5 Methods for a User Friendly Forum
A user friendly forum is crucial for having an active and successful forum community. You need to make sure your forum is as user friendly as it can be because the less friendly it is to visitors and members; the less likely they will want to be active on your forum. In this article, I will show you 5 methods which I think are a few of the most important ways to keep a forum user friendly. If you implement these methods on your forum, I feel that an active and successful forum community will be in your future.
Speed is important in this day and age because of how fast the internet is. In the old days of dialup, websites could get away with slow servers because most of the time, everyone had slow internet that took a while to load websites any ways. Nowadays, everyone has lightning fast internet speeds and they don't want to wait around for a website to load. Most of the time, a slow site is from servers that are hosting on free hosting services or over sellers. You often get what you pay for so if you have free hosting and the server is extremely slow, how can you even complain about it? I mean you are not losing any money because of it. You also need to take others things in account for slowness as well including third-party modifications that could be causing it or enabled AJAX or something like that which could be outputting issues on a user's end. When creating a forum and running one, you should always keep speed in mind and always look for ways to increase the server's speed even if it means upgrading to a VPS or dedicated server.
The boards play a big role in the forum being user friendly or not. If a guest visits your forum and sees a lot of categories and boards with a lot of inactive areas, they will likely not waste their time on your forum. The more boards you have, the more inactive your forum will look unless you are able to keep each board EXTREMELY active every day. I always suggest having fewer boards. Then you can have more posts in them and THAT will make the forum seem way more active. Plus it's confusing to have to go on a wild goose chase looking for the correct board to post it and if they have to scroll down too far, their heads may explode in the process. A new or not as active forum should have no more than 6 to 8 board's total (that the public can see). You also need to make sure your boards are well named and that they have a good description. Think as a guest looking for something; now look at your board names and their descriptions, would they be easy to understand in the eyes of a guest?
The theme you select can be the maker or breaker of your forum from the get go. If you go with a theme that is hard on the eyes or hard to navigate with, then people will likely not use your forum. You need to make sure that the theme is good looking and unique but you also need to make sure it doesn't hurt anyone's eyes and content can be read clearly on it. I would stay away from extremely bright colors as well as extremely dark themes pending your forum's niche of course. One of the best things to do is to visit other popular forums within your niche and check out their themes. Now you don't want to copy their theme exactly because that isn't very unique or ethical at that, but you can still use the themes of examples on how good they are for users and how easy on the eyes they are. A simple but unique theme is the best theme for a forum from my experience.
You need to make sure there is plenty of help on your forum. You need to be fast about answering support questions and suggestions from other members. When a member reports an issue, they are usually awaiting the resolution and the faster you are about giving it, the happier they will likely become. It's a good practice to put members before yourself and before your forum because it's the members who will make your forum active and successful. You also need to make sure to put pinned and sticky topics where they need to be put such as how to request support and what to include in the request and so on. I also recommend a help page that has FAQ or information to help guide a new member on how to use a message forum. Who knows, your forum may be their first forum and they may fall in love with it and become one of the most active members on it all because you were extremely helpful to them!
The description of your forum is very important. You need to make sure that a user's first impression of the forum is a good first impression and that they know what the forum is about. I suggest doing this in a very simple way simply by having a slogan under your logo or something like that. I have an about us statement in my logo which I think is perfect for this forum's niche. However, a simple short sentence slogan will also work to as long as it tells the visitor what the forum is about. If they visit the forum and cannot figure out what it is about, why should they even join in the first place? Usually you can overcome this by having a good domain name, logo and slogan or about us statement close to the top of the forum. I also like to add a short description of the forum on the guest statement asking visitors to register or login.
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