Lead Generation | How Apple.com’s buyer communities turn classic call to action on its ear

One of the things I like most about Apple.com is its subtlety. The times when you are out there minding your own business and end up stumbling across something that’s more than the sum of its parts. Apple.com’s buyer communities are a great example.

2011 Online Communities

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of organizations engage in online communities operated by companies that sell them computer hardware, software and services. That means you need to pay attention to your communities. And this report is a great place to start.

Online Registration | Dell’s community registration knows how to show new members the ropes

Dell.com’s registration hints and help are good practices worth a closer look. This module delivers clear instructions about how to create a new Dell account — and a well-placed link to a nicely crafted registration “how to” guide.

Design & Navigation | Apple.com’s product support pages make finding information as easy as 1-2-3

Apple.com is the master of the details that other sites either miss or deliberately ignore. Here’s four important details that should be on every support team’s design list.

Current Conventions | Norton.com and CA.com show how current support design conventions work – and don’t work.

Getting support users to the resources they want is always a challenge. Some sites try to solve it with a blizzard of links. Others — like CA.com and Norton.com — use the KISS principle. Turns out both of them have some important things to learn.

Usability | How attention to detail gives Norton’s communities the usability crown–and hands McAfee’s their head

When it comes to audience communities, Symantec Norton is four leaps ahead of McAfee.com in both usability and available resources.

Architecture | Inconsistency kills IBM’s community content & usability

IBM’s “Communities” zone may host the largest number of communities — and be pushing the boundaries of “true” community content through member-defined navigation — but at the end of the day, it all comes down to conventions, expectations, and a lack of standards.

Navigation | Dell’s navigation keeps communities out of the ditch

Providing persistent navigation is a challenge for most community operators. Dell.com provides a peek into a persistent navigational approach that allows visitors to quickly migrate to other zones on the site.

Online Communities Q&A | Success Factors & Mistakes to Avoid

In this Executive Brief, the study’s manager, Kenna Dian, identifies four ways to achieve success and some important mistakes to avoid.

Support forums | Why silence speaks louder than words

It is best to have public support forums that are positioned as a way for customers to help the company build better products — and encourage communities — than to create a deafening silence that allows prospects to fill in the wrong blanks. This, of course, leads one (or at least me) to ponder why a company would hide its forums behind the proverbial firewall when the industry convention is to allow visitors to freely peruse support forum entries.