UI: Sitehome and User Engagement

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2010 Work



Sitehome has been identified as an important central hub for crabgrass sites, and the feeling is that we should be implementing sitehome as a standard feature for crabgrass. UNICEF sites that have a sitehome have found the area chaotic and lacking focus, and new user confusion regarding what they can and should do has been reported.

There is great potential however for turning sitehome into an active information portal providing users wide ranging access to the groups, networks and information in the sites.


Sitehome – an improved sitehome as site “hub” that aggregates featured pages from both admins (and for phase 2 – users):

  • should broaden your horizons, tell you about content you are not watching
  • feature groups, pages
  • feature conferences
  • feature content that is handpicked. Regular users cannot automatically “share” to sitehome, but rating would play more of a role in future phases.
  • The basics will be to stream line sitehome and make clear the “things to do”

Phase One

For Phase One we want to use the wiki on site home to highlight the three most important “things to do”

  • Create a Group
  • Find a Group
  • Create a Page

This limits the need for new dev work, while giving us the advantages of highlighting “things to do”, and introducing the new icons for New Users, the Origami Penguins!

You can check out the wiki layout examples here

To view the Phase One wires checkout this pdf bundle.

2009 Work

Over View

We have had a few good conversations and reflections on the state of dev and the use of the site. We have highlighted the difference between users engaging with the community as a whole vs users forming groups to do work. We have talked about sitehome vs the public facing site. We have talked about the new user experience issues. More recently we talked briefly about a country strategy vs a global community strategy. I think the job at hand is to put these thoughts down in a document so we can plan a pragmatic and development strategy that are in sync. I am working on a vision document for development, called the Road to Version 1.0. This will put a stake in the ground for the 1st quarter of 2010 and will serve as the guiding document for core crabgrass development. If we create a UNICEF programmatic vision document at the same time then development goals and programmatic goals can be more closely aligned.

Road Map to Version 1.0

See the document in progress here

Programatic Thoughts and Questions.

Some questions that should be answered. These are not small questions, and they will change and evolve, but they need to be put down somewhere as a reference and as a guide.

  • What is the vision for the sites?
  • What are the goals?
  • Why would people use this site / tool
  • What are activists that UNICEF works with using for online tools now?
  • What are measurable outcomes besides numbers of active users?
  • Based on the goals what is the strategy for youth and youth group engagement?

Proposal 1

Crabgrass is very similar to ning. Like ning, Crabgrass is a tool that allows people to have a social group space. When you go to ning the landing page gives you two very clear choices. 1) create a social network (aka use this tool) 2) Browse and Discover what other people who are using the tool are doing, and maybe join with them. Simple.

That being said we have done development that allows for a global community space to exist on crabgrass. The site. Every user is part of the site. Every group is part of the site. Every user lands on the sitehome. What should they do here? What is the balance between the groupware aspect of crabgrass and the global community space?


The idea for proposal 1 is to keep the sitehome extremely simple and focused. It is a very flexible space so the temptation will always be to do more. Proposal 1 dictates that less is, hmm, whats that expression…

Two things should be made crystal clear to the user when they land on the site home.
1) Things to do: The user is very clearly told what they can do.
2) Highlights: UNICEF highlights certain event based activities.

Things to do


A user should be able to browse groups, people, and content based on locatoin and topc.

  • Our directories are weak. we are working on a phase 1 of the directory rework now. this will consist of the ability to sort by location and will also expose group information in the directory. Currently the only thing that is showing is the name, which makes for a totally uninteresting experience. It is unclear how quickly this can happen, but by mid december we will have at the very least phase 1 implemented. Phase 2 will involve having the ability to browse by topics. At the end of phase 2 a new user will be able to browse groups, people and content by location and by topic.


  • This is ning-like. Users can come to the site and have their own private social / work space. This is the strength of crabgrass in many ways, and programmatic considerations should play to this strength. This section of the site home would link to a info wiki / doc discussing what you can do with a group, what others have done, why its cool, and a big link to “create a group”.
  • This could potentially be part of the bigger “How to be an activist” strategy that unicef is working on. One thing a activist group can do is use online tools.
  • Group focus programing: With directories sortable by location, groups can then be associated with the country that they are in. To me this is preferable to “country groups” because i am unclear what the goal of a country group is. If aready active groups in a country use crabgrass, then browsing by that country will show groups within that country. Groups that already exist in the real world and are doing things could use crabgrass to enhance their efforts. So instead of having a country group you would have a country represented by active groups within the country. Active groups will provide content, examples, and stories of real world activities – failures and successes.


  • new users are told they can create content for others to checkout. (perhaps we should limit the amount of content options linked from the sitehome. This is not a work space, its really a social networking space. so discussion, events, and photos?)
  • Programmatic Highlights: new and returning users are clearly told that there are interesting things going down that they can engage in. see more on this below.

Here is a layout example

Programmatic highlights

This will be the small flexible programmatic component of the site. I think there should be two basic featured discussion types. 1) Currently Active pages. 2) UNICEF can seed a few discussions based on events. So climate week in new york could feature a few discussion about that week. Tread carefully here. The creep will be to feature more and more things. at anyone time there should probably not be more then 5 featured pages.


Hi Daniel,

Thanks a lot for starting this dicussion.
I will try and answer the questions you’ve put down to start the thinking!

What is the vision for the sites?
Sites are supposed to be a center place for youth action on MDG-related issues. It is, 1. the main place of interaction for young people and 2. a complete tool-set that they can use to support their work and make it more efficient.
Sites will at some point in the future merge into the “youth portal” or whatever we choose to call it, to unify all users experience. This will need a lot of thoughts, and a lot of the answers we’ll find here in how to address different audiences with different expectations within a single site will be helpful to shape its vision.

What are the goals?
Goals for us are building youth communities of practice around issues that are as sustainable, youth driven, focused and growing as possible.
Goals for users are to find within these sites, tools, resources and people to help their personal engagement and work on an issue.

Why would people use this site / tool
Answered above.

What are activists that UNICEF works with using for online tools now?
Different types of audiences, mainly differ in terms of 1. level of commitment, 2. Digital literacy, 3. Geographic location (this is less relevant in the general case)

What are measurable outcomes besides numbers of active users?

  1. Number of projects and groups being coordinated through the platform (not a stat, moderator/facilitator needs to be aware of that, it informs on the usage of the site as groupware suite)
  2. Number of users evolving from forum/individual participation to a higher level of commitment (harder to evaluate)

Based on the goals what is the strategy for youth and youth group engagement?

good question:) the answer is very long


Hey Dan,

The actual layout/appearance of those buttons is pretty slick. However, they all prioritize actions that we don’t prioritize on cc.net. Is there a way for us to take advantage of the new appearance/UI while changing the purpose (text and link) of the buttons?

Did you want me to answer these various questions for cc.net or do you feel like I’ve already supplied you with the information that you need in our correspondence?


nate – this is not hard coded – it was done with the wiki and was a suggestion of one way to use sitehome.


to answer cherif’s question about the usability, I created a group: “Cycling to the UN”, for people who work here and ride bikes to have a space to talk to one another.


A few things I encountered while trying to make a group nb: most of these things prob have solutions that I missed, but the fact that i missed them is an interesting data point:

Set up
- I want my group image to be HUGE, but after uploading it, I don’t see it on the group home page I would like to see something the size of a Facebook group image
- also, i want to be able to load hyper-linked videos. I am teased with the video option in the settings but just want to put the url there and nothing else

- i want to make a bunch of categories like ‘locking issues’ ‘routes’ and ‘fun rides’ but i don’t see any way to do that. there looks like there should be a bunch of icons at the top of the wiki but they are all blank.
- the font when I write NYC is weird

- i like that i can add people with email addresses, but would like to be able to add a note so people know what i’m inviting them to

sharing pages:
- i would like to add links to cool pages. is there a way to do that without having to open the wiki?

- want to start a conversation about the best route to work, but when i go to discussions there it says ‘no discussion’ and doesn’t have an obvious place for me to start a conversation

On another note, I don’t see the profile pic I just added.

Just some initial thoughts. would actually like to make this group active on crabgrass once I master the tool a bit more. feel free to use me as a guinea pig!


also, not sure how those hyperlinks above happened?


check out the formatting reference! links in crabgrass happen when you put things in brackets.


Hi Daniel,

Unfortunately I can’t speak to the future of Speak Africa (which is a bit up in the air at the moment due to internal political manoeuvrings) but I can highlight the suggestions I hear most often about the site home.

Main suggestions coming my way:

- The featured video takes up way to much space on the top of the page, and maybe shouldn’t be on the very top at all- is this really the most important thing on the page?

- Too much dead space on the home page- I think we’re going for clean and elegant, but at times it just looks like we don’t know how to format things correctly/don’t have enough content

- The announcements similarly could look a little tighter, and the icon used to represent them resembles the icon used for error messages a bit too much

- The feature content feed/slider is great! And should be up higher on the page! And all of the other tabs should show content in the same format as the featured content

- Just the title and author isn’t enough for most content; it would help to have a few lines of the content to help organize/re-find content previously created

- Mostly positive things about the right sidebar; the same ongoing questions (what does one do upon landing on the homepage) have been mentioned to me frequently as well.

I think that’s mostly it- please feel free to call/pull me aside if you’d like any additional input.



What is the vision for the sites?
Vision? we’re building it for the the youth. we’re building it with the activists in mind. we’re building it for those who are still shy and curious to guide them how to get involved. So what activists need? what curious comers with interest need to get them started? tool set?
It does not answer the question, but having a clear idea who are we building it for is a good start. And make it flexible enough to accommodate unexpected gathering.they will drive it then

What are the goals?
Communities of practice connected to issues of concerned to young people. Encourage collaboration among various groups. Provide and help generate tools, resources and opportunities.

Why would people use this site / tool
If we are building it with the activists in mind, then collaboration with major partners is an incentive. The community houses big existing communities who are big players on the issue. They show the usefulness of particular set of tools incentive for existing activist when collaborating together.

What are activists that UNICEF works with using for online tools now?
varies around the area of computer literacy, connectivity, language true for at least for stopX

What are measurable outcomes besides numbers of active users?
not only economists think that numbers don’t lie. they can tell a good story. projects is a good reference point beginning to end events and groups. let me give me more thought.

Based on the goals what is the strategy for youth and youth group engagement?
still thinking…need more time


I’m trying to reconcile our thoughts etc and one thing that pops up of interest to this dicussion is the segmentation of our audience.

What are the main/major audience segment of our communities and for each of them, what is their interest in the community, and what is an appropriate piece of information that would satisfy them on sitehome.

an example:

  • Forum, low commitment users who have a broad interst in Climate Change / Prominent forum link with highlighted discussions.