Forum Usability – Make member’s life easier

MaestroX

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MaestroX submitted a new Article:

Forum Usability – Make member’s life easier

Forum Usability – Make member’s life easier

Although this guide focuses primarily on vBulletin usability and using example directly from the vBulletin forum software, it can be applied to most forum software.

Ask yourself...

When setting up your forum, you need to ask yourself, what is it purposes and who’s the target audience. Determine the goals of your forum/community.
It doesn’t matter how cool your site looks, if users find it impractical they will head to your competitors site, which is only one click away.

Help your users

Users are impatient. They hate having to learn new site navigation. Make your navigation obvious and consistent throughout your site. For usability, it’s usually best to follow conventions rather than great new problems for your visitors to work around.

In the life of your website, some pages will be moved, disappear etc. And as your pages will still be indexed by search engines, a visitor may land on the page. Giving a well design 404 page will assist the visitor in finding what they were looking for. Including a search option, link to a user sitemap or links to popular parts of your site will give them an indication of where else they might be able to find what they’re looking for.

Cut down features, don’t add them.

One of the most common mistakes made by forum administrators is overwhelming their forums with features. More is not better in the instance.

Asking yourself the purpose and audience of the site will greatly help you filter useful features, from detrimental feature noise.

Reducing noise

By reducing feature noise not only are use helping your users by optimising their browsing experience, but you are also helping to reduce the amount of HTML you generate which will not only help improve performance and loading times it will also help your SEO by increasing the relevant keyword ratio for your pages.

Display Modes

Probably the most underused feature of vBulletin is the Hybrid and Threaded display modes. Most administrators choose to keep the feature active regardless that it will lie dormant and probably unused.

How to turn it off

AdminCP -> vBulletin Options ->Threaded / Hybrid Mode Options (showthread) -> Enable Threaded / Hybrid Mode

Posting Rules

The forum rules collapsible...

Read more about this article here...
 
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Northsider

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Nov 29, 2007
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I agree with a lot of that, good article. Maybe thats why I like PunBB so much, it's very streamlined without any useless features that nobody ever uses
 

Breezie

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Apr 23, 2006
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Very good article.

A huge turn off for me is "auto play music", I have clicked out of so many sites because of this, and some sites are probably really good.
 

Baldilocks

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I agree with a lot of that, good article. Maybe thats why I like PunBB so much, it's very streamlined without any useless features that nobody ever uses

That depends on they genre of the forum somewhat. For an Off-Topic/General Interest whacky forum like mine, just about every feature is used AND some extras.
 

Jura

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Too bad it's only for one forum software.

But I do get the idea. I've removed much stuff in the past. Even though I end up adding ten times more...
 

Baldilocks

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Too bad it's only for one forum software.

But I do get the idea. I've removed much stuff in the past. Even though I end up adding ten times more...

I'm with you on that one. :) Sometimes adding more features makes it easier for the users in the long run.
 

MaestroX

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Jun 24, 2006
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Thanks for all the positive feedback, I'm glad you liked the article :)
 

Jura

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Sometimes adding more features makes it easier for the users in the long run.
Your forum has all the vBulletin features turned on, two rows of navigation, and several mods that add a great many more links (default layout). o.o
 

Baldilocks

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Your forum has all the vBulletin features turned on, two rows of navigation, and several mods that add a great many more links (default layout). o.o

Doesn't that make it easier to navigate/find what you are looking for instead of those links being hidden in another menu somewhere??

I know they do for me anyway. (The users appreciate them as well.)
 

Joshy

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Aug 5, 2008
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Good guide I have to think a lot of these questions through when I'm setting up a new forum.
 
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