|Avatars, graphical signatures and smileys|
Do you allow those disco dancing bananas or not?
In one of my forums, people can choose their own avatars, put non-advertising images in their signatures, and use one of a gazillion smileys I installed. On another forum, the gazillion smileys are in, but only forum-specific avatars are permitted (to show membership to certain sections) and no images in posts or signatures.
WebmasterWorld has nothing except these four smiley choices, non-animated of course ;) :) :o :(
What do others have for rules when it comes to using images to embellish themselves or their posts? Do you have a full avatar gallery and allow people to upload pictures of themselves? Do you have a wide range of smileys, including those disco dancing bananas? Do you allow banner ads or non-advertising images in member signatures? Or do you have it set as plain jane as can be ;)
I have various "sets" of stuff, depending on individual forum circs. One forum is as "plain" as this one - no avatars, one line sigs with no graphics, no ads, no graphic smileys - but does allow whatever text smiley one wants to use, and in fact there's a whole thread of "guess this text smiley" sort of posts. One allows choice of avatar, any smiley one could want. One allows just a "standard set" of each. Etc etc. All allow sigs. See caveats below.
NONE of my fora allow huge graphics in sigs; ALL limit graphic avatars to 80x80 px, 64k max; NO ANIMATION period; NO advertising period. None of my fora are open to any sort of ads - not from me, not from anyone else. Website addy is okay in sigs, though I "encourage" those who do that to put it in profile instead. The other caveat is a bigger one maybe: NO "offcolor" graphics, whether sig or avatar, I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO MAKES THAT DECISION - and it's NOT NEGOTIABLE.
Since all my various fora are completely private, and by invitation only, I don't really have problems with my systems. Probably wouldn't work very well on large public places!
I think a lot depends on the audience. I lean toward the bare-bones look, perhaps because I'm so used to WebmasterWorld. When I read other forums, I find it distracting when there are lots of pictures, banners, pulsating signatures, etc. I think this clutter really takes the emphasis off the content of the posts. (Use of weird fonts, colors, and other formatting falls into the same category.
OTOH, forums for videogame players, music fans, etc., probably find avatars and graphic sigs to be must-have features. :)
I am quite split over this. In some ways the WW style 'bare bones' as roger calls it, is a lot easier to read and cuts out all the clutter.
On the other hand i think that it makes it easier to remember people if you have personalisation such as avatars and signatures and gives the forum a more community feel.
On the other hand (yes i have three hands :)) I only really like avatars/sigs where these are contolled by size etc, and think that ones with pointless content (eg a picture of your favourite car) are annoying. That is why my signature images/avatars are always some nicely designed graphic usually just with my name or similar.
It all really depends on what forum you are putting them on. Perhaps WW would be a good place for avatars and sigs to suit my views because the people here are less likely to abuse them, and make the place look untidy. But at the end of the day - in that case, why bother with them at all?
Forums with all graphical bells and whistles are the ones most likely to annoy other webmasters through hotlinking. Make sure you don't allow your users to do this, otherwise you could end up displaying some unsavoury images when someone takes revenge on the hotlinkers.
We allow avatars (max size 100 x 100), have lots of cute smilies, and allow sigs, but no images in sigs., and only 2 short lines. (They are only viewable to registered members.)
I don't really get the bar bones approach like this place, although I also don't get the going overboard approach that some other places have either.
I like to think we have a happy medium. 4 smilies? No avatars to quickly see who a post is from? :(
I have to admit that since having my own forum, I did have a lot more respect for the rules that WebmasterWorld has, but again, I prefer something closer to center.
My forum is pretty limited. No avatars and only a basic set of smilies though I think I will add a few more of these as they have been requested on several occassions. Avatars, on the other-hand, I won't budge on.
I don't know much about forums - but I'll chime in with this about avatars: they're cheesy, distracting and there are certain SEO forums that I won't visit because when people look at your screen it looks as if you're visiting some kind of psychodelic playground...
This discussion highlights the fact that user preferences are different, and often diametrically opposed. The ideal situation, I suppose, would be to allow each member to choose whether or not to view avatars, sigs, etc. Some forums have this functionality readily available via control panel or by allowing user-selectable templates. The template or skin choices are often mere color variations, but there's nothing to prevent a forum operator from making a "light" template with no graphic elements for members who are easily distracted or who have slow connections, and a "full graphic" template for those who like eye-rolling avatars and such... ;)
Most forums do allow you to turn avatars and sigs off. That's one reason why we allow them at my forum, because they're not forced on anyone.
I can see how avatars are often abused, but I often prefer them to smilies. Graphical smilies look cheesy and don't offer up any new information, but with an avatar it reminds you of who you are talking to. That's easy to lose track of when you get a long thread. There's definitely a case for avatars, so long as you're prepared to control them carefully.
And here I thought I was the only person in the net world who dislikes smileys....
Has anyone used avatars as part of a package that comes with a paid subscription? So 'supporters' would have access to avatars (and other stuff), and 'freeloaders' (for lack of a better word) wouldn't. We're toying with the idea of offering some additional tools and ad free viewing to those willing to chip in a few bucks a month.
Could this be a reasonable incentive?
My forums all allow avatars, smileys and text only sigs. Sometimes smileys help get a point across on your more informal boards that aren't about technical things. Also, the avatars give people something to associate with your user name. Of course, all users can turn off the ability to see graphics too, so everyone can choose what they prefer. I've only ever had one person turn off graphics, as far as I know. She only turned them off because one user had an animated avatar that had a blank frame and it flashed. Ughh. It was awful. Anyway, we fixed the avatar and the other user turned her graphics back on.
I don't allow avatars in my forums, mostly because of the amount of space they take up. I have one for myself to differentiate me from other users.
No fancy signatures, but we do allow a small selection of graphical smileys. People seem to love those things, so I included them for now.
Hmm... I seem to be in the minority here, because I allow it all.
You might recall I run a neighborhood forum. Therefore I have a limited membership pool and most people aren't computer savvy or are unfamiliar with the concept of forum. I like the smileys & avatars as I feel it gets people interested and makes them inquisitive to find out what everything is all about.
However, I keep the main page of my forum clean. No portals, links or sub-forums. I want it to be easy to enter the forums and navigate through them while still proving a bit of eye candy.