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Successful forum/messageboard structures





Ankhanu
I have a forum hosted with Zetaboard; I've been running the forum for a good number of years now, but it's remained fairly inactive. I'm looking to revitalize it somewhat.

My question to you, good people of FriHost is simple - Are there any forums you frequent that you think are well structured, where the way they're organized encourages you to participate?
I'm not looking for the content of the forum, but the way that the forum is structured, forum/subforum/whatever... the content is immaterial. I'm looking for something that balances active use, finding new material and finding existing material that may not have updated recently.

If you could provide links to the forums with structures you like the most so I can see how they're formed, it would be appreciated. I plan to take a look at those structures and synthesize what makes them work to hopefully encourage more use of mine.

Cheers.
truespeed
I think the activity or lack of it end up defining the structure.

on my forum the structure has changed over many years as I either removed or merged categories that didnt get much traffic or posts.

I don't think there is really a scientific approach as every forum is different. some I feel have too many categories,like frihost which has far to many inactive ones. which really should be merged.

In conclusion,successful forums are defined by their users as they evolve over time leaving behind the categories and the structure the users demand.
Ankhanu
This is true...
So, what would you suggest as a format that works for encouraging activity?
deanhills
I like myBB structure as it's easy to modify and expand, and Truespeed is correct. Usually what works best is something that can expand all of the time. Is appealing and user friendly.

The more successful Forums I've worked in have been the dynamic ones where there was an owner continuously making changes to adjust to the discussions, remove categories that don't work any longer, merge existing or add new ones. Simple is best.

What is helpful too is to have a feed of the most popular threads running in an easy to access place, without interfering with the forums. Maybe at the bottom of the page. And to have something that would automatically link them to other related threads when one clicks on them.

Easy navigation would probably be near top of the list. And to always have more than one directly relevant link to the topic under discussion at the bottom of the page. But links that make a 100% quality sense and would hold attention rather than being irritated for them being there and then navigate away.

Below is an example that works well for me structure wise (ignore content). The scrolling works well and makes the forum easy to scan through. Categories stand out and are easy to eye ball:
http://www.itukforum.co.uk/

I don't like FULL horizontal width forums. They're stretching too far horizontally. Need some space on the sides. So the above design works well for me.
cybersa
I like this IPS forum structure
http://www.ipsfocus.com/premade/subway/index.php

From my point of view daily post some content according to your niche,then you can make your forum active.
truespeed
deanhills wrote:


Below is an example that works well for me structure wise (ignore content). The scrolling works well and makes the forum easy to scan through. Categories stand out and are easy to eye ball:
http://www.itukforum.co.uk/



I don't like that one at all,the colour mainly,I don't like forums with black backgrounds and white text. Also I don't like background images behind the forum itself. But it seems to be doing quite well so it's obviously something suited to its users.

The structure seems to follow one that most forums use,with the introductions and feedback at the top.

My forum does this,but I also have general chat up there too.


deanhills wrote:

I don't like FULL horizontal width forums. They're stretching too far horizontally. Need some space on the sides. So the above design works well for me.


When phpbb updated it had a fixed width forum with lots of white space either side. My users didn't like it so I made it full width.

Ankhanu wrote:
This is true...
So, what would you suggest as a format that works for encouraging activity?


I don't think structure really comes into it. I think having a topic that people are interested in enough to want to discuss is what makes a forum active.

I can't see your forum as the link doesn't work,so I can't comment on it,either the structure or the content.
Ankhanu
Thanks for the feedback so far. I'm digesting it Smile
I don't really have an introductions section, partially because I don't tend to look at them for long as a forum user. I put the feedback near the bottom, intending to keep the interesting content up at the top where it can be accessed without scrolling.

truespeed wrote:
Ankhanu wrote:
This is true...
So, what would you suggest as a format that works for encouraging activity?


I don't think structure really comes into it. I think having a topic that people are interested in enough to want to discuss is what makes a forum active.

I can't see your forum as the link doesn't work,so I can't comment on it,either the structure or the content.

Yeah, the link there is using my domain, which is running through my Frih account... seems Server 1 isn't the only one having issues right now, as my site on Server 2 is also having issues.
The actual URL for the forum is http://z6.invisionfree.com/Hotaru_no_Hishou/ if you want to poke around.

I wouldn't really think that structure would come into THAT heavily, neither, but I have had complaints about structure from a user (one of the few active users I have)... so I'm looking for something that might work better than what I've done Wink
truespeed
First of all I would like to point out as my comments earlier suggested otherwise,I don't have an introductions section on my forum,I think they are pointless. Smile We do have an introductions thread in the general section,but it isn't stickied or anything as I try to avoid stickies.

My first thought with your forum Ankhanu was that there were too many subforums,I can see why you have them as you want to be organized,and they are viewable on the index so they are easy to find,it's not like you have to click through roleplaying game chat to find the individual games.

But...

Perhaps you could just have big sections,like with "Roleplaying Game Chat" you have six subfoums, you could maybe merge them all into one section,if a particular game takes off then maybe then move those posts into a sub.

eg: Digitalspy Is a very busy forum and its section "TV Shows: Cult, Sci-Fi & Fantasy" is also very busy,but the only programme that got a sub was Doctor Who,as there was a big demand from the users for it as that's what most topics were about.

So in general I think subs should only be added if there is a demand.

Active topics (latest posts) is hard to find,it's usually at the top of forums. It's where people would expect to see it.



One thing I do think would put people off joining is the fact it's a zetaboard and not a properly hosted forum with a .com. I never join forums like that as I know you are subject to zetaboard rules and could lose all your data at a moments notice,something which happened to a celebrity forum I used to go on many years ago,something like 4 years of posts were wiped out as they broke one of their rules.

It wasn't zetaboards,I can't remember which board host it was. With your own domain and hosting you always have back ups. (I know know if zetaboards allows you access to the database to save)



Quote:
(The newest member is Keleth Child of Rhall)
9 Dec 2011,


I think that pretty much says it all. Smile

If it was me,if possible I would transfer all posts to some other forum software,get a domain,and limit the subforums until users demand one.
Ankhanu
Yeah, I've considered migrating from Zetaboard, but, I've been there for a rather long time. Unfortunately, they're their own board format, so I don't think you can import their databases into phpBB, for example. I haven't looked into it in a year or two, though, so perhaps there are some tools to do so now. If it's something that's possible, it may be a good idea to migrate... but I'd see no point in trying to start from scratch again. I've had my board there since around '06, there would be a lot of loss, and starting a new community with enough content to be useful would be more trouble than it'd be worth, especially in these waning days of forums.

The subforums thing is kind of the issue that my friend brought up. I set them up to better access the existing information; I found myself spending a lot of time scrolling and clicking back through history to try and find threads with content I wanted to access (forum search functions are almost universally useless). With the subdivisions it is MUCH easier to find existing content. My friend agrees that the structure I have now is logical and useful in that respect... but he argues that it doesn't promote active content.
The forum wasn't as subdivided until a couple years ago... it was already essentially dead at that point, though, so that didn't contribute much to inactivity (unless it's reinforcing inactivity).

I do have my domain name pointing to the forum (forum.ankhanupress.com), but FriHost is my name server, and isn't working at the moment. The domain does make it easier for people to remember where to find it... when Frih is working Razz
Ankhanu
truespeed wrote:
Quote:
(The newest member is Keleth Child of Rhall)
9 Dec 2011,


I think that pretty much says it all. Smile

While your point is valid, that activity and new member acquisition is slow, it should be noted that those are two separate entries. The date is not associated with the newest member, the date is when the forum was most active.
-- Keleth Child of Rhall - Member #110, Joined: October 25, 2014
-- 9 Dec 2011, 15:43, a record 86 users were online.
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