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Going Mobile with Your Online Community? Look for These 3 Features

Looking for an online community platform that offers a mobile app? Here are the best features to put on your vendor checklist.

According to Statista, the number of smartphone subscriptions worldwide surpasses six billion – and is anticipated to grow. But you probably don’t need to see the stats to realize we’re living in a mobile-first world.

We’re always on our phones, and they’re becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives. Each site is competing for our attention. If you want to create deep habits of engagement with your community members, getting in front of them with a mobile app can help.

But what makes up a great online community app? Not all apps are created equal. Think about all the apps you’ve given up on because they were too complicated, boring, or just not valuable to you.

To make your online community’s mobile app successful, you need an app that’s simple to use, provides value, and incorporates your users’ favorite features and characteristics. Let’s dive in.

Best features to look for in a community mobile app

When you think about the features you want in your online community mobile app, think about your goal. Do you want an app that will help get more users into the community more often? Do you want a way for users to get answers when they’re on the go? Do you want them to be able to upload resources to your community library?

Like most things, you’ll want to start with these goals in mind to drive your feature search.

But really, many of these goals center around one key thing: You want a mobile app that will increase community engagement.

A lot of that starts with app basics, like usability.

1. Usability

When choosing and designing an app for your online community, put usability first. The app should be intuitive, making it easy for members and customers to learn how to use it quickly. Incorporate clear, simple navigation so users don’t get frustrated searching for content. Some common navigation options include:

  • Inbox
  • Discussions
  • Events
  • Announcements
  • Blogs
  • Profiles
  • Directory

Above all, make sure it’s easy for users to participate in the community whether they’re participating from their phones or their desktops. Everyone from technology experts to less tech-savvy newcomers should enjoy the experience.

2. Content Updates and Notifications

People don’t want to see the same thing every time they open an app, which is why the most popular social media sites show you new posts first. Look for these three content-related features in your community app:

  • Make sure the app has a similar ability to highlight new and updated content. Even better? Show users the latest content based on their interests.
  • You should also look for a community app that allows users to filter their content. When they’re looking for answers quickly, they’ll appreciate an easy way to filter to a specific area or topic.
  • An online community app isn’t much fun if users can’t participate. So, look for an app where users can share resources, like photos or files, participate in discussions, and ask questions.

In addition to showcasing recent content, make sure there is recent content. If your online community already has an active, vibrant group of contributors, this will be easy. Your all-star members will likely keep most conversations going without help from your organization. You can top that off by regularly posting announcements and uploading new documents to your online community library.

Get more tactics you can use to increase online community engagement

Expert Tip: Keep an eye out for an increase in online community engagement after launching your mobile app. If your app does its job and makes mobile participation easier, you may see a jump in activity once members download your app and use it to engage even when they’re not at a computer. That can be an influential win to report to your executive team or board.

3. Personalization Settings

Your users want a personalized experience from your organization. Make sure your online community app can provide that experience.

For example, you’ll want your app to show members the communities they’re most interested in, send notifications about discussion threads where they’ve participated, and even manage their notification preferences.

Notification settings are particularly important because they allow users to stay up to date and connected to your organization without being bombarded with messages that aren’t relevant to them. They may want to get notifications for all discussion threads in a community, receive real-time notifications only for threads they’ve participated in, or opt out of notifications completely.

Any personalization tools you can provide will improve the user experience.

Bonus: Support for a Large Range of Content

Not only do users want new content to explore, they also want a range of content types to engage with.

Choose a feature-rich app that supports a variety of content including blogs, discussion forums, community emails, event information, and calendars. There should always be something new and helpful for your users to find, along with different ways to access the information. For instance, one user may prefer to read about updates in a blog while another may enjoy a recorded video announcement. Choose an app that can accommodate both types of users and provide the appropriate content.

Look for an Online Community App That’s Built to Engage

No matter the type of online community you’ve built, your app needs to meet users’ expectations. The first place to look for an app is your community provider. The best online community software vendors offer mobile apps that create a great member experience on smartphones and tablets. Some even offer event and event community apps as well.

Talk to your online community platform vendor either during the software selection phase or after you’ve launched your community to find out what app options are available and compare them to other vendors. When you find the right app for your organization, you can build a community that consistently provides relevant, valuable, and updated content for users on any device.

Chris Weaver

Chris Weaver is a Product Manager at Higher Logic. Prior to joining the Product Team, Chris worked on our Strategic Services team, helping customers maximize their success with our Communications and Community platforms.