Better Maps or Fewer Roads?
In one recent project, members were complaining about the navigation of the community.
They said it was impossible to find what they were looking for. They often felt lost. They struggled to follow and find the discussions they had participated in.
The community team had been trying everything to fix the problem. They had redesigned and simplified the homepage, created onboarding journeys, and had used every feature their platform offered to help members find what they wanted.
This had helped a little, but it was still the number one problem members complained about.
We took a different approach. Instead of trying to make it easier to find each feature in the community, we simply removed the majority of them.
Every feature which wasn’t used by at least 30% of active members was removed.
Any category which wasn’t attracting several hundred posts per month, was archived/merged with other categories.
Any page which wasn’t visited by at least 1k people per month was deleted (except for terms and conditions).
Any member that hadn’t visited within the past two years, was notified and then removed too.
Only two of the 20+ groups had any meaningful level of activity, so we created a discussion category for this and removed groups as a feature.
Any discussion which hadn’t been visited by 50+ people within the past year was archived.
We even removed the majority of options from member profiles too.
We reduced the navigation menu from 8 options (with drop-down sub-menus) to just 3 (without sub-menus).
Three things immediately happened.
First, navigation dropped from the number one cited problem in the community to the 4th.
Second, the level of participation increased by an average of 22% year on year.
Third, search traffic increased by 17% year on year.
The key to improve navigation (and the entire member experience) in most mature communities isn’t to improve the quality of maps, but to reduce the quantity of roads.
It’s harder to get lost when there are fewer places to go.