AMERICAN EXPRESS: OPEN FORUM
Reimagining an exclusive business network.
Creating the next OPEN Forum that's more personalized and relevant to busy business owners.
After we redesigned the major content-focused touchpoints on OPEN Forum in 2015 (read about it here), we worked on our next goal — to transform OPEN Forum into a smart platform that revolves around giving users a personalized experience. Our hypothesis is that if we provide a personalized experience for OPEN Forum visitors, it will cause them to return at a higher rate, find the experience valuable enough to become a member, and be more engaged with the site.
Based on the user interviews and market research we did, one of the biggest pain-points small business owners have is the resources they find online tend to be one-size-fits-all. There is no trusted online resource that really understands them as individuals with unique business needs.
Ways of making it work
Knowing that no business owners face the same challenges, we brainstormed with the Amex clients on ways to help business owners get the unique resources they need for their individual situation. We came up with 2 POA concepts that showed the future of OPEN Forum: one concept revolved around personalized, guided learning plans with insights from experts and peers; another concept revolved around a personalized dashboard with at-a-glance business insights and trends.
We put these 2 concepts in front of the stakeholders and our users, they loved both concepts, but much to our surprise, they particularly loved the idea of a community where SBOs can get relevant insights, feedback, and advice from the right connections.
From there, we decided to build on the idea of a community. We defined the OPEN Forum community as the destination for users to:
- Stay up to date on ideas, news, events: With an overload of information, users want to rely on groups to access thought leadership, trends, and information that pertain to their business and personal interests.
- Build an online brand and reputation: Users turn to groups to publish or share their thought leadership pertaining to a certain topic/business need.
- Transition the online connection to offline meet up: Connecting to people via online networks need an offline component to help realize benefits of collaboration, partnerships, etc.
- Collaborate and interact with like-minded peers: Rely on a community of like-minded peers for knowledge sharing and online/offline collaborations.
We decided to test our community idea as our MVP vision as groups are not only a way for SBOs to join a community of like-minded entrepreneurs but also help facilitate SBOs to make meaningful connections with other SBOs, thought leaders, and influencers.
There were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. We wanted to see what is the perfect community size for users, for them to be comfortable asking questions, sharing insights, and making meaningful connections; we wanted to know what the group privacy setting should be, whether it should be public, semi-private, or private; and we wanted to test what the group content should be — would people more likely to interact other users that are in the same industry, in the same location, or with the same specific interest?
After many workshop sessions, we designed the community to be a private group with weekly “Insights” series that help activate the SBO’s business growth through members’ insights, group conversation, and quick polls and surveys to help SBOs get the latest business trends. Each group is hosted by an established business owner that is ready to build their online reputation.
Creating a system that matches users with the right connections
In order to get users the right connections, we created a visual system for each individual user — like having a unique ID — so, at-a-glance, users know who their potential connection is. To make the ID super useful, we came up with a list of data to capture — industry, experience, business size, business stage and eventually their contribution on OPEN Forum — overall, the more we know about the users, the better recommendations we can provide. As users join their group, they will see some quick tips on how the group works — they will also see the Weekly Thought Starter piece posted by the group host each week.
Building a complete ecosystem
To make the OPEN Forum work with the new group concept, we worked on updating the existing user profile. I redesigned the profile page to better showcase each user's information and to provide a much heavier emphasis on people/connections.
I first listed out all the OPEN Forum user types and mapped out all the elements on the profile page. My goal was to create a page that's scalable for users across the platform. I reorganized the content on the page to create a much simpler page architecture.
THE FINAL DESIGNS
Every detail matters
I designed all the micro-interactions to create a fun and seamless experience. Many prototypes were created and shared across the team to showcase the interactions I had in mind. I worked closely with the visual designer and collaborated with the dev team throughout the design exploration process to ensure our vision is coming to life.
OPEN Forum beta Groups launched in June 2016 to a selected number of OPEN Forum members. We are aiming to collect feedback and improve the group experience as groups grow.