UX of User Forums


#1

Hi,
right now thinking about the user experience of online forums

As this is a nicely structured forum I wanted to ask a general question.

  • What are the most importan functions a user forum has to offer (Answer, Tagging, Polling, Citing, …)
  • What is the information which needs to be shown (Personal information, Last entry)
  • What are the navigation opportunities which need to be offered?
  • Are there standards to be taken into account? (old school forums)

At the end I was asking myself: Which is the best user forum /forum provide out there in the world of web in terms of user expereince?

Thanks in advance guys :slight_smile:

Best regards
Georg


#2

Hey @Georg Köhler – great questions, and they’re right up my alley.

I don’t like the experience here (we’re currently on vBulletin). It’s clunky, cumbersome and errors frequently. My personal favourite community platform is Discourse. Luke and I are currently investigating moving this community across to Discourse, although there is a bit of work involved.

One of the things that people tend to find difficult about it is the huge change in UI. Forums are moving away from this old school look, and ajax means that the newer experiences are much more fluid.

This LinkedIn post outlines some of the basic features that a good community platform requires. My personal pick for most important are push notifications. I think the key to persuasive technology (which is what a community platform should aim to be) are timely and actionable notifications.

Are you considering launching a community, or are these general interest questions? I’m happy to discuss in as much detail as necessary. :slight_smile:


#3

Hi @HAWK thanks for the great advice.
I was recently evaluating a travel online forum with users but in a real early state … and I saw that there are really lots of challenges if you want to do it good.
My company has an old school forum which survives because there is lot´s of valuable content in it and an there is a community which provides content now for years…
There are a lot´s of factors to take into account if you want to do it right. Right now it seems that lot of stuff is pressed in the old school way/designs of forums which exist.
Companies are afraid to move away because they don´t want to loose importance and valuable community members.
From my personal opinion it´s also time to break the standards in order to provide platforms which give users the attention to their content they deserve. They put lot´s of energy in it. It´s time to give something back.

Beside of the user value I am also unsure about business values and technical constraints. What can a company get from users so that it invests in a forum that does not bring direct value.
Also merging the content of old user forums into new ones seems not so easy especially becaue they are actually old school. But merging of past content is kind of important for existing communities. You can´t throw content away based on lot´s of work of users. I am sure active forum users are kind of proud what they created.
I am sure you are also dealing with such kind of discussions.

The linkedin post is great … thanks for sharing it … it contains actually a bunch of ideas how to do it really great.

​Have a nice evening :slight_smile:


#4

You’re welcome.

And you’re right – there are lots of challenges when migrating communities, both technical and sociological. I’ve done it a couple of times already. You can read about my process for one of them here. That was a couple of years ago now and Discourse has come along way. It also has good market share, so people are becoming more used to it (and it has features that we see in so many other popularly used platforms, like Facebook and Twitter).

I work as a community consultant, and part of that job is helping businesses to understand exactly what that direct value is. We get organisations to set ROI based objectives before building their community, and figuring out how they can measure success, and what success looks like. Examples of focussed business goals might be an increase in customers (advocacy, positive sentiment, sharing), reduced research costs (community highlighted problems & opportunities) or increased staff productivity (knowledge sharing). All of those things can have a direct effect on the bottom line, but take time to achieve.

I believe that migration of (at least some) content is important, but not everyone does. It is possible to flat archive old communities and start from scratch. That said, migration isn’t that huge of a deal these days. Most new platforms have migration scripts written for all the older platforms.