Creating an online engagement portal that leaves an impression on your community is an important ingredient for successful online engagement.
In addition to the need for authentic engagement, access to information and opportunities to get involved in projects, one of the most important elements in creating a good first impression is by using good design.
In a highly web literate world, our first impressions are often formed by making value judgments on design elements and user experience. Put simply, if a website doesn’t look great, we might not trust it as much as one which is inviting and well designed. If a website isn’t structured well, we might get frustrated with it and leave altogether.
Design allows us to properly engage with our community, build relationships and show-off our personality.
Bang the Table has committed to regularly releasing modern designed templates for EngagementHQ, to help you layout your online engagement portal. However, our work can only go so far and the finishing touches are up to you.
Below are 5 design tips are to help you create an online engagement portal with impact.
This resource was originally posted on our Using EHQ Blog page.
1. Keep it clean
One of the best ways enhance the design of your EngagementHQ site is to keep it clean. This means using white-space as your best friend, not overly cluttering your pages and selecting a neutral colour palette with only a few brand colours that pop off the page. Selecting an EHQ template such as Bondi, Coral Bay or Whitehaven allows you to easily build pages which are clean and clear of widgets. You should always choose only the elements you require and not feel obliged to add an element to your page just because it’s available. In essence, keeping it clean means that less really is more. Always take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of your community. Ask yourself “how does this design make me feel?”.
This site is built on Coral Bay and uses only three main tiles with appropriate images, a timeline and minimal text to create a simple clean homepage design.
2. Keep Text Minimal
While text is essential in helping you explain your projects, it can also be a design element which disengages your community. Using text on your project pages should be kept to a minimum. Use it to quickly explain your projects, grab attention and direct your community to undertake an action. The minute you start to write dense paragraphs and force people to deep scroll on your page for information, the more likely you are to lose their attention.
A great way to use text to introduce your projects is by using dot points to detail the steps you want your community to take. This will ensure that you avoid bulky paragraphs and force you to shorten your instructions. With this in mind, if you do have extensive information you want to present with your projects, you should always include this as an attachment in your document library and use a frequently asked question or short video widget to help explain your projects. Use your words wisely and they can be a powerful tool.
City of Nedlands uses minimal text and dot-points to create clear instructions.
3. Use good images
We all have a tendency to use stock images to help save us time, yet as savvy internet users we have become far more literate of stock imagery and can pick a staged photo a mile away. We highly recommend trying to avoid stock imagery where possible and instead encourage you to use images which feature places and people from your community, doing the activities and using the facilities you’re talking about. By doing this you appear more authentic and personable, not to mention in touch with your community.
If you are going to use stock images there are a few important things to remember including; ensuring imagery doesn’t feature locations unrelated to your consultation and the people in the images represent the diversity of your community. It’s also worth looking out for images featuring people who look “too” happy, unreal or staged. Ultimately, you want to create a sense of your own community by using the places and faces people can identify with.
Tweed Shire Council use images of local places and people to create an authentic feel to their site.
4. Think about your site structure
Site navigation is an important design feature for your online engagement portal. By utilising a coherent header navigation you will be able to better direct your community and help them find information and projects quicker. When thinking about your site structure, you need to consider if you would like to have central pages for things such as; news and updates, about information, hubs and also special information pages. You will also need to organise your projects in a manner that allows people to find current projects and reference past/closed projects to see project outcomes. A online engagement portal without a coherent site structure can have negative effects on your engagement outcomes so it’s essential to plan out your site.
Using drop down menus is a great way to categorise your current and past projects. In EHQ, you can use up to 3 child menus from each parent menu. This functionality can greatly assist you with planning your site structure.
South Perth make good use of dropdown menus to help community members find projects.
5. Create a brand for your site
When it comes to designing your online engagement space, we find sites with a dedicated online engagement brand, tend to do a better job at building online community databases. By creating a dedicated sub-brand for your engagement space, you position community engagement activities as an essential part of your operations. It also allows you to inject a personality into your online space that is unique from your corporate brand. To do this effectively you will need to use branding devices such as logos, colours, banners and fonts throughout your site to help tie your online engagement portal together. These branding devices should be used in a uniform way and you should co-ordinate with your team how you will communicate your brand and personality though interaction with your community in public forums. This brand can then flow out into your community beyond EHQ. Site branding is a crucial step in designing your online engagement space to help build community and personality.
The Skills Organisation New Zealand uses several devices to create a comprehensive brand.