An online community is a living, breathing entity. It is made up of human members who each have their own opinions and tastes. If you make the decision to change something about your community that your members do not like, it could spell disaster.
There is a way of preventing this – ensure you involve your members when it comes to decision making.
Single-mindedness can ruin a community
As I have said before, you do not run your online community – your members do. If they are not happy, they will leave. It is your job to keep your members happy and keep them involved and engaged within your community.
Forgetting that your members are the life-blood of your community can spell disaster. You should never make large-scale changes to the look or behaviour of your website without involving your members in your decision making.
What may seem to be advantageous to you, may not be to the majority of your members. What may be a beautiful design to you, may not be to the majority of your members. Everything you do and every decision you make, needs to be geared towards satisfying them – not yourself.
If you develop a community solely to your own tastes, you will alienate your members. If they do not feel valued, they will go elsewhere.
How to involve your members in decision making
It is so easy to involve your members in decision making, I am amazed not to see it happening more frequently. If you want to know how your members will react to something, ASK THEM!
All too often it seems that community developers feel they have to ‘second guess’ their members and predict their tastes and needs. Why use guesswork when all you have to do is ask?
Asking your members what they want is not a sign of weakness or a lack of ability on your part – it is a sign of strength that you are willing to listen to and understand your members. It also makes your members feel more valued and involved in the community.
Before any redesign you should publish drafts and invite comments. Before you change any of the software within your site you should set up a test area and invite comments. Before you change any rules or conditions you should notify your members and invite their comments.
You will never get everyone to agree on your plans or proposals but by inviting feedback and involving your members in your decision making you will be ensuring that you cater to the majority. If you keep the majority of your members happy, you are on the path to success.