How to design your community to last through the ages.
Building a community is a lot of work. Building the structure, adjusting the look and feel, setting up access, and migrating members and content can take upwards of three months of planning meetings and implementation. With that much time and effort invested in it, it's crucial to create a digital destination that can stand the test of time. Communities need maintenance and review or, like any other workspace, they get untidy and disorganized. Finding content and work areas can become challenging for people as the community grows over time, and events and articles multiply. However, there are some quick decisions and features you can use to help your community stay organized and vital years into the future.
It's simple to say "Have a community that makes sense to people," but more challenging to put into practice. Your community architecture of channels, pages, and spaces is designed to be moved to fit your needs, rather than pushing you into a one size fits all model. A clear, intuitive architecture helps people acclimate to a community's growth, ensuring that they'll always know where to find people, processes, and information.
- Plan for a community that grows by nesting Spaces and Channels under Pages in the Site Manager.
- Create clear access rules at the top level of the community, and allow them to cascade downward.
- Provide access through Groups, rather than by individual.
- Make decisions about Group structures early on, using member groups or space groups to create clear divisions between offices and departments.
When you have a team meeting every two weeks, you have 26 a year, which can quickly make search results less manageable when trying to add an action item to next week's meeting. The Archiving feature can help keep a community sustainable, even if implemented years after its launch. Archiving lets administrators and space administrators create policies to archive content, like articles or files. Archived items are still accessible in the community, but can't be edited or commented on, and are removed from the default search results. This cleans up searches, but leaves historical information in the community in case you need it. Popular archiving policies include:
- Keeping search results current by archiving calendar events 7 days after they end.
- Maintaining fresh forums by archiving posts 20 days after their last comment.
- Using channel settings to prevent archiving for important channels, such as announcement blogs or policy wikis.
Labels can be used to filter search results, and are especially useful for classifying documents and policies across areas of the community, letting people maintain decentralized information repositories that are easily brought together under a single label or set of labels. They can be managed by Administrators or by groups empowered with the Manage Labels role, but anyone can apply labels to content they're publishing. Attaching labels to content is a small step that can make a huge difference later in your community's future. Communities that use labels often:
- Use labels and categories to make searching easier.
- Give team leads and department heads the Manage Labels role to ensure that their areas have labels that fit their needs.
- Create links to label-based searches, letting people easily view all of the content with a label.
The most important thing you can do to ensure your community has a vibrant future is foster a culture that embraces and masters it. When people know how your intranet works, it stops being a flat space where they look for information, and become a collaborative digital workplace where they can share comments and tasks, as well as creating and managing their own projects. Once they understand it, they can start to push its limits and help it grow in the way they, and you need. Communities that have invested this tend to:
- Create a help page based on their specific use cases, with links to our Knowledge Base or embedded tutorial videos.
- Use a Q&A forum in their community to help their administrators build expertise and ensure that their users have a place to go with questions.
- Create opportunities for people to collaborate outside their normal areas through social groups and side projects.
The best way to secure the future of your community lies in building a community with a straightforward structure, using the features and functionalities available to plan ahead, and cultivating a workplace culture that will use the community to its full potential. For more information about the specific functions outlined here, you can read up on them in our Knowledge Base, or ask a question in the Community area.