We’ll be sitting down with many of our amazing Swarm 2019 speakers in the lead up to the event, to introduce you to their work and perspectives, and to hear what they have to say about the current state of online community management practice.

First up we chat to long-time Swarm community member and New Zealand community icon, Hawk.

Hawk is currently VP of Community for awesome community software company Discourse. Before she started her career in online community, she was a User Experience and design practitioner, which gives her unique insights into the challenges of designing digital platforms for community experiences.

At Swarm this year she’ll be offering practical tips and insights for designing great community experience – even when you have limited control over the platforms you’re working with.

How do you define community experience (the other CX)?

It’s important not to define any experience too tightly because every community and every member (and potential member) is different.

As a general concept, UX is simply the process that designers use to create products that deliver a relevant experience to their users.

As an extension of that, Community Experience could be defined as an experience that brings members together in a symbiotic way to satisfy a need.

The ultimate aim of any digital user experience is to increase goal conversion, so where CX differs is what those goals are and how they are met.

What do you think most popular community platforms still get wrong?

Inflexibility – and that can be evident in a number of ways.

It might be a long development lifecycle, meaning that it takes months to years to roll out requested features.

It might be rigid design that isn’t empathetic to users and therefore forces many or all of your members to have compromised experiences.

Or it might be a solution that can do what you need but only if you jump through hoops that weren’t explained when you signed up.

In short, anything that traps Community Managers into a situation where they are receiving ongoing feedback about something that they are unable to act upon.

What’s your favourite community right now and why?

I have two. We’re in the process of planning a family holiday for next year and I’ve spent many, many hours getting lost in community.atlasobscura.com.

It’s beautifully designed, easy to navigate, fully of handy tips and it constantly reminds me of just how much of the world I still haven’t seen.

The other one I’ve been enjoying is community.naturephotographers.network/latest – and this one is purely for the content.

Click into the landscape or wildlife critique sections and you too will become an addict.

What do you consider the most exciting thing about the community management space today?

I love the huge shift away from the focus on engagement metrics that we’ve seen in the last few years.

It has given community practitioners the freedom to really think about the experience that they are delivering for their members and how that impacts on the community itself, and on the business that it serves.

I’m also enjoying the maturity that we’re seeing in the industry. We’ve had enough time to define what community management is and to start to carve a niche for ourselves within the wider business spectrum.

Those two concepts are pretty tightly interwoven. Our deeper understanding of what a community can achieve for an organisation has given us the confidence to step up and be heard.

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now that all community professionals should read/watch/listen to?

This year I have made an active effort to step away from reading/watching/listening to work-related material.

I’ve been working remotely for over 10 years now and I’ve learned that self-care for me means getting lost in a book that is frivolous and doesn’t make me think.

So along those lines, I’d recommend reading anything by Mary Beth Keane. She writes amazing historically accurate fiction. I’m currently learning about the early typhoid outbreaks in New York.

Why should community peeps come to Swarm?

Because (a) there aren’t enough opportunities to connect with other practitioners in this space down here at the bottom of the world and (b) we have a responsibility to educate the next generation of community professionals. I do some of my best educating over several beers.

Don’t miss Hawk at Swarm 2019 this August, where she’ll break down UX and design tips for creating communities that work.