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By Perry Eising in Opinions & Insights

Celebrating one year of Netlify Community forums

Happy Birthday, Netlify Community! 🎂

In April, the Netlify forums turned one year old, and we can hardly imagine a time before they existed. It’s been a busy and exciting year, and we have a lot to celebrate! From picking the right platform to building a community to changing our culture, here are some key takeaways from one year of running a support forum for Netlify.

Prior to creating a public support forum, we built a word class support team, but we still knew there was potential in allowing 900K+ developers to share approaches and knowledge in the open. This approach also allows our team to understand how customers use our software, and helps us understand how we can create even better products.

Hence the idea for a public support community was born!

a collection of open faced books

In April 2019 we debuted Community to the public, and we have seen the number of people who access help through our forums skyrocket over the past year.

  • our daily count of posts from customers seeking answers and information has increased tenfold over the past year!
  • our signups, daily active users, and other markers of activity have all increased dramatically!
  • our quarterly pageviews have increased by a staggering 70% from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020!

We certainly feel like that is reason to celebrate 🎉

round cake with candles and "happy birthday" sign

Are you considering starting your own Support Community? Here are some things that worked for us.

  • Picking the right platform got us out of the gate.

As detailed in this blog post on picking the right software platform, we spent a long time thinking about our needs – at some point, we even had an ultra-wide spreadsheet detailing everything we knew we wanted: tags for topics, SSO integration, a reliable system for moderation, and the ability to leave private notes for staff members were some of them. While our process to evaluate a variety of different platforms felt lengthy, we ultimately chose the right platform for our needs. We’re glad we took the time to thoroughly anticipate what kind of capabilities we would need one year out. Even if our growth continues to increase the way it has, Discourse is a good platform for us.

  • Intentionally creating an inclusive and collaborative culture has been instrumental for our success.

Despite the massive influx of participants and posts, we have largely been able to retain the positive atmosphere that makes Community a great place to ask (and answer) questions. We set out to build an inclusive and welcoming space for technologists of all backgrounds and experience levels, and it has served us and our customer base well.

Not everyone agrees on everything all the time, of course. But we have been able to create a culture of positive encouragement, where people routinely thank each other for the assistance they receive. As Support Engineers, we try and be as transparent, honest and accountable to our customers as we can, even when that means admitting we don’t have an immediate fix for a sticky problem. We’re excited to see our style has resonated with the folks who come to Community for answers and help!

  • Custom tooling allowed us to take it to the next level.

Over the past year, we were also busy building custom tooling that allows us to automate some of the actions we perform in Community. As the amount of people and posts increased, having ways to efficiently assist customers with automatically applied tags, custom staff action buttons, and prepared content has allowed us to scale our capabilities. Slack integrations, and even some natural language processing to show relevant Community posts to our customers on our Support page also make it easier for customers to find quality answers quickly and easily.

  • Building Community into our company culture surfaces valuable information – for everyone.

When we welcome a new staff member to Netlify, one of the first things they do, regardless of role, is get credentials for Community so they can see how we work with our customers first hand. Making our forums central to how we engage with our customers has worked well for us. Not only do we use Community to answer questions, solve problems, and release information about new products and fixes, also see Community as a valuable source of information for the Netlify product and engineering teams! Bug reports and issues, but also feature requests and discussions happen in our forums, and we actively encourage conversation about how to use our tooling in creative ways. Engineers and other staff are active in Community, and that’s not an accident: we have intentionally curated a culture of collaboration between the support team, the wider company, and the community of technologists who use our products.

I’m incredibly proud of what we have been able to accomplish in a short time, and I look forward to the next year. We’ll be working towards ways to help motivate our savvy community members to help answer questions through a program we are calling the Netlify Community Pilots, as well as streamlining processes for feature requests, beta testing, and other product improvements.

We’ll also be creating more useful content in the form of Support Guides, and finding ways to make it even easier to fix problems if they occur.

I can’t wait to see what we’ll be able to accomplish this year – and I’m excited we get to do it together. See you in the Community!