Friday, October 22, 2010

Talking Out Loud About Making Uncharted Better for Explorers

NOTE: Bear with me if you've heard all you ever wanted to hear about Uncharted. I'm just thinking aloud here, trying to figure out what we can do to make our site more attractive to people who want to post their stories and photos. We've got some challenges to overcome.

Challenge: We've got a website – Uncharted – where the key to growth lies not only in getting eyeballs to the site but getting the brains connected to those eyeballs contributing to the site.

Reasons for folks not making contributions vary from situation to situation. The most likely scenarios:
  • People are just busy
  • They're following us on Facebook, or made a profile at Uncharted, because they're friends or acquaintances with us, but that's as far as it goes
  • Our interface makes it cumbersome or time-consuming to submit content
  • They're intimidated by what's already on the site
  • They're not aware they, too, can contribute.
This little plan is being concocted to see what we can do better to surmount the final two obstacles, while other plans are being developed to tackle other challenges, including those not listed in this plan.

So, what do we have on the site right now that invites people to contribute?


The SHARE tab and the Register link appear on our home page. Given the color scheme and location, SHARE is more prominent. To share, however, one must log in, or, if one is not yet an Explorer, one must register.

This is what a potential explorer sees when he or she clicks on the share tab without registering or logging in first:

Okay, the invitation is there. But what are the benefits? What does a potential Explorer get by registering? We don't explain that. More on that later.

We do offer lots of enticement. Here's a banner that also offers an invitation:

We've got another one that's similar, but you get the idea.

It's somewhat of a crapshoot to know where to click. Parts of the image are clickable, others are not. Clicking on either gets you to the following page:

Cool. An invitation that asks them to sign up.

But what are the benefits? Again, I'm not sure we're communicating those benefits. We know them. Perhaps we take them for granted. But we can't do that. Our Explorers don't know the benefits as we see them.

(An aside: I think we need to revise the Terms of Service. But more on that later.)

Here's another invitation we offer, in the form of a slide on the home page (again, it's hit and miss as to where one has to click on the image to go anywhere):

Click here, and you go to this page:

Here, you get to see what a story and photoset look like. Kinda nifty, isn't it? We do better on the invitation, but there's something lacking – we don't tell them where to go to sign up (we should) and we don't tell them what the benefits of being a member are.

Oh, we give them hints. Like this:

That looks cool. But what is it? Again, maybe it's obvious to us. But is it obvious to a non-inducted servant of Alan the Sith Lord what this means? We don't explain it. I'm glad it's there – but we need to do a better job explaining what the benefits are, why people should become Explorers, before we can expect to see them join.

So, what are the benefits? We must eludicate, and communicate them on the site so people will know why we want them to sign up so badly. Here are a few examples:

  • Planning a trip to Planet X? Maybe someone at Uncharted has been there before you and can show you photos or let you know if it's a place where you can take your kids, for example, or if it's even worth the trouble
  • Not only do you get their words and photos, but if you become a friend with them and communicate with Uncharted's email, you're automatically connected with a kindred spirit who might pass on some other tips he or she didn't share online yet
  • Like to write or shoot photos? Here's a place to show your stuff off with other people doing exactly the same thing. Sure, you can post your stuff on Facebook for your friends to ignore
  • Maybe you want some help learning how to shoot better photos, or write a snappier story. Uncharted touts itself as a place where amateurs and professionals get together and help each other out. Except we don't advertise that. More on how to fix that later
  • If we like your stuff, we'll brag about it for you on Twitter, Facebook, et cetera
  • Maybe we'll send a little bit of Uncharted swag your way because you signed up and posted your first photoset or story, and because we like you
  • And many, many other advantages
  • More importantly, what do our Explorers see as the advantages?
Where can we communicate them? I see several opportunities:
  • Staff page, where we share a set of photos of our current Explorers, quoting from them why they like Uncharted. We can talk about why it's a great place all we want, but until potential Explorers hear it from current Explorers, it's not as powerful
  • Blog, where we can do the same
  • Facebook, where we can do the same
What needs to be there?
  • Short, sweet testimonials
  • An invitation
  • An immediate opportunity to follow up on that invitation by signing up and submitting a story or photo
  • An explanation of the “behind the scenes” at Uncharted, including a tour of a typical explorer's page (possibly in a video or, given our tech limitations, a slide show; an example, in a slide show, of what happens when one of the Sith Lords at Uncharted decides an Explorer contribution is worthy of being featured on the home page.
In the preceding list, we see where we have our Explorers tell why they like Uncharted, where we explain our processes – at the same time giving them a taste of the amateur/professional mix, but said in friendlier terms so they're not intimidated, and examples of what others have done on the site.

I guess what I'm getting at is that we can't just assume that because the site is there, potential Explorers will explore the site and figure out the process and advantages by osmosis. We need to tell them. Honestly, succinctly, and firmly.

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