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My site has an ideas page which allows user to share ideas within his/her group of friends. Sadly it seems like users are either afraid or do not have any ideas to post (note these are travel ideas).

I'm implementing a suggestions box which would auto populate with suggested places to visit. Is there anything else I can do to encourage users to post content?

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This question seem overly broad. –  James Jenkins Jul 2 '13 at 15:09
    
Make it incredibly easy. Reward them for doing so (much like stackexchange points). –  Neil McGuigan Jul 28 '13 at 3:44
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8 Answers 8

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It could also be a feature the users simply are not interested in. Have you tried asking them? You're assuming they are afraid or have no ideas, but that may not be your issue. UX requires more than raw data.

What is the value to a user using your site for sharing vacation ideas with their friends? Are they already socially active with other features on your site and this is an addition to their other activities, or is this the core feature?

And how does the sharing work? Are they sharing within your site, out to facebook/social, or through email? If on your site, their friends may not be on there, making it pointless to the user. If via facebook, they may not see why they should use your tool instead of just posting a status update. And if via email, then you're asking them to submit their friend's email addresses to your site, which many people are hesitant to do.

Start by asking yourself what the user gets out of your sharing tool, then wat level of effort it takes to use, and finally try to ascertain what user need you are not meeting. Assuming why they are failing and trying to solve for that usually turns out to be a lot of effort for little gain (in my experience at least).

Once you go through all of that and you think everything should actually be working, then you might choose to show an example so the user knows what you are looking for. That will at least give them some guidance on what to submit.

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That's a lot of questions to think about. Thanks a lot! I agree with a lot of the points. –  trigun0x2 Jul 10 '13 at 18:05
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Are you basically asking how to popularize your website ;)

Key rule:

Lessen no. of clicks, users get away with more clicks. Index more information and show users more customized information. It seems like today's market is driving towards that change!

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  • Check usability of your form
  • Make starting points – ask your friends to share several ideas, don't meet a user with the empty list of ideas
  • Use social networks integration tools – sharing information with friends is more likely social network feature. Try to provide social network sharing in facebook, etc.
  • Motivate users – it could be some real or virtual incentives which engage users
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So do you think the page should start off with a sample idea? –  trigun0x2 Jul 2 '13 at 15:15
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Yes, I think so. These ideas are not only the samples, but it's live feature demonstration and possible source of inspiration for the users. –  Alexey Kolchenko Jul 2 '13 at 16:03
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have you considered gamifying the process?

set up a system whereby people are able to amass points and / or badges by making suggestions. this can get complicated, as you can award further points for ideas being shared by other people, or for votes for and against, and also you need to minimise the ability to cheat, but, people like to feel they have been rewarded for sharing good content and they also like to feel they have earned something through merit

this powerful concept runs through many social websites, facebook likes, diggs, retweets etc. but this link is one of my favourites for demonstrating this power

http://www.thefuntheory.com/

another more simple solution would be to use suggestive graphics and buttons, for example, when a user signs in there could be a clear button called 'post your first idea' that would lead straight through to the form. this button could remain on screen next to a 'welcome' or 'you are logged in '. the button can then change, perhaps saying 'your last idea was liked by 5 people, why not post another?'. Another way to look at this would be to ask the question 'how visible is your form?' can people find it easily?

sites like linkedin do this: 'your profile is x% complete' then a link; the encouragement is always there to act

you might also want to have an activity stream too, so one person can see what their friends have done immediately on login and can click through to see the ideas posted

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Since you are dealing with travel ideas, a good way would be to put it up for vote. For example, when the user opens a page, on the side you keep a multiple choice question about which the user thinks is a better travel location and you provide some options along with an area for comments. Once the user gives a vote, you show a message box asking the user if he would like to leave a comment.

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Posting content is an investment of energy with no personal payoff. You will likely need something much stronger than simple enticements and clarification (gamification, sample answers, optimized posting process) to get people over the threshold.

Look at sites which have managed to generate a steady flow of user content: Wikipedia, Stack Exchange, TripAdvisor, Yelp.

I can distill the following rules:

  • You don't own the content. If your users make the content, they own it. The minute you try to profit off it (anything beyond covering your hosting costs), you risk losing your users. They'll copy your site mechanisms and cut you out of the loop.
  • Something needs to be wrong. There needs to be something erroneous or something missing that the user feels she can fix. This can be a typo in a Wikipedia article, or a question on SE to which none of the answers are complete. This is the kind of situation where a user will suddenly feel like she can make a meaningful change and be spurred into action. If everything is fine as it is, or the problem is ill-defined and amorphous, the users won't bother.
  • The problem and the solution need to be close together. Once you've got the user thinking about what's wrong and how to fix it, step one needs to be in the locus of a attention. The edit button or submission form needs to be right there, not six pages away.
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Not sure what your form looks like, but posting should be as simple as possible with the least amount of info needed to post. Facebook and even Tumblr has a pretty good handle on this.

I agree with Alexey that there doesn't seem to be any starting points or motivation to post.

I believe you need some kind of conversation starter, either suggest location based on interests or worldwide events that are taking place. At least this way, there's more of a topic to discuss other than, "I want to go to Japan."

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Is there a reward system in place? Use something like the reputation system at StackExchange, ie numerical scores or levels that are obvious and comparable among users, to encourage posting. Maybe offer real rewards down the line for people who add x amount of content.

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