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Are forums becoming a thing of the past?

forum based websites dying out

     
1:16 am on Mar 16, 2014 (gmt 0)



As a webmaster, the majority of the websites I create for people are forum-based or have ties to forums. I'm seeing it harder not only for myself but those I'm creating sites for to generate quality content on said forums with steady traffic. These range from outdoor living to automotive to business promotion type communities.

In my personal opinion, it's largely in part to the "Facebook" way of communication that people have grown so closely to over the past few years.

Is it the "Wall" layout that gives information whether you care about its relevance at all that just seems to make things easier for people to grasp. Facebook groups are so cluttered and have no organization but people flock to them.

Am I delusional or is it just simply getting harder to get people to take a few seconds to sign up for a forum these days? Even on forums with Facebook and G+ logins...

Your thoughts?
Any helpful tips for conversion on forum based websites in 2014? :)
3:11 pm on Mar 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member piatkow is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



Apart from WW I used to follow 5 regularly and of those one has closed, one is pretty well dormant, one going that way and the other two are active with a solid core of old hands but few new members.

Not a statistically valid sample but I get the impression generally that they are in decline. A pity, I prefer a forum format as a way to keep track of several discussions.
3:20 pm on Mar 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brotherhood_of_lan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I think there's still room for them. Social media may have taken away some of the necessity, but tends to be "bite size" chunks of information. If you want to have a 2-way lengthy discussion then forums work, imo. I visit 3 often, all webmaster related.
9:22 am on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Until forum developers finally include a decent mobile application with their software forums will continue to loose share. Forum spam isn't helping either...
10:25 am on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)



I think it's just part of the continuum of ever-improving ways of information sharing. Remember, forums only took off because they were an improvement over the old usenet way of shared conversations... I visit about 10 regularly, and they're still the most effective collection of shared expertise that I know of.
10:39 am on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)



roshaoar, I view this quite similar. I visit several forums each day, but this is what I do for a living these days. :) It's the average population in my opinion that don't want to be bothered by registering for a "FORUM"..

Are there any suggestions as to how to engage and promote user content instead of forums on a community based site?
10:40 am on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



social media isn't really a replacement for forums, so i wonder why they have taken over. most people on facebook only talk with people they already know. so it's not much help if they want to find out about... google's search algo.

i think people just look up all the answers on the internet now, and they havent got the patience to post a question and wait for a reply in a forum.
i have noticed this in my forum especially... a lot of the time someone will post a question and never return. not even to read the answer. it's almost as if they waited 30 secs, didn't get a reply, and gave up.

there's not much you can do to combat that. it's just the way it is these days
10:48 am on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)



londrum.. That's the frustration I'm talking about.

People have just gotten internet lazy! :)

So, I'm trying to stay with the times by diversifying ways to interact with people and promote the sharing of information and social interaction.
6:10 pm on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



Until forum developers finally include a decent mobile application with their software forums will continue to lose share.

All the apps in the world won't change the central fact: it is difficult and unpleasant to type on a tablet, and next to impossible on a phone.

Can we stipulate that nobody, anywhere, wants to read a forum written primarily in cellphonespeak?
7:42 pm on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



I use my phone for forums all the time, in fact I'm using it now. My view is mobile applications and notifications have taken root in peoples lives. Unless forums can match that level of penetration the decline will continue. Look at sums companies are willing to pay for successful apps these days. What does that tell you?
10:05 pm on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Thi is an interesting discussion, and it's something that every forum participant, poster or lurker, ought to have a view on.

It's true, that there are many, many new places to post and to contact others, and even the manufacturers and developers run their own Q&A forums. There's twitter, of course, and, there are blogs that people follow.

I don't believe forums are a thing of the past as they provide a number of important aspects, not least the independence from large ecosystems, such as Facebook. They also provide users with anonymity, which you won't get with a FB discussions.

Additionally, Facebook, twitter, G+ and others using a similar format provide streams, as opposed to the structured post and thread style of a forum.

Forums are Moderated to retain the standards, and there are some great examples of forums that retain house rules to help avoid the free-for-all of twitter, FB and others.

There's no question, Forums can do better, and improve to meet the demands of today's 140 character-minded participannts.

Has that given you something to think about?
10:53 pm on Mar 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member piatkow is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



Forums shouldn't be a thing of the past but they are a "PC thing" which is old fashioned. Babies and bathwater come to mind.
3:22 pm on Mar 19, 2014 (gmt 0)



Engine, my wheels never stop turning. Of course it gives me something to think about. :)

I have two forums sites that do OK for what they are. Numbers aren't high but activity is up. However, they've been up for 10+ years so it has the user-base that's USED to forums.

piatkow mentioned the PC crowd. I agree and have hope for ways around it. I have a SMF site where I just added a mobile theme and made an Android app that pretty much is just a wrap of the mobile theme that allows users to register, post, upload pics and files, private message, etc... I think IPB and vB also have ready-made apps. I did this so we'd gain the user-base that refuses to hop on PC. We'll see how that goes. Currently that website has a PC to Mobile % of 60/40.

Engine, I agree too. The focus has to be on point and moderated when it strays off topic. The lurkers come for information and if they can't see what they're looking for within the first 10-15 seconds of coming to the website, they're on to the next.

I'm curious as to if anyone has created their own social experiment to find out in the same community niche which software gains more users and has more participation. (For a new website)

For a short while I had a Kunena powered board and I ran JomSocial for community interaction with pictures, video, groups, blogs, etc... After years of people being used to "Forums" only, the JomSocial was never utilized by the masses. My take out of that was DON'T change stuff around after people have gotten used to something else. So that website is now the SMF powered site with only a gallery as an addon.
5:50 pm on Mar 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



The PC, or desktop aspect is a challenge, but not for the reasons of ui on a smaller screen. Of course, that smaller screen needs to dealt with, and is relatively easily doable. The real problem is that mobile is more difficult to comment and discuss, and it favours a short 140-character comment. Commneting on-the-move is easier with mobile, and sometimes the longer replies that a re required on a forum is more of a challenge.

Mobile is a nut to crack, and there are ways to deal with that.

Lurkers are one of the bigger challenges because they like to read but not contribute. Encouraging them to discuss is something that always needs attention.
6:04 pm on Mar 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



there are little things you can do to make it easier on mobile
like not forcing people to register... let guests post. most people aren't going to bother filling in all those registration forms on mobile

i also feed in a lot of the info so they don't have to type it out.
if they are coming from a product page, for example, i will pull all the product info through with them to the posting page, so it appears at the top of their post already. makes it a little bit easier
6:08 pm on Mar 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Forums aren't dead, but they need to evolve. So far, no social network offers the depth of community and richness of content, new and archived, of a good forum.

On the other hand, few people "live" in one forum the way they used to.

I think to keep up one has to think in terms of community rather than purely forum. Some people may want to form groups for special interests, others may want to create content, etc. Gamification is a more recent approach to something forums have done for years with member levels, reputations, etc.

While a few sites may choose, say, Facebook integration vs. a hosted discussion, there's a big risk in that. Ease of use and access is great, but you have no control over your content or what changes could be made in the future.
 

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