We've all been there. You're part of an alumni group or a member organization, and you need to look someone up. "Easy!" you exclaim. "I'll just use the online directory." You open up your browser, go to the site, and...that's when the trouble begins. Read on for some ideas on how you can make sure that the community you provide for your users is easy to use.
1. Easy Login
Alumni should be able to easily login to the community, retrieve their profiles, and make any updates. You've likely encountered sites where a password you forgot gets forwarded to an email address you no longer use, and you have no idea who to contact to fix it. Or, you need to create a new account, and the form asks you way too many questions. You get frustrated. "Why can't I just login to this with Facebook or LinkedIn, like I do for so many other accounts?" Why, indeed.
Keep your directory easily accessible with social login and hassle-free account recovery options.
2. Streamlined Search and Display
Members expect enough search options to easily find who they're looking for.
When you want to find somebody, you tend to search on a few key fields: name, year, occupation, and club/organization. If the search fields don't deliver, or the results don't sort properly, you are going to give up. Don't make the same mistakes as other directories.
Only include fields your users will actually search for, and make sure the results sort in a way that makes sense (e.g. by First or Last Name).
3. Comprehensive Profiles
If your directory doesn't include the fields people are looking for, nobody is going to use it.
Let's say you managed to sort through the finicky search results and find the person you were looking for. Now what? If the profile does not have enough contact information, it is not a directory you will likely return to.
Make it easy for members to complete a more comprehesive profile by providing social sync options. It's a lot faster to just fill in the blanks than enter everything from scratch.
4. Simple Communciation Options
It should be as simple as clicking a hyperlink to message someone or connect with them on social media.
You find and click on the profile of your old college roommate, John William from Hoboken, and you want to reach out to him on Facebook. But, there is no option on the profile to connect with him on social media. You do a Facebook search, but there's a problem - there are 200 John Williams living in Hoboken alone. You decide that your attention span is short, and you won't be using that directory again. Don't let this happen in your directory!
Provide multiple, simple methods of communication, including clickable email and social links.
What did we learn?
Did you relate to the user trying to find his friend? Does your own organization's directory have some of these issues? While it seems like a no-brainer, user experience often gets overlooked when people are building online directories. However, it is as important as having a working directory itself. Considering the fact that the average user only spends 59 seconds (or less!) on a website before leaving, any of the deterrents listed above could easily test their patience. Follow our advice, and make your user experience one to remember.
P.S. - If your directory could use help improving the user experience, feel free to reach out to us by clicking here. We'd love to help you help your users!