When we first start, it’s going to be very important to find ways to express to our new members: what it is; how they can be involved; and the limits to our capacity to help them with specific problems. I’ve already mentioned that we need a strategy for how we handle the casework aspect of this, but we similarly need a plan for how we welcome members, how we set their expectations and how we engage and develop their involvement in the union. Many unions have a “welcome pack” they send out to new members but I think we need something more immediate and engaging.
If you use the web or particularly phone/tablet apps then you’ll be familiar with a design solution to this kind of problem called onboarding (neologism ahoy!).
Onboarding refers to a range of different ways that users are introduced to the key features and ways of using the application or website. Apps and websites that diverge further from the familiar patterns and ways of doing things often find it particularly important to make an effort to educate the user. A renters union is a similarly unfamiliar concept to most of our potential members so some form of onboarding seems a good idea.
For some designers, having to use onboarding processes reflects a failure in the design of the product as they show that it is not well designed enough that its use is obvious or discoverable without help. However, onboarding can also be used very effectively to convert a one-time or casual user into a more active user and this is definitely something we will be striving to do for our new members.
Here are a couple of examples of how an adapted version of onboarding could help us:
A membership process that introduces the organisation
Imagine a membership process that, as well as getting the necessary information for the person also uses those questions to introduce the broader purpose and network of the organisation.
For example, when asked for their address the user could be told that three other members have previously lived in that property, or that there are 10 other members on the street, or that their neighbours are involved in a campaign at the moment.
Joining could be presented as a two-way activity, we learn about the person and the person learns about us which would help establish the member in their immediate network and reinforce their choice.
Early connection and action
Once joined, we want to encourage active engagement, with the expectation (or hope) that this will continue in the longer term. To do this, we could offer a number of quick and easy ways to get involved in ongoing campaigns, democracy and in their local network.
For example, on signing up they could be immediately asked for their opinion on current campaign and once they’ve offered it they could be told a few ways that they can contribute right away to it.
As well as demonstrating an immediate focus on action, this type of onboarding activity could also – more subtly – introduce to them other principles and ways of working of the organisation such as its openness to all views, its typical methods and its campaigning priorities.
There is no reason why this same process couldn’t be available when we recruit in person as well as on-line because we can’t assume people will just come to our website.
As with anything, less is more and we don’t want to drift into the patronising, the needy or the creepy. Instead, onboarding is all about being friendly and welcoming and ensuring people feel they are part of a movement:
He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people! It is people! It is people!