We often get asked to quote on implementing a website forum on clients’ websites and each time we discuss the Pros and Cons of implementing a forum on their website.
What is a Forum?
A forum is like a message board or discussion board where visitors can post questions or comments on a particular subject matter. Other uses may be to post news, “hot topics” and / or tips and advice relating to a service or product being mentioned or marketed on a particular website.
Whatever the subject matter, forums simply allow users to interact with each other i.e. other visitors as well as the webmaster who manages and maintains the website being visited.
When would I use a forum?
Forums are often used on websites that are selling a particular product that may require support of some sort. Other websites with forums are website portals who have a large visitor base and have a subject matter that is suitable for a forum.
If you run a website that is relevant to the above mentioned scenarios, then a forum is possibly something you could consider for your website.
Pros of having a forum:
- If you have a large number of visitors who make use of the forum by posting questions, info, etc, the volume of information can give your site credibility with other visitors. Think of it this way – would you post a question or information on a forum where there was 10 posts done by the same person or by 2 people? Or would you more likely revisit a website and post comments on a forum that has a 1000 users and hundreds of posts by different users?
- Forums can assist in increasing your traffic. If you find a website useful, particularly the forum useful, you will more than likely visit the forum again- repeat or returning visitors are an important aspect for a website – it means, you are doing something right
- Forums can assist you in developing a client base. People have to register to take part in a forum. When users register on a forum, their information including their email address is stored. If they specify they can be contacted by you in the future, this adds to your client base and ultimately your potential marketing channels.
- Forums can assist in search engine optimisation (SEO), but this is heavily dependant on the forum software implemented on a website and the skills of your website company.
Cons of having a forum:
- Regular moderation needs to be done. If your forum is popular, you will need to monitor each of the posts going through. Spammers love forums as it’s a great place to post “spammy” content. Moderators have to keep an eye on each post to ensure that only valid information is displayed on the website and no offensive info gets through onto the live site. Moderation will need to take place on a daily basis. If your are a one man show, this can become a costly and time-consuming process.
- Large amounts of time and effort is required to get the forum “out there” and “going”.
- If you offer a service or product, and for some reason you have some unhappy clients – a forum is a fantastic place to make visitors / customer’s complaints public. Moderating your forum will avoid this from happening.
How much will it cost to implement a forum?
Well, luckily there are a number of forum packages available on the internet. Some of them are free, but some do require licensing fees to be paid.
Forums are relatively quick to implement when it’s a pre-built package. If you would like your forum to look like your website, some forum customisation will be required, so additional costs will be charged by your web agency if you plan to go the customised route.
What forum software / packages are available?
There are many and the best is to do a search on the internet and play with the demos. Find links below to articles on forum software available: