SharePoint Online Community Site

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One of the new Site Templates in SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online is the Community Site Template as you can imagine this site is for community style sites and contains Discussions Boards, Badges and Reputation settings.

In this post we will take a look at the Community Site Template and why it could be a great tool in your User Adoption efforts in the future.

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As you can see we have created a Site Collection based on the Community Site template and this is the homepage of that site. We are invited to create discussions and we can see a few stats about the members / discussions and replies of the site.

Given that it is inviting us to Join the community, let’s go ahead and do that and see what happens.

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I was immediately installed as the Top contributor and it took a refresh before I saw there was 1 member. I went on and added another member so we could see how this is all going to work out.

Discussions

It makes sense to go and add a new discussion now, clicking the new discussion button takes us to the following screen;

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I have filled the form in and of course the Ribbon jumps into action in the Body section allowing us to add rich content to the topic.

I also added a few categories and they appeared in the drop down list.

I am interested to see the effect both on the user interface and to the discussion when I click the question checkbox so I have created two topics with the option selected and deselected.

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As you can see the two questions look very similar and there is no obvious indication that either / or are questions. The only time this becomes apparent is when you click the three ellipses … aka the call up menu.

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As you can see filtering by unanswered questions displays the topic that I nominated to be a question, the other topic disappears from this view.

So now let’s take a look at replying to a topic

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In the above screenshot I have replied to the question and also liked the answer as you can see by the little smiley face and I have selected the best reply. Interestingly the best reply marks the question as answered, this is also evident on the homepage as a small tick appears next to the topic.

For those of you that frequent the Technet or MSDN forums you will not be surprised by this functionality as it has been baked into those forums for some time now, however, for those of you coming from the SharePoint 2010 discussion boards, you will be as happy as I am about this added functionality.

Badges and Reputation

The idea of giving Badges and a Reputation score to users is a tried and test method of increasing user adoption as everybody likes kudos for their participation whether it is a sticker when you were at school or a stamp on you Nandos reward card, it’s a little piece of personal satisfaction and in some cases leads to free stuff.

Microsoft have added this to the user forums and whilst the execution leaves a little to be desired, it is still a fantastic addition.

Why do I think it leaves a little to be desired, well let’s take a look at the reputation system first.

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As you can see in the screenshot above, now I have been participating a little in the community, I have been given a 1 star rating, take a look at the settings below and you can see how this all works.

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There are a few more settings that give you the option to display the rating as an image or as a text based level (with the text being configurable). This is great and I like the fact the users to the discussion forums can earn reputation for participating, we know this works as encouragement and it is all automated and out of the box.

So where’s the problem? Let’s take a look at the badge system for a second

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If you head to the members area you can assign badges to the users, again this is great, so I went ahead and assigned the badge “professional” to myself.

Head over back to my topic and see what my profile looks like,

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My reputation has disappeared, the option to assign a badge is also restricted to 1 badge which means I can’t receive different types of badges. Another down fall is when I hover over my reputation I see my replies, best replies etc and now I have a badge I can no longer see this information, the only place to see this is in the Members list

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OK I might be being a little negative about this whole situation and really it is for information purposes as I am really very excited about how this template can be used and it is certainly a step in the right direction.

There are two things I haven’t mentioned the first is the about page which is nicely included to contain the RSS feed and a page which invites you to add details about your community site and any rules. This really rounds the template off well.

I have also not mentioned the Community Site settings which allows you to enable auto-approval for users attempting to join the community and also an option to enable the reporting of offensive content.

Finally, the Community Site template is a great addition to the Site Templates that exist in SharePoint 2013 / Online I hope to see some real world uses of this and I know this can be extended to create a great resource for those businesses that are keen to support their users and increase User Adoption.

Matthew Hughes
The Kinetal IT Team

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