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Forum as a Potential Earning Asset for a Site?

  • # November 11, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    our website little photoshop before I came on board with the company originally revolved around a forum setup.

    Since then we redirected the site into blog form, and then again streamlined into a 2nd blog layout and ultimately removed the forum entirely. We thought long and hard about the implications of such and at the time came to the conclusion that it was very much in the best interests of the sites future to ditch it.

    Generally it was full of lurkers, the participation was poor. We felt that people would bookmark the forum as an index and it would detract from the attention that the core site got as well as give false traffic impressions so on so forth.

    What I want to put out to you guys is basically to ask if this was a correct analysis and solution.

    The theme of the site is a tutorial based blog, with small plus back end. We hope to have ad sponsorship in time as well as providing strong amounts of traffic to the site and by extension the store for our products, which neatly sits without being pushed via the free blog screencasts and tutorials.

    really, would a forum in any way improve on the general model of the site? At the moment as I see it while you could apply an ad banner in the header ala css-tricks, it’s still an exclusive section of the website and as such doesn’t hold as much value as say a 125×125 ad block on the homepage sidebar.

    What about traffic generation? We put a ton of effort into building the site well for this reason using wordpress. If a forum was present on the same domain i have to ask would it be beneficial to inbound traffic? or even detrimental.. I’m not sure.

    And like we were concerned about in the past, would a forum simply be a distraction from the main goals and focus of the website.

    At the moment I’m fairly sure that we made the right decision, but with some pressure from a handful of old members who are frankly, still not very pleased that we pulled the forum I thought I’d at least take the time to evaluate the situation.

    So any opinions on traffic, monetization be it positive or negative would be appreciated.

    Thanks

    # November 11, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I like forums. They get people coming back for more. This forum has made css-tricks what it is today. The articles rock, but without a place to ask questions on those articles, most would be lost

    Rob
    # November 12, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Forums are in general a great thing to have – especially on a site that offers help and advice. There are things that need to be considered though. Forums are probably one of the hardest things to get people contributing in because people like to read. Unless you try to invoke some kind of flame war (by saying tables are great for site structure for example) they wont be impassioned enough to post. The people who do want to post will be the ones stuck and asking questions, then you need people to answer those questions – and like I said above people don’t like to post.

    They also can grow into a place of elitism where members are scared of asking questions because they think they will look foolish, mainly because of some of replies received from members of community forums all over the web.

    Too many topics/threads/sections can be really off putting too. What I would do is start it really REALLY small, even just 2 discussion areas, one being Help and Advice the other being off topic discussion. Then you can let the regulars have somewhere to post about whatever they like, which builds community and also the Help and Advice area where people can ask questions. Make sure you make a sticky post with rules on behaviour – what is acceptable/unacceptable encouraging people to ask for help and welcoming them etc….

    You have to be the guy answering all the questions to start with, I would say that if you invest the time in answering the questions in a detailed helpful and non-patronising way, people will come back and give others help because they will feel a gratitude towards your help and professional answer. Basically you set the standard, others will follow.

    It takes a heck of a lot of work to build up a community, especially one as awesome as here – but as long as you are hard on the rules, welcoming and helpful in the help section and enjoy talking about the weather in the off topic it will grow. When it does start to grow you can then start to create sub forums or other forums directing users to more appropriate and specific areas – but its always good to let that be organic, otherwise it feels too forced – and a forced community doesn’t work.

    Yes you can get away with monetization in your forums, as long as its not in your face at every turn, just make it tasteful. Some sites go a little over the top…

    Google will also add your forum topics to its search results, which will bring more people to the forum and to your site.

    All in all its a good idea, but it takes time. :)

    # November 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    One thing to note that I’ve seen on sites that offer design ideas, advice, or technique that are just blogs is that users start using the blog like a forum. So if they don’t understand something, they start posting comments to get help, which begins to get broken and lost as other people try to follow the help conversation to address their own issues amidst the normal comments. Then they too can post their own help request and add to the confusion.

    # November 12, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I completely agree with xheathen there, I find it very frustrating when you’re trying to get information on bugs/etc from a comments thread of a post. Especially when the comments start paging out to 5+ pages, it can be very frustrating.

    At the same time, there’s nothing worse than a dead forum.

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