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You would never intentionally kill your community, right? But sometimes we lose track of those little details that can make a big difference.


Here are 10 common mistakes that can kill an online community


1. Where's the community?

There's no button in the website navigation, and you've got discussion forums buried three layers deep into the site, or in a tiny link in the site footer.


2. Are there people here?

You aren't "bubbling up" and highlighting member faces from the community on your home page. We are trained to be drawn to human faces, so don't hide them!


3. What is the most recent stuff?

You aren't pulling timely topics, comments, and forum content from the community out to the front page. Don't make visitors go searching around to find out what's new.


4. Why should I join this community?

There's no explanation of what the community is for, or why I might want to join it. Will I get answers to my questions? Will I get to hobnob with celebrities? Will you help me increase my business revenue? Will there be dancing unicorns?


5. Difficult registration process

You have a multi-step community registration process, no social login options, and 20 custom profile fields to get through before I can join. I don't have time to mess around with that. Make the info required on initial registration as minimal as possible.


6. Totally private community

You've locked down your entire community behind a wall, and I can't see it at all. There's no teaser content or any hint of what's in there. (Of course this isn't applicable if you're running a private market research community or another secret type of site.)


7. Calling it something weird

How am I supposed to know that "Joe's Garage" is the name of your community? I'm probably not going to click that to find out. At least in your navigation, call your community "community" or "forums" or "discussion."


8. Repellent theme or colors

I'm talking to you, website from 2009. Too many blinking ads, seafoam blue and orange together (sorry Miami Dolphins), and super tiny fonts are probably going to send me away.


9. Giant banner that makes you scroll on every page

Yes, Google+ just added strangely huge cover photos to your profiles, but that doesn't make it a good idea. Any graphic that pushes the content I'm interested in to the bottom of my screen is going to annoy me, particularly if it's on every page. Keep your banner graphics to a reasonable width, no more than 200 pixels.


10. Not enough breathing room on the page

You don't have to throw every widget, every ad, and every badge on all pages of the community. Just highlight the most important content and let it breathe. Leave some white space and your members will appreciate it.


What mistakes are you seeing out there? 


I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, or connect with me on Twitter.

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