Building a community without a community platform/website - Thoughts?

Hey all!

I am a 7y+ web developer and product designer creating practical UX tutorials for indie developers. (see examples)

I am now building my own community of makers that are interested into UX design. I don't have any slack/discord/circle website. Instead I do the following:

  • 1-1 calls to help them individually with 40mins UX advice calls (see example). I've already done 40+ of them.
  • Live-stream session where I coach another maker and design together their product. People can join us via the live-chat. (see example)
  • I use the group Design & UX to help other makers and treat is as if it was my UX sub-community in indiehackers.com

On top of these, I am thinking of more ways to interact with my audience. My goal is to not just sell courses but to build a long-term relationship with the people that trust me and buy my courses. How? By giving them access to me.

The first idea was to use a community platform like Slack but it didn't feel right. A community website should be a solution to a specific problem. It would be stupid to do it because it's just a trend at this moment.

That's why I started by clarifying and understanding the problem that I am trying to solve. I asked some of them and here is what they said:

The problem with member communities I find is that they tend to be quiet. Access to your ideas and feedback for me is the most valuable thing, so outside of that, I don’t know how valuable I’d find other members of a community

This changed they way that I see the idea around community websites. What people want is guidance and advice from me and other experts. They don't care that much about interacting with each other and exchanging design knowledge. Therefore these solutions would make more sense in my case:

  • A Q&A platform where people can ask design questions and I can answer them in an async way. This way we can build as a community a UX knowledge base by helping each other.
  • A weekly design meetup of max 10 people where we do Q&A and design critiques by exchanging feedback.

What do you think about this topic? Is there something that I miss from what a community really is?

  1. 3

    Hey Jim, and hello from a fellow UX designer. Digging what you're doing. Totally agree with @rosiesherry and @momoko. I think theres a big difference between audience (one way) and community (two way) conversation. to me community is always about belonging, trust and resilience – and belonging is all about you belonging to the community, but the community also belonging to you. that means integrating your audience into the community and making them members. Obviously thats a whole other job in addition to creating content and giving guidance, you also have to integrate, introduce and activate people – like momoko says you become the connector. i find it helpful to start with a core group of your members who become part of your facilitation team, and help you activate other members. You might find http://community-canvas.org helpful (disclaimer, im a co-author, but its free). Happy to chat more if you want. (if you haven't seen visualizevalue.com, might be of interest)

    1. 2

      Hey! Thanks a lot for writing that. I totally agree and that's what I actually didn't understand well. The community is not about me helping them but about them helping each other and using me as the connection point.

      Thanks also for the links, I'll check them out 🙌

  2. 2

    Love what you've been doing so far @jimzarkadas!

    I'm sure people love having direct access to you. Depending on what your goals are, you could build a great business this way and help lots of people.

    But eventually you'll run into scaling issues - you can only do so much as one person. I think it could be possible to kickstart a community with the kind of direct access and hustle you're putting in now. You can attract the kinds of members you want and get people engaging the way you want them to engage.

    I've never built a community, so take all this with a grain of salt.

    I recently joined Blogging for Devs, started by @momoko. She's done a great job of this - she only let a small # of people in at first. She seems to answer almost every question that gets posted to kickstart conversation and posts interesting questions herself. And now it's full of smart people that share experiences and give great advice.

    Blogging for Devs uses Circle btw.

    1. 3

      Just wanted to say, so glad you're liking the community Tim :)

      Re: The original question, I'd push back on the idea that people "only want to hear from you", @jimzarkadas.

      Could it be that the kind of people you asked are just really early in their careers and think everyone else is not that smart? Have they never been a part of a successful community before? I mean, no offense, but you surely don't have a 100% perfect perspective on everything! :D

      What I love about the community I'm building is that I'm the connector. I have a mental map of all the people, the tools they use, their experience, and I draw in their expertise to give people many different perspectives.

      Not being "the center" is what community is all about, to me. You attract great people through your content and reputation, but then those great people are, together, providing more value than you ever could alone.

      That's how I think about it at least! Said as someone who's only been doing this a couple months :)

      1. 1

        I mean, no offense, but you surely don't have a 100% perfect perspective on everything! :D"

        That's 100% true and to be honest I don't want to be treated as the mastermind haha (cause I am not)

        Not being "the center" is what community is all about, to me. You attract great people through your content and reputation, but then those great people are, together, providing more value than you ever could alone.

        That's exactly what I missed actually regarding the concept of communities. It's about connecting and helping each other, not just about connecting with me.

        Great feedback and food for thought, thank you a lot for sharing @momoko

        Also @Tjones4413 thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts and experience :) very useful insights to think about as well!

  3. 1

    Hey Jim, I absolutely agree with your observation that communities tend to be quiet.
    I've found WhatsApp groups are quite good because people are constantly notified about activity. (I've created multiple 200+people WA groups for various niches)

    The thing is, you still get lurkers. I built Huddled.io to try and solve some of this, using a technique I discovered while running in-person events - trying to get individuals to communicate directly, not through me.
    I'm hoping Huddled will, over time, be a good companion tool to use with other community-building tools.

    1. 1

      Ah that's also pretty interesting! Similar to getcuppa, and founder's 1-1 match of https://indieworldwide.co - I will keep an eye on it and let you know if I decide to incorporate something like that in my community! Thanks a lot :)

  4. 1

    "A weekly design meetup of max 10 people where we do Q&A and design critiques by exchanging feedback." => that's you community. Stick to events. Events are the vertical column of any community. Community it's about relationship, meaningful relationship. Tools come after. You make it the good way.

    1. 2

      Good one thanks for the tip!

  5. 1

    I like the intention of Q&A, it makes it focused on asking good questions and getting a guaranteed answer.

    Any community will likely have the founder doing the leg work, but I guess having an open mind about where it can lead to is important too. So it might be you at first answering all the questions, but in time maybe others will chip in too. Your goal of having good answers to every question can still be achieved, it just doesn't have to be you.

    I also love small group conversations. As you know, I do these for Rosieland and many of the discussions inspire me to either write or think of interesting conversations to start.

    Also, starting in public is a great way to build a following and help validate your vision.

    1. 1

      Great insights thanks a lot for sharing :)

      I am also a huge fan of small group conversations, this is something to keep in mind for sure!

  6. 1

    Tagging @rosiesherry @anthilemoon @8bit @philipkiely @momoko in case you want to share your two cents from your experience :)

    1. 1

      I'm a massive fan of Circle, and I think it may fit the bill for what you have in mind.

      1. 1

        thanks a lot for sharing I will check it out :)

    2. 1

      honestly, i'm not entirely sure what you're building but i'm keen on seeing it come together! keep going! we need more folks tackling these issues and opportunities!

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