Article - Basic Help for New Members
When I examine the emails I receive on a daily basis, and the emails of the other admins and mods, most of the emails we receive fall into one category. They are *HELP* emails from our new members who are overwhelmed by the online community environment and don't quite know where to go for help. Many of the emails were as basic as: "How do I post a message?"
In an attempt to cut down on these emails to our "Helpdesk" I walked myself through the registration process and tried to imagine it through the eyes of a complete online newbie. I tried to understand what kind of questions they might be asking on their side of the monitor. I tried to understand what might not be obvious to them, but was clearly obvious to me after many years on my site.
Walking myself through the entire registration process and taking notes along the way, I came up with some ideas to help the new member get through the regisration process and log in to participate in their first discussion.
Here is what I did for my online forum community:
1. Make sure your guidelines are clearly written and make use of white space. What is white space? Paragraphs. Topic headers. Easily identified topics regarding rules. (Make sure your guidelines are available to revisit. More on this later.)
2. If you have activated "email verification" for your online community, make sure that at the end of the registration form you explain that they will not be able to post until they "click the link" in the email they will receive to their email address. If their email address isn't valid, they won't be able to complete registration.
3. In your "Ooops, you aren't logged in page" add a link to the member control panel if its not there. Re-read the "oops" page to make sure it contains info about that email. If they didn't receive the email, they need to log into their control panel and adjust their email address so that they can get the email.
I even added a note to AOL users to double check their "internet email prefs" to make sure they hadn't' filtered out receiving email that included their forum email confirmation.
4. Create a "NEW HERE?" page for your site and put the link in the header or somewhere your members can find it easily. Make sure its on every page. Put the link in the "activated page" where the member returns after they click to complete the registration.
What does the "NEW HERE?" page say? This is what I use on my "NEW HERE" page:
As basic as this page sounds, this "New Here" page is one of the most used pages of our website. The members visit it as they click their email link to activate their account. Its also right on the top of every website page so visitors can read it and understand how the website works.
I consider it Basic 101.
I found that once I marked registration forms better, created easy to read pages of guidelines and help for the new visitors and members, the amount of email we received for the help desk was cut drastically.
I suggest looking at your site through fresh eyes and try to find ways to communicate basic "how to" for your members. You will be rewarded with members participating in discussions that might never have found that "Post new Thread" button.
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