Do you think Reddit’s homepage would be better if it was shorter?
What if it was divided into different sections with a featured top 5 list, a place to get involved, a place to search, and a big graphic announcing members can ‘join, share, and connect’ with people like themselves?
Reddit’s homepage works so well because it doubles-down on what the audience most wants to do; browse discussions to find something entertaining.
It’s important to double-down on the most important call to action instead of trying to cater to every possible CTA. Almost every wildly successful community I can think of doubled-down on a single CTA instead of appeal to every possible CTA.
This matters a lot. If (like Reddit) you have the top 25 discussions instead of 5 you are 500% more likely to find a discussion that engages you. This has a HUGE change upon participation habits.
Spend some time browsing the most popular communities and social networking sites. You will usually see the same thing. They found one single CTA that gripped their audience and devoted almost everything towards doing it well.
It turns out, hedging your bets on a community homepage isn’t a great strategy.
The Goal of A Homepage Is To Persuade A Visitor To Take Action
The goal of a homepage is to persuade a visitor to take action (even if that action is reading).
The secret isn’t in the language you use to persuade someone to take that action (although that’s not irrelevant) but determining what causes people to take that action in the first place. The design doesn’t matter if you’re driving people to the wrong action.
This task has to make their lives better. It also has to help you achieve your community goals. This is the critical task you want every visitor to perform.
This call to action (CTA) typically falls into seven common categories.
1) Share what you’re doing and thinking (Facebook/Twitter/Nextdoor). This works best in social networks where members have cultivated their own following/relationships. It’s less successful in communities with a strong common interest (niche/topic focus), but weaker connections between members. The benefit here is people constantly update what they’re doing to build and maintain their social status.
2) Share something interesting (Reddit/ProductHunt/Inbound). This works in communities where members have weaker connections but want to build their reputation, gain validation, or get attention. This is excellent when filtering large quantities of information for quality is a problem. It doesn’t work in small sectors with limited sources of information. The major benefit here is people visit every day to be entertained or see new ideas they can use.
3) Search for solutions / information (ATT / Airbnb etc..). This works in support communities with a lot of repetitive questions with a large potential audience who most critically want a good solution to their problem. You want people to find the answer before they need to ask the question.
4) Share a problem/get help on a problem you want to solve. This works in new or small communities where getting new questions is more difficult than delivering good answers. This helps drive traffic and activity. It can help people get answers to questions they may ask elsewhere.
5) Participate in interesting discussions. This works in communities of interest where discussions have no clear purpose beyond getting to know and talk about a topic members enjoy. Most hobbyist communities fall into this category.
6) Connect/join/subscribe/follow. This works best when you have lots of newcomers (to the topic) visiting the site who need guidance to understand where they belong within the field. You can help guide them to the right group of them. This works best in communities for large subject matters with lots of subgroups
7) Learn and read information. This works in content-driven sites where activity is based on new information shared from a leader, expert, or established the source. Many news sites fall into this category.
This isn’t an exhaustive list (Kaggle wants people to join and host competitions for example). However, it’s a list you can use to begin testing calls to action to find the best fit. While you can and should) research your audience (interviews, surveys, and observational analysis) to make an educated guess about the best CTA to use, the best feedback will come from testing.
Once you find the right CTA, double down on it. Don’t try to appeal to every possible use case for the community.
Find the single thing your community most wants to do and devote most of the available space, content, and activity towards it.
It’s probably not what you think it is today.
p.s. We’re looking for a few more reviews on our community platform comparison tool, can you share yours?