Just my own personal thoughts and ideas based off what seems to be happening with the frihost site design.
Things I notice first is the main page, though better than what it was, is very cluttered and busy looking - there's way too much to look at, and it doesn't resemble a splash page or home page for a forum at ALL - it looks like a corporate information page for executives only, and looks as though the user shouldn't BE there. I think most of that information isn't necessary to users looking to find out what frihost is and what it does. The main page should be basic, with need-to-know information only, and then the extra bits on a secondary page that the user can look at, if they need to.
I also notice the colors. It looks like millions of other forums from the 1990's, which was 20 years ago. It sort of fades into the camoflage, if you will. Now a days, people expect different colors, for a site to stand out, and to look attractive, not old and like everything else.
I also notice the lack of graphic use and lack of an actual main logo. Anywhere. A main logo should appear on every single page, no matter what, and it should link to the home page. Even the navigation bar is a simple, underwhelming list of unedited non buttonised links.
I understand the need for simplicity, but the overall look isn't simple; it's boring.
So, here's my idea:
-Add a main logo. It's essential to websites as air is to lungs; it's a visual representation of frihost as a whole.
-Ditch the basic navigation bar and incorporate attractive but not distracting buttons.
-Add in new forum icon graphics that are more modern, updated, and are not old-looking.
-Change up the color scheme to more vivid colors, such as green, deep, bright blues, or reds. Pastel/dusty blue had it's place - 20 years ago. It's time for a total color overhaul. My personal favorite and my official reccomendation is a deep green hue, perhaps that of the new camaro as an accent to a deeper foresty green, on top of some pale cream colors as the bulk body color, or a pale green, with the main text remaining black. Green is hardly ever used as a forum color because everyone wants to look like everyone else.
-Separate necessary information into the home page, and add a portal for everything else. The main page visitors see should not be a portal, because they're going to get lost in the network of link link link link important here link link link link link look here link link link link.... Get the idea? If they want to see it, they can view it in the portal - otherwise, basics only.
-I would perform regular cleaning of old, dead topics placed into a sort of topic graveyard - this will help the place look clean, and stop the whole mess from being cluttered, and dead topics from cropping up. This will encourage people to post more.
-Consider removing dead forums and adding some newer ones. Does anyone actually use Travel, Guests, Education, the entire sports and entertainment section, or others in scripting enough to make it worthwhile? Would people benefit more from breaking down sections further like pets, adding new ones like a Food and Cuisine forum, or breaking others into two, like lifestyle and news or the general, or completely deleting ones like humor and misc (as there's already a general chat)? A revamp of what forums are where and what will still exist will breathe life back into the forum and give people places to fill up.
-Consider adding a read-only forum for senior frihosters and moderators to post help topics for newbies. Adding things like "Grammar 101" or "English as a Second Lanugage; helpful tips" or "Keys to a longer, better post, every time" will encourage new users and those new to english to post better topics. We could even translate them into four of the most common languages on frihost; Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and basic English.
-Consider splitting the Suggestions forum into "Help Requests/Support" and "Site Recommendations", since we have many of both in the same forum, and separating adds clarity.
-Have Member of the Month or Featured User so that people can attempt to be the best user they can to be featured. This could incorporate a small write up about the user and why they got voted.
Well, those are my thoughts!
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