researchers need to try their hand at when building a successful online community. First impressions count towards so much of an overall conclusive impression, so ensure that the design sets a positive starting point for gaining insights.