bCard-glob-sm-wtPart Two: The right tools and user experience

Community Building Extensions and Customer Experience Using Joomla CMS

When building out your technology platform for a community site using Joomla! CMS you have several options for extensions that you can use. The two most popular are: www.jomsocial.com and www.joomlapolis.com. Each has benefits or strengths depending on the type of community you are building and the priorities of how the data associated with user profiles will be handled.

Essentially what these extensions do is, they allow you to build “buckets” of information (extended profile fields) associated with a user profile. These profile fields are linked with the Joomla user profile and authentication system. For example; JomSocial organizes this information differently than Community Builder and thus giving you alternate ways of displaying your profile related content. Comparisons will be beyond the scope of this article but you should make sure that you take the time to evaluate each of these extensions suites based on some the following criteria:

  • How will I need to present profile information?
  • Will I need lists or to segment information from profiles into reports?
  • How will users collaborate in the system and what features do they need?
  • Will they be sharing files and photos?
  • How do their systems integrate with the priority social networks you will connect with?
  • How comfortable are the system administrators with either of the tool suites?
  • Which templates will best support your goals for the look and feel and how will they look?
  • What other extension will be used and are they compatible with them?
  • How will they affect my intended user experience?

I am sure there are other questions that can be asked but either way you should make sure you do a careful evaluation with your developers and stakeholders.

Once you have chosen the most appropriate Community extensions and are comfortable with how they integrate with other potential extensions in your strategy you can start building.

User experience:

Some of the important aspects to consider for users when they first get to your site are:

  • Will this be easy for them to join and participate in?
  • Is there any information related to the membership sign up process that you need to communicate?
  • When in the interaction is the best place for this all to happen?

Careful consideration of the content and information that your users see when they first get introduced to your community will leave a lasting impression as they continue to the next steps of exploring what they can get from participating.

Pace the roll out of your bells and whistles:

It is very easy to overwhelm your users with too much information or too many features all at once. One effective strategy is to have regular updates and frequently add something new and exciting for users when they return to your site.Consider rolling out features over time and swapping out call to action images without losing consistency. Select your priority features to push first and then consider adding new features every month or week over a period of time. This gives you opportunity to tease and excite visitors and may actually create some groundswell of conversation that will help enthusiasm for your community.

Respond quickly:

You will need to keep a sharp ear open to your community. If you are hearing folks are having a difficult time with using some of your features or if there are technical issues you should be prepared to respond very quickly. Not doing so could cause irreversible damage to any momentum you have been building within your community. Responding to new feature requests and communicating promptly will also build loyalty within your community and encourage referrals from within. If you are not listening remember there is a lot of competition for where your users can spend their time online these days.

For more information on Building Communities with Joomla CMS see other related articles in this series.

Part One: Starting with a plan

Part Three: Marketing, Audience and Incentives

Part Four: Building Revenue Streams

Christopher Nielsen is the CEO/General Manager for www.cnpintegrations.com and will be a featured speaker at the Joomla Day Chicago event August 10th 2012.

For more information on the myPugetSound.net Case Study presentation about building communities with Joomla! CMS visit: http://joomladaychicago.com

With a release set for some time in September, Joomla! 3.0 is right around the corner!  We’ve been anxiously watching the development of Joomla! 3.0 for some time now, and there’s some exciting things in store for Joomla! users across the board.  For those who haven’t seen it already, here’s a sneak peek at the awesomeness being planned for Joomla! 3.0, as well as what site administrators and developers can expect concerning their existing sites.

First, the fun stuff.  Joomla! 3.0 has some exciting new features for Joomla! users.  Starting with a complete overhaul of the user interface.  Joomla! is going mobile.  By implementing the Bootstrap framework from Twitter, Joomla! gets a lot of goodies right away.  Things like mobile-ready sites with responsive design, and a streamlined interface come out of the box.  With Bootstrap on board, programmers can focus on feature packed extensions, and designers can focus on beautiful templates, letting Boostrap handle the markup to make an entire site a streamlined, consistent presentation.  Joomla!’s also revisited the adminisitrator interface, focusing on usability and easier content creation for administrators and site users.

Part One: Starting with a plan

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Joomla is one of the very best platforms for building meaningful communities and sharing content on the web today. With over 9500 extensions, 1000’s of world class template designs, the largest open source development community supporting it and a host of fantastic features built in, Joomla stands out as an easy to use and maintain tool for building online communities. However, building communities with Joomla is more than installing some of the great extensions like JomSocial and inviting a few friends to interact with you online. To build a community you need to have a clear strategy and there has to be a desire or need that you are filling for the people you want to attract.

  • Whom is the audience that you want to attract?
  • What is the main reason folks will be attracted to your community?
  • What type of experience will they have when they get to your community?
  • What will motivate them to return?
  • What will be their benefit for contributing content?
  • What will motivate them to tell others and help you grow your community?
  • What features and information will offer the best value to the community?
  • What will you offer now vs over time and in the future evolution of the community?

Once you start answering some of these questions you can then determine your priorities for building and configuring your Joomla CMS. You can also begin to define or refine a strategy for attracting and engaging your intended community.

Target a niche and build on it:

It is helpful often to consider targeting smaller niche communities such as specific geographical areas that can be grown to larger geographical areas over time once there is success and feedback to help you improve your offering.  Make sure your users get to realize the promise of joining and can build on their experience over time. What is it about your community that will keep them coming back?

Maintain current and regular content:

Having and maintaining current and relevant content on a frequent schedule will not only continue to attract new users searching the web but it will also give users reason to return more frequently for new content.

Engage in social conversations:

With the social revolution well underway you will not only need to integrate with the current popular systems such as Facebook and Twitter in some way but you will need to be responsive to the conversations your users are trying to have with your community and where they intersect with these other communities. Remember groundswell effects from conversations can have both a positive or negative effect on your community and you must be prepared to direct the conversations in your favor whenever possible.

Protect your community and stay up to date:

Security and privacy are a major concern for folks entering private information into your site profiles and you need to safeguard and protect this with carful configuration of your privacy and security settings. To secure your portal framework will need you need maintain it with regular updates to the software and extensions. Using tools like SecureLive (www.securelive.net) to further protect your community from hackers and pranksters is also a great idea.

For more information on Building Communities with Joomla CMS see other related articles in this series.

Part Two: The right tools and user experience

Part Three: Marketing, Audience and Incentives

Part Four: Building Revenue Streams

Christopher Nielsen is the CEO/General Manager for www.cnpintegrations.com and will be a featured speaker at the Joomla Day Chicago event August 10th 2012.

For more information on the myPugetSound.net Case Study presentation about building communities with Joomla! CMS visit:  http://joomladaychicago.com  

Speaking at JandBeyondLast month hundreds of Joomla! developers, designers, and users gathered for the largest Joomla! international conference at JandBeyond in Bad Nauheim Germany.  For three days everything focused on the Joomla! community, and building a better Joomla! software.  A month later, we’re already starting to see the effects of those conversations, brainstorming, and talks.

Joomla! 3.0

As already scheduled, Joomla! 3.0 is due for release in September.  From Kyle Ledbetter’s presentation on Joomla!3.0’s proposed user interface overhaul, work has already charged forward on making that a reality.  Taking Joomla! design to the next level, making it even easier for webmasters to have seamless, beautiful websites with built in options for responsive, or mobile-focused websites.

Joomla! Working Groups

One of the great things about JandBeyond was being able to meet people that I’ve been working with for years, and discuss in person the work that has been done, and what’s ahead of us.  One of the highlights of the event was being able to sit down with the various Joomla! Working Groups focused on different areas of Joomla!, and have live brainstorming sessions that have already resulted in great things happening.  I already mentioned the UX group, but there’s also great progress being made in the multi-site working group, the search working group, and the newly formed javascript working group just to name a few.  All of that together means a bright future for Joomla!, as developers buckle down to tackle these areas, and improve Joomla!.

The Joomla! Community

Best of all though was being able to connect with the Joomla! Community.  With hundreds of thousands of developers around the world, and thousands of people working to move Joomla! forward every day, it’s a rare event where you have the opportunity to meet Joomla! folks from all corners of the world, but JandBeyond has created one of those events.  With people attending from every populated continent, and dozens of countries, it was great to see such an international community come together for one purpose, Joomla!.  With the Joomla! World Conference coming up this November, it will be exciting to see many of those same people again, and meet even more Joomla! community members, but JandBeyond is still unique, and I’m already looking forward to next years event!

 

Joomla! 4-H WebinarIn the spirit of Open Source, CNP Integrations is constantly looking for ways to give back to the community, and build value for the next generation. Recently, we were invited to present a 4 hour workshop for students at Missouri’s 4-H Congress. This was a first for us, being able to share the exciting world of websites and online development, the stuff we enjoy every day, with children. As you might expect, it was a lot of fun!

With the help of CloudAccess.net, we were able to provide each child with their own working website that they could learn about, work on during the workshop, and take home with them to continue exploring and learning about websites and Joomla!. CloudAccess also provided us with a phenomenal Joomla! template to help demonstrate making beautiful, custom websites quickly with Joomla!.

4-H Learning About Joomla!Throughout the workshop kids learned about building websites, how to manage online content, and all about the Joomla! CMS. We started with pre-installed, fully-functional Joomla! websites from CloudAccess, and built a basic personal/portfolio site that included a several pages, a personal blog, and even contact forms.  Since we were using Joomla!, creating websites, adding content, and building new features was easy, and even fun!

For me it was a lot of fun to teach Joomla!, something I’m very passionate about, and watch kids “get it” and become excited about being able to build their own websites, and easily manage their online presence with Joomla!. We’re excited about the collaboration here with the University of Missouri, and are looking forward to future events where we have the opportunity to share our passion for the web and Joomla! with the next generation!

Too old for 4-H?  Still want to learn about Joomla!?  Come join us for one of our regular Joomla! webinars covering a wide range of Joomla! topics!