To succeed, professionals need to collaborate. It’s always been this way — especially for professional services practitioners. The rise of the consulting firm — groups of professionals in the same place, groups of subject matter experts working for the same firm in many different places — has been driven, in part, by the necessity for collaboration.
Designing online communities for business is a subtle blend of creating the right business model, a clear understanding and service of member needs and a usable interface that enables professionals to focus on engagement. Too often, however, the design of professional communities draw inspiration from consumer communities and try to mirror the user experience they experience on non-work based social applications. Frequently, there are far too many bells and whistles – gratuitous features – built into the design of B2B communities that can get in the way of successful use of the community of practice. While sexy widgets are neat playthings for users who are browsing communities for social or fun reasons, in a workplace setting, they just serve as distractions to getting the job done, the information shared or found, or the connection accomplished to solve a business problem. One of the main reasons why online communities for business often fail to provide a meaningful user experience is a lack of understanding about best practice design for professionals.
With this in mind, I have invited my colleague, Tania Schlatter, to be a guest blogger and share her thoughts on building online communities for business from a design perspective. Tania is co-founder of Nimble Partners, and an award-winning designer who focuses on human-centered websites and applications.