Visitors to your forum are a fickle bunch of people – if they see something they don’t like, they will leave: simple as that. You have to blow them away if you want them to register and become a valuable member of your community.
In this article, I will present you with what I feel are the top five things a visitor to a forum site first looks for when deciding whether to register.
Without further ado, here is the countdown working up from the fifth most important factor, all the way up to what I consider to be the most important.
#5 – Your forum post count and thread count
Visitors to your forum will not be interested in registering if there is no content. A visitor may have been impressed with your community until they saw its post count – make sure you don’t fall at the final hurdle.
There is simply no excuse for having a forum void of content. If you have no members to generate content, then you need to do it yourself. Don’t expect new members if you don’t create new content, and don’t advertise your forum’s youth by having too many categories!
#4 – Your forum member count
It is safe to say that virtually every single visitor to your website will look at your member count and use it to gauge the popularity of your community. Of course, member counts may not provide the full picture – most members could be automated spam bots, or the count could even be fixed.
Your visitor is unlikely to consider the validity of your member count – they just want to see the number! Don’t deceive them, but be aware that if your count is low then you can’t expect a rush of members to register for the online equivalent of a black hole!
#3 – The content of your forum
Needless to say, if you have no content then don’t expect any members. If you have low quality content, expect low quality members. If you want fantastic, engaging and loyal members, you need to create fantastic and engaging content.
There can be no shying away from this fact – if you don’t create content, you will not create members. Why would anyone join a forum with no content? It would be like sitting in an empty room all by yourself. Much better to go next door where there are people to talk to, eh?
#2 – The specific subject of your forum
It is highly unlikely that someone will join your forum unless it is on a topic of interest to them. The chances are they found your site from a link or via a search engine. Therefore they should already have some degree of interest in the subject area of your site.
Ensure that visitors to your site can tell within a few seconds exactly what it is about. Ensure they have no doubt about your subject’s subject – declare it prominently on your forum, and incorporate the subject into your design, if possible.
Web users are lazy – unless you spoon feed them, they may not stick around long enough to investigate any further.
#1 – Your forum design
Now before you all start screaming at me that ‘content is king’, let’s remind ourselves what this list is about – namely the factors that contribute to the overall first impression you give a visitor to your forum.
The first thing they see when they arrive at your site is its design. If this is poor, a visitor will not even scroll down the page – they’ll leave. Pure and simple.
If a visitor sees a default design, or one they have seen a hundred times before, they may well stick around for a bit – but you will have lost the opportunity to impress your visitor from the outset.
Get yourself a good, custom forum design – make yourself unique. Ensure you site looks and works great. Visitors will then be more interested in having a dig around – that’s your chance to lure them in and ensure they get hooked!
Do you disagree with the points I have raised? Would you place them in a different order? Have I missed anything? Share your thoughts and comments by leaving a comment below.