The Best Getting Started Guide for Online Communities: Community Compass

posted Aug 12, 2014, 3:29 PM by justin b farrow   [ updated Aug 20, 2014, 4:23 PM by Jaybird Farrow ]

What is Community Compass?

So, I've been experimenting with a new way of presenting a reimagined Getting Started Guide for my community.  I have visited many communities which have a getting started guide which is outdated (ie creator stated number of members which has grown for example) and clunky.  For so long we have wondered about the best things to clue new members into when joining that we may have forgotten that clear instructions for how to best engage our communities are ever evolving and can change quite often.   Those who are truly unfamiliar with HTML will find the process of updating a guide regularly quite hard to manage and frustrating to control on Ning (especially 2.0). When building a Getting Started Guides we also can sometimes forget that the moment someone signs up may not be the moment they are ready to learn all of the features and wonderful things our communities offer. We need to provide an interactive way for members to learn at their own pace, giving them the ability to return to the guide on their own time and see noticable progress while digging deeper into the community. 

Community Compass

So I have developed a proof of concept that I call "Community Compass" which I would like to collaborate with all of you on. Let's build the best Getting Started Guide ever!  First I'll show you my customized working version which is far from perfect and will change as time goes on (feedback welcome).  Next, I'll explain to you how it was built , what it accomplishes and what it can do with code to follow, if enough of you are interested.  Finally, (again, if you guys are interested), I have built a stripped down version of this template with progress bars that you can fully customize on your own and add to your network.  Let's begin

Picture This:  You are a new member who has signed up and been accepted to the community.  After acceptance you are redirected (or pointed towards in welcome email) to a page on your network where you have iframed in an all inclusive Community Compass, like so:

Now what you are looking at is a stripped down and then customized  Google Sites website, managed through a Gmail account, iframed into a page on one of my networks which can open full screen.  Each page represents both things I would like for new members to know and a step towards deeper engagement within the community, indicated by a small progress bar for each step.  In this case, I have obviously installed it into a 2.0 network but it can be integrated into 3.0 Ning sites as well.  The Guide itself is responsive and will layout on mobile devices as well, and can even be used to send newsletters using App Scripts. 

Working on a way to automatically redirect mobile phones to mobile version of guide rather than iframed version on this page.

About The Google Sites Aspect of This

Google Sites all have an https:// protocol meaning they are secure and can be restricted to allow access only to those who have permission.  This makes sites very useful for building things like Facebook Apps (example) , Wiki style sites and in our case a robust multipage Community Compass.  Sites can also easily be mapped to a subdomain of your site in less than 5 minutes.  With sites, you can also configure your search feature to use a Google Custom Search Engine as the default search engine on the site, so although members may be using the guide for what it is intended, it can also be a quick method for finding what you are looking for within a community.  Here is the GSites version  https://sites.google.com/site/gosurveyorgo/ which i plan to map to  go.landsurveyorsunited.com when all said and done.



Community Compass Version One

UPDATE///////GET V.1

Version 1.0 of Community Compass

Get Community Compass Version 1

Step 1) Visit this page while signed into your Gmail account and click Use Template
Step 2) Change the name and URL of the site to match your community needs.  You'll now be able to find it inside your http://sites.google.com account
Step 3) Edit, Replace and Add to any page by clicking the pencil icon up top right of any page.  Customize until your hearts content..pages edit just like a word document.
Step 4)  Go to this page to get the code for iframing the minisite into your 2.0 or 3.0 Ning site.  (if enough of you are interested, I can show you how to embed it as a facebook tab too)  Be sure to ask any questions that you might have about customizations for Google Sites.
Step 5 optional) Edit the welcome message on your site using the language editor to point to the new getting started guide on your site

Plans for Version Two:

Version 1 is basically used for increasing engagement within your community, give quick links to most important areas of site and introduce your site to new members.  Version 2 will have a slightly more dynamic way of calculating progress and should be a breeze for those who want to use the Version 1 and upgrade it later to include the script i'm building.  Many will not need a dynamic profile specific progress bar, so I am releasing version 1 so you can start customizing your community compass.

Some Initial Tips:

- You can configure the search feature to use your Google Custom Search engine (tell me if you need a walkthrough)

-You can use images from your own site to replace mine and to save bandwidth on your free google site (only get 100mb for free)

-Works seemlessly with other Google Products so you can import Google Docs, Maps, Calendars, G+, Presentations, etc.