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Five User Experience Lessons from Usability Testing Jive Social Business Platform

Posted @ 8:35 am by Kristin Zibell | Category: Community & Social Media, SolutionSet, User Experience | 0 Comments

Concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies.” —  Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

SolutionSet works with Fortune 500 companies to design their online communities and social business sites. These sites range from thousands to millions of pages, interactions, tasks and states. Rather than build these complex applications from scratch, SolutionSet is a preferred professional services vendor of Jive Software, the leading social business platform. We work with clients to develop and customize the platform to meet their business and user needs. Recently, SolutionSet engaged with a client on a large-scale redesign project to fix navigational and usability issues of their private community. The approach was to identify key usability issues and design user interfaces and navigation to solve them. The designs were then validated with remote and face to face usability testing on low and high-fidelity prototypes. This post showcases the five lessons that our team learned about user experience on Jive and communities from this iterative design process.

User and Task Analysis is a Very Necessary First Step

Typically in development work, thinking about the user comes into play during functional requirements and use cases. These are key deliverables, but they may miss the mark on a good user experience. Typically use cases and requirements focus on how a user can use the system, not how they want to use system. Interviewing users to identify their wants and needs of the business and social community will allow the user experience team to design to their key tasks that the system and community can support. For example, creating a custom Jive widget with links and functionality that support these key tasks and placing it in a priority position — like top left  — will help the user complete those tasks on the community site.

Have One Home Page

Jive offers two versions of a home page: an “All Content” page that is customizable by the business and a user dashboard that a user can customize. The latter is hidden behind a tab. In usability tests and a community audit, we found that once users login to a social site, they expect one home page personalized to them. However, since this is hidden in Jive by default, they typically did not access the user-customized dashboard unless directed to do so. On this project and others, we’ve found that it is confusing for users to have multiple home pages and the choices on the All Content page were overwhelming. Upon login, there is no need for a second, generic home page. The concept of Home is a failsafe for online users —  it’s an easily learnable “place” they know to always go to find “their” content or an exit if they cannot find their way through the site. It is worth considering having one home page for the user with core navigation that shows information most important to the user.

Give the User a Starting Place

Jive is incredibly robust and offers many widgets for user functionality and content. It can also be tempting for a business to fill all available space with these widgets. We have found that the more widgets on the home page, the more confusing it is for the users. The world’s most famous web page,, has one starting place for the user —  a search box. Users desire this focus and will look for direction. Otherwise, we found users feel very overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. Their impressions of the page were typically, “too cluttered” and “too much going on.” It’s a design balance to ensure the page meets the business goals, shows the breadth of the site, and focuses the users on key tasks.

A Social Community is Like a Neighborhood BBQ

In a community review for this project and others, we found that users typically browsed community sites to see if they find information of value and then engage. In observing this behavior and interviewing users, the analogy to a neighborhood BBQ applies  —  one attends, sees what’s going on and who’s there, and then decides to converse and stay.  It’s important for a community to be a good host and show the value of the site before demanding interaction. Community sites can do this by sending emails on topics relevant to user to incite action, curating to provide useful information, and showing valuable and related information on home and main pages. It’s the responsibility of the community business owners to find out what information is valuable immediately, but over time the community members will curate the content. Allowing users to rate content and interaction as helpful or not will ensure that the most valuable is surfaced.

Not Everyone Speaks Jive

Jive uses terminology like spaces, subspaces, places, projects, and documents. We found in the usability tests, community reviews, and interviews that users typically didn’t understand these Jive concepts. The users typically look for a subject or topic that means something to their world and the company. A link or heading called “Spaces” doesn’t mean anything. We saw users scan pages for key words that indicate they are on the right path to solving their problem or discovering a new idea. Communities need to facilitate that by showcasing links in the users’ terminology and not the platform’s.


The user-centered iterative design process for this client illuminated specific user behavior and validated and refuted assumption. Overall, the community design met the user needs and continues to be refined based on feedback. With this project and others, SolutionSet is dedicated to delivering excellent user experiences on the Jive platform.

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