Creating a Website from Scratch – Part 2 – Learnings

This post is part of an ongoing series as we develop a web strategy with the intent to blow up our website and start over. For other posts in this category, click here.

Our second web strategy meeting included “aha” after “aha.” It’s hard to believe that a web strategy meeting could be dubbed “inspiring,” but that is exactly what it was. I urge you to download the MP3 and listen!

Here are some highlights:

Overall Thoughts
• Every aspect of the site must reflect Creating the Future’s values, our theory of change, our catalytic frameworks, our emphasis on questions (which bring out the wisdom each of us has).
• Every aspect of the site must invite and nurture real relationships vs transactional relationships.
• Every aspect of the site – including and especially the technology – must meet people where they are, which includes integrating as much as possible into where they already are (vs. having to learn another password, etc.)
• There will be roles and functions that the technology needs to do, and there will be roles and functions that people need to do. The technology can facilitate those people roles, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that they are people roles.

Why people come to the site – what they’re looking for
To determine what it would take for the site to be what people need from it, we gleaned from Meeting #1 the list of reasons people would come to the site. From there, for each one, we explored what it would take for people to be able to accomplish those aims.

• Learn
• Teach
• Practice
• Connect
• Explore
– see what’s going on
– see success
• Share what they’re learning
• Visualize what’s possible
• Contribute
– what they have – time, money, stuff
– who they are – participate, engage, be
• Track our progress towards accomplishing our mission

“I would never go to a website this rich for ONE reason. I’m always there for 5 reasons. There is always something I’d like to learn AND something I’d like to contribute AND somebody I’d like to connect with.” Troy Alford

During Meeting #2, we discussed 3 items on that list: People who come to learn, to connect, and to contribute.

Creating Favorable Conditions for Visitors / Users / Participants at the Site
The questions asked during this meeting were all variations on this one:
For people who are coming to learn (or connect, or contribute),
what do they need to feel, see, experience when they arrive at the site?

The answers included the following:

Timely information
Whether it is about events or the 10 most recent questions asked in a community, people will want to see what is most current.

Curation of the information at the site came up in all the other discussions – especially that the site be owned / curated by the community itself. This lets people know that if they are feeling uncertain in their learning, connecting or other participation, that there is a community of people like them, who are curating the information they receive and creating a safe environment for exploring that.

Easy On Ramp
• Regardless of what someone is seeking, that it be easy to find.

• On-ramp to Information – along the continuum of potential
   – navigation relate to pillars of the mission
   – navigation / tags / categories in language that mirrors the continuum

• On-ramp to each other (online, on the ground)

• To whatever I’m seeking – even / especially if I’m uncertain what that is / what it’s called
        Susan Detwiler via Twitter: “When I was an information broker, I often had to do a lot of searching before I could figure out what other people called it….

        “…the FIRST time I go to a site is not holistic. It’s exploratory. The welcome to the new person has to be very intentional.”

• Need for being explicit: Here are the kinds of things people ask here (FAQ). Could be “the last 10 questions asked in the community” etc.
People arrive with a sense of what they’re seeking, wondering, “Can you meet my needs? Are you the model?”

• Easy on-ramp to actions someone can take

• On-ramp to things I can learn and ways I can learn them (along the continuum of potential)

• On-ramp to a continuum of ways to contribute
   – from micro (a like / thumbs up) to creating content, teaching, leading
   – easy to see the value of their contribution at every point along the continuum of potential
   – The Amazon approach – suggesting things that are the next step in the continuum “People who asked this Q also looked at X”
“It would be nice if the results that were returned included events that are coming up, printed / pdf’ed resources you can download, and also people who specialize in the stuff who’ve expressed an interest in volunteering to help others in the community – a collective package of resources. In the long term it’s the relationships that are the most valuable, but there’s a whole class of people and a whole class of problems that can be solved by quickly downloading some printed / digital materials.”
~ Robert Rosenthal

• On-ramp to asking questions: “Sometimes I’m trying to find the answer to a question, but I haven’t formulated the question yet. I know I’m looking for something, but I don’t know how to ask for it.”

   Because we are about questions, building the website around questions in some way – helping people formulate their questions for themselves

• Mentors as part of the on-ramp system: mentoring others in how to use the community, the site, the info.
Office hours: “This hour every week, I’m open – connect with me and I’ll help you use this website, or this community, or connect you with resources here, etc.”

• Glossary
• Meet people where they are with language they recognize – calling stuff what people all it in their real lives (e.g. most of us say small / medium / large; Starbucks demands we know THEIR language)
• Introduce new terms with glossary, tags, taxonomy – Creating the Future is in part about changing language, to create more effective use of language. Be explicit about that AND inclusive – we want to make sure people don’t feel stupid because of our use of language.

Built Around Relationships
It is critical that in every interaction at the site (and with Creating the Future overall) that we are bringing out the best in everyone we encounter. That means that in every interaction, we will meet peopel where they are and help them step into their potential as they are ready to do so (not as we are ready to have them do so). In every interaction, we will be mindful that it is always about the people, never about the thing.

Therefore, in every interaction people will feel…
• encouraged
• invited
• welcomed
• cherished
• nurtured
• safe

People will feel
• They are part of something

• Connection along the continuum of readiness for that connection (see above)

• Affinity
– I feel like I can be part of this community
– This meets with my values
– Do I self-identify with people here?
– Do I recognize the attributes of other members?
– Are they facing what I’m facing?

• This is THEIR community, not ours

• This will be a place where you’ll find people like you.
     – If you’ve been called a Pollyanna, and people roll their eyes – we want you here! We are Pollyannas, too!
We know that is the most practical way to be! We are your people!

    – Jane Garthson via Twitter: “The people who stick with my music community after finding it say ‘I found my people’ ‘I found my tribe’ ‘You are my peeps’ “

Susan Detwiler via Twitter:
   “Micro interactions create the ‘weak ties’ that hold a community together.”

   “How can the site ‘close the triangle’?” (A network-weaving term for being the connector of two people who should absolutely know each other)

Important Take-aways
This meeting was rich with insights about the website as an important point of connection to the essence of what draws people to Creating the Future in the first place. The following are some of those insights.

This community can be a sign-post, a guide-post to say, “Don’t get overwhelmed. We’re all here to do monumental things that seem untenable. But there’s a process for this! Here are all the people that you need. Follow this series of steps. We’ll help you with it. The community is here to support you in that thing [you’re trying to do]. And it’s fine.

“So which place are you at? Who’s looking to contribute at that stage? Here are all the people you can connect with, and here are the tools you can use to connect with them. We’ll walk you through it, we’ll facilitate it. Here are the resources to look at.”

To be able to say, “Your project is doable. And this community is just about giving you the people to figure out how. The “how” is the end state, but the process to follow and the people to involve yourself with – that’s what we’re here for. So bring your ideas!” ~Troy Alford

* * *

This community is a place to connect with others doing monumental things.

It could be their own project. Depending on where people are in their own process, they can plug in with others who are at that stage of the process in their own projects. Or they might be looking for people to be part of their project.

It could be providing summaries of projects they can join. Where can I contribute and with whom?

We have a great framework for developing successful projects, and the community is here to support you in that.

* * *

The site as a foundation for connection. I came to this because I want to do something monumental, but I don’t know how. But people won’t say that; they say, “That’s too utopian.” What they’re really saying is “I’m frustrated because I don’t know how.” ~ Justin Pollock

* * *

People bond over shared trial. The thing that resonates for people re: “We’re all struggling with the same thing” is that we’re all struggling together. And that is what creates a bond in a community.”

Be explicit – everybody’s frustrated or they wouldn’t be here. If we loved the way the world worked, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So let’s just get that on the table!

You can vent here if you need to, but let’s not just focus on what we’re moving away from, but how we shift that perception to what we’re moving towards. Let’s have an honest conversation about that, because that, too, is just a process – there’s a standard way, a series of steps you go through to shift your thinking towards what’s possible instead of what you don’t like. And somehow this community can help to bond people together over the struggle of it, and give them a shared, common pathway forward that they can then become a tribe around. ~ Troy Alford

* * *

There are a lot of great online communities that we can learn from. The questions we’re asking, though, are wonderful, because they reflect the values of the Creating the Future community. Getting into the “how” of all this should go pretty quickly because it’s 2015 – there are a lot of great examples out there to learn from.

The main thing is encouraging people to think of this as their community, their network, their organization. It’s not about you guys, it’s about them. As long as that orientation remains intact, everything else will flow because this process is so focused on providing for the needs of the user. If this is their community, then naturally we’ll get to a place of working through how to make it work for them. ~ Robert Rosenthal


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