Community-based websites are already dead. Social network groups logics took their place. What can we do? Nothing.
But there are some features that social networks can’t really cover and offer: data strucuture and theme-focused features.
Those are the things we should aim and design for.
ARE COMMUNITIES REALLY DEAD?
Of course, no. The web is so big that even the most usless thing doesn’t die for real. But in the last years I’ve seen many and many people lefting their communities and many people that, instead of making their own community stucked at a group on some Social Network.
Social Networks works a lot because most of people
doesn’t have enough time are lazy and because, we must admit it, social network groups are really enough if this people just need to chat a bit. Then, where do we still have room to build a community? Where users still need something more! In this article I’ll try to explain what to care about while designing a new community.
All social networks are based on tags system and so called “topics” or “interests”. While tags became something very relative to the person (you tag someone and get tagged by someone) the social network’s topics are something the network itself gives you, taking from, usually, companies or other websites that pay the SN to promote their articles and that gets paid not by the quality of these articles but by the fancy banner they have on such pages…
On a typical community, with today’s cute and powerfull CMSs we have better tools to organize the data structure: “real tags” and categories. The secret stands in building the data structure upon general categories and a good number of subcategories wich covers 100% of your posts and then tag them properly. Real tags can be just keywords, kinda random stuff, but they are very effective if used with some mind. By crossing tags and categories any community would turn out in a great tool for its users.
For example, a community build for photographers should have huge categories like ‘portraits, landscapes, macros..’ and tags as ‘indoor, black cat, full-frame, 10MP, daylight..’
While social networks are and must be generalized, a community should point all upon its theme. I’m not talking about not making an Off Topic section in the main forum, but I’m sayn’ that it should be quite empty. If you set up a good data structure now you can try to serve your contents in the best way, and offer your users the proper tools to build them. The more easy and pleasant the “post content” looks, the more the site will be used.
For example, a community build for photographers should give its users the possibility to post their content showing a big photo (or album slider maybe) and the related shooting datas (shutter, exposure, ISO..). This can be done in 2 ways: code reading this information when the photo is uploaded or user entering the data manually while posting. Regardless of how you collect the data, the output must look nice and easy to read. This is the kind of feature a themed-community can and should offer.
Results may be various, but the best option is to organize the output on what the content is. Many kind of content should result in different outputs. The generalized output is left for the forum.
This is maybe the best feature a 2015-proof community should have. Users must think: “Here I have all the tools I need to show people what I did”.
Medium.com – Perfect tool for writers. Completely focused on its main feature: let you write and post good articles, no matter who you are.
Youtube.com – Gives you anything (and more) you need to publish videos online and build your own audience.. this is quite a big example, as they call it ‘social media platform’.