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What’s in a Visitors Center?

Once you’ve invited someone into your Visitors Center, what might they find there? Some or all of the following:

  • Frequently asked questions and press releases

  • A guided tour

  • A letter from the founder

  • Membership requirements

  • A site map and a search function

  • Backgrounders and white papers

  • Your mission statement and backstory

  • An overview of features, with instructions for beginners

  • Policies and guidelines for participating in the community

Which elements you include depends on the depth and breadth of your community, and on the types of visitors you’re likely to see. If, for example, you’re running a narrowly focused community for Open Source enthusiasts like Slashdot, your Visitors Center might consist of a brief welcome message and a single FAQ (see Figure 3). By contrast, eBay’s center includes an extensive collection of FAQs and instructions, appropriate for a community with broad appeal and a variety of features.

Figure 3

Slashdot (“News for Nerds”), targeted at Internet sophisticates, covers the Open Source movement. Although it has no “Visitors Center” per se, there’s an ever-evolving FAQ, written in a humorous, no-nonsense tone. It offers no welcome message, and instructions are minimal, which suits Slashdot’s audience of geeks and hackers who like to figure things out for themselves. Slashdot also includes an “About Us” page, which briefly lists who’s behind the site, and a link to the founder’s home page.

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