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We provide our community with a basic tip sheet for how to customize the overview page, and we encourage a overivew page design similar to the one you mentioned with the narrow-wide-narrow layout and basic selected widgets.
One other thing that has worked particularly well for a few communities is customizing an HTML widget to create "buttons" linking to important content. Many of our users are not super tech savvy and having 4 or 5 buttons that link to "discsussions" or "newsletters" or "presentations" or whatever is important to the community is an easy way to help people navigate. We have a great graphics person on our team who works with these communities to create the buttons because usually they don't have the HTML or design skills.
In addition, for some groups, the "watch a tag" and RSS widgets can prove helpful and provide a dynamic feed of content from elsewhere in the greater community.
I am curious how you are leveraging lobby pages? This is a funcationality we've just enabled, so I'd love to learn from others' examples.
We use the narrow-wide-narrow layout most often (similar to Facebook, so it feels familiar), but as far as widgets go, I find it really depends on the purpose of the group. I always recommend the Actions widget on the top-right, and overview on top-left (which is the default).
Some examples of how the purpose of the group defines the layout:
- I have a group of artists who use their space to share images they've created. They post a poll each week to choose a topic for that week's art upload, and then have a week to get their art in there. The Latest Poll widget and the Recent Photos widget are the most important pieces for this group, and are displayed most prominently. These are not widgets I would recommend for most groups.
- If a group is geared towards discussion/collaboration, the Featured Content (the items the owners WANT discussed) and Recent Activity (rather than Recent Content) are the two key widgets I recommend.
- If a group is more a document library, then Recent Content and Categories are most important. Popular Documents, Tags, and Featured Content are most useful.
My best practices would be:
- Consider how you want the group to be used and choose the widgets based on your purpose.
- Make sure the group's purpose (either through the Overview widget, or a fancier Formatted Text/HTML one) is clearly displayed, as well as the Actions menu so that it is easy to participate.
- If the group is for discussion, use Activity widgets; if it is a library, use Content widgets.
- In related groups and spaces, keep the layout and widgets as similar as possible so that users don't need to re-orient themselves each time they move to a new group or space. (This one is a constant battle, I find - groups owners often want to be unique/make their mark.)
Thanks Jennifer and Maggie. This is helpful. It is similar to what I try to do and it helps reenforce that I'm on the right track. I don't have anything formal to give them for Best Practices and I think that is something I should focus on asap.
Can you share your Basic Tip sheet here with me?
Anybody created different Overview page layout tips for new groups vs. established ones? Public groups vs. private ones? Groups with lots of content vs. groups with not much there yet? What other factors might lead to different choices?
I think it might be more important for public groups to have a good explanation as to what the group is about. People can stumble onto open groups, but they have to go looking for private and secret ones so they probably already know what those are about before they join them.
Also as Jennifer Thorimbert mentioned above, the most important factor is what the purpose of the group is. We tend to think of our groups in terms of three different focus areas:
- Information sharing (similar to a web site)
- Q&A (often support groups for some business process or application)
If the goal is information sharing, the focus should be on helping visitors get to the information they are looking for. This means using widgets for subspace listing, tag widgets, featured content, search widget, etc. The more dynamic widgets like Recent Activity and the people widgets aren't as important here. Also good to have categories if possible. The overview page is probably going to look pretty static but that's OK and might even be an advantage in terms of maintaining familiarity during repeat visits.
For Q&A, the focus is on making it quick and easy for visitors to ask and get answers to questions, and for those who own the group to answer them. So widgets like Ask Question and Unanswered Questions are good ones to use, along with designing the overview page so that it's easy for visitors to find questions that have already been answered, maybe via categories or tags or an FAQ document shown with a Doc Viewer widget -- whatever make sense. You might also make liberal use of Announcements to help head off questions when something about the process or application changes.
For collaboration, it helps to have several "Recent ... " widgets on the overview page, especially when starting out. A collaboration group is going to need a critical mass of participants to be successful, so the perception of activity is important. Anything that indicates something has changed since the last visit is a good thing to have.