Create a Visitors Center
Visitors will arrive in your community with different needs and expectations. Some may have heard about your community from a friend or read about it in a magazine, others might have stumbled across it in a search engine or clicked on a banner ad. Some are looking for information; others are looking for someone to talk to. Some will be searching for a particular item; others will want to explore all the depth and breadth that your community offers.
Although your visitors will find their way to your community by different paths, theyll all be unfamiliar with the local customs and have many unanswered questions. For a first-time visitor, a thriving Web community can seem confusing and overwhelming. To make your visitors feel comfortable, you want to provide a place where they can get their questions answered and learn more about the community.
You can accomplish these goals by creating a Visitors Center that helps visitors learn what they need to know and find what theyre looking for. Dont get hung up on the name; this area might just as easily be called the Welcome Wagon, or even About Us. Whats important is that newcomers can find this area easily, get the information theyre seeking, and leave with a good sense of your community.
In a National Park, the Visitors Center is right up front, marked with big, obvious signs. Similarly, yours should be clearly visible from the front page of your site (or whatever page visitors are likely to go to). For example, the New to eBay link on eBays home page leads to an area that gives an overview of eBay and answers the most common newbie questions (see Figure 2).
eBay provides a prominent button on its home page to lead new users to a page designed especially for them.