Expanding too quickly can mean failure

by Martin Reed on 19 March 2007 in Snippets

There is no point building a skyscraper to house five people. It is far better to start off small and build new floors as and when they are needed. Forums are no different.

I am sure many of you have come across forums that have so many categories you just do not know where to start! A lot of online communities are not subject specific; they are communities where conversations include all kinds of different subjects. As a result, many of these communities try to categorise almost every subject of human thought! This is a big mistake when starting out a community.

It is very easy to get carried away with a new forum site, and setup categories for all manner of subjects in order to try to cater for every visitor. Unfortunately this has the negative effect of making your forum look even more empty and overwhelm your users – both new and old.

I would always recommend starting off with just a few separate categories. This makes your forum easy to understand, and concentrates posts within these categories. It is far better to see a new forum with a good number of posts in four categories compared to seeing a forum with seventy-five categories and only a few posts in five or six of them.

As your community grows, you can then set up new categories and move existing posts that are relevant to the new category there. Not only are you then expanding the number of categories at a pace your users can keep up with, you also have ready made content for each of the new categories!

It is very easy to get carried away when starting a forum. Once again it helps to always get into the mindset of a visitor to your site. They want simplicity and intuitiveness. New members do not want to have to struggle to figure out the most relevant category for a potential new post. Visitors do not want to see loads of categories without posts. Keep it simple and expand only when your community is ready.

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abbigliamento October 27, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Expanding quickly numbers of pages is not a good idea, you must try with few pages ehen indexed on search engines add other detailed pages.

Alberghi October 27, 2007 at 6:04 pm

I have an experience about that, i started my website with a like 1000 pages and the starting was really bad, it’s time when i haven’t experience 7 years ago.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 29, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Alberghi – Well, I wouldn’t say that 1,000 pages of great content is a bad thing; unless you are unable to keep all that information updated!

Peter November 10, 2007 at 7:53 pm

I can agree with the general sentiment of this post – setting your sights too high without the resources to back them up is a mistake, and will undoubtedly hinder any success you would have otherwise found.

However – if you can plan to start a site in a big way, and have the resources – the money, time, knowledge, and manpower to back it up, theres no reason to sell yourself short and make a site smaller than it should be.

I think the real talent comes in recognizing how to balance ambition and reality to find the sweet spot of maximum reach without spreading to thin.

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 12, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Peter – You are right that you shouldn’t sell yourself short; if you site can be successful and you have the resources to support a high growth rate then by all means, go for it.

Unfortunately it is all too easy to spread yourself too thin and run out of cash before advertisers etc pay you – the classic ‘Death Valley Curve’. It certainly does take talent to expand at speed but you should only grow at a sustainable pace.

dan May 10, 2008 at 12:42 am

If there would be 10 commandments of forum building, this definitely has to be one of those :) Thanks for casting it to stone.. er.. whatever ;)

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 12, 2008 at 7:23 pm

Dan – Thanks for your kind comment.