#TipTuesday: When less is more


So much of what we traditionally consider community growth is synonymous with “more”:

  • More users
  • More content
  • More views
  • More traffic

But there may come a time in your community's maturity when taking a less is more approach can actually be a conducive ideology. We know from the technology adoption curve(1) that most users will adopt a new tool when it’s most convenient; they're not the trail blazers and beta-testers, but they're also not loathe to accept anything new. When those majority adopters come into the fold, you may find yourself with a need to scale; but procedurally that doesn't always mean more.

Depending on the age and maturity of your community, your strategic approach may differ. After all, a community that’s preparing to launch will have different focus areas for growth than a community that is 5 years old.

Think of a garden as a metaphor for community: we want to capitalize on the resources we have to nurture a a plot of land and especially after the experience of your first planting, that may mean you've learned there is a benefit to limiting the species/varietals, putting up boundaries, or pruning stray leaves and vines, etc. Most of all- it takes a patient and mindful caretaker to monitor these conditions (oftentimes, multiple caretakers)! As Community Managers, we want to be able to guide the development of community to it's most efficient state. This is where the “less is more” idea gets put to practice.

There are a variety of indicators that may present themselves to imply you’ve hit a threshold where you’ll need to streamline. This could look like:

  • Navigation bar spans the width of the page
  • A sub-communities/categories list that is several pages long
  • An unruly resource hub (redundant folders/tags)
  • An influx of search utilization 
  • Direct feedback from users about difficulty finding what they need

This is by no means a prescriptive list, but rather a combination of factors to consider as your community expands. 

While I generally encourage smaller annual community audits (no matter your community’s age), this optimization assessment is likely for communities at the 2-3 year mark. Keys words that come to mind when conducting a larger evaluation like this are, “Where can we…?”

  • Condense
  • Consolidate
  • Optimize
  • Streamline 
  • Simplify

There are both qualitative and quantitative analytics that can assist you with this endeavor. A qualitative indicator could be receiving the same question of, "Where do I go to update my email address?" to your Community email inbox every week. This indirect feedback can help you make decisions on how easy your community is to navigate. An example of a quantitative measure might be the kinds of labels/tags associated with your content; is your tagging tool sensitive to misspelling/typos/capitalization? A tag that is meant for a larger scope of content might be getting mis-categorized simply from an error in tagging function. This kind of information is helpful because the larger your community gets, the easier you want to make it for your users to find content that is most relevant to them. 

It's possible that after some deliberation that there is not much you want to change; and that’s fine! But asking the questions and coming to that conclusion deliberately is better than not asking the question at all and assuming everything in your community is hunky-dory. 

And- when in doubt- go to the source: your end-users. Even if they're not providing direct feedback (via polls, surveys, etc), chances are their opinions are floating out there in posts, emails, or other channels, so be sure to keep an eye out! You could even enlist a colleague who is relatively unfamiliar with your community site and send them on a quick scavenger hunt to gauge how intuitive it is to use or find pain points you may have overlooked. If we think back to the technology adoption curve, creating community that is easy to use is incredibly important, especially- at the end of the day- if we ultimately want to maintain a steady growth of more users. 

Happy pruning! 

Erin is a Strategic Services Consultant at Higher Logic Vanilla coming up on her 3-year anniversary at the company. Come say hi to her at Super Forum 2024 in Washington DC this April!


(1) "Diffusion of Innovation"