Decluttering A Community Experience (it’s not easy)

In one of my first consultancy projects (over a decade ago!), I interviewed two dozen members. The majority mentioned the community platform was ‘too cluttered’ and difficult to navigate.

My suggestion was to declutter it by “removing stuff”.

You can probably spot the problem. It’s a lot easier to make simple recommendations like this than to really get into the causes and solutions to clutter.

To declutter a community platform you usually need some combination of:

1. Undertake internal interviews to uncover why the site is cluttered in the first place (there’s usually competing internal interests).

2. Gather data on which areas are being clicked and why.

3. Interview members and use tools like hotjar to see how members progress through the community.

4. Use the above to prioritise every aspect/feature of the community.

5. Develop a criteria for which things can be removed and gain support for this criteria.

6. Identify the benefits of decluttering (i.e. what metrics will increase in exchange for the internal/external backlash you will get for removing areas of the community).

If you’re planning to improve your community by removing ‘clutter’, be warned clutter masks a level of complexity you need to dive into to reduce it.

P.s. Quick aside, 90% of the time, a ‘clutter’ problem is really symbolic of a ‘strategy’ problem. Sometimes stakeholders aren’t aligned on the value of the community so try to cater to multiple goals. Other times it’s not clear who the community is for and what each of those segments need.

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