When members request new forum categories

by Martin Reed on 14 July 2007 in Articles

At the beginning of June, I wrote an article entitled ‘Cut down on the forum categories‘. In the article, I wrote about why there is nothing worse than having too many forum categories if they are not going to be used.

I argued that you should keep forum categories to a minimum and only add more once a good quantity of content relevant to them has been created. This way you can set up the new category and move existing, relevant threads to them – this gives you immediate content for the new category and justifies its presence.

When members request new categories

When to add forum categoriesYour members will often ask for new categories for your forum. Often, they do this without having a full understanding of just how forums and communities work. Much of the time, they feel that if a category is set up based on a specific topic, it will naturally fill with content.

Of course, this may well happen – but it rarely does. From my experience, if you add a category based on members requesting a new area on the forum, it will often languish dormant and empty. You want to avoid this at all costs.

There is a way of satisfying your members and your own forum development goals, though.

Listening, trialling and experimenting

If demand for a new forum category seems to be high but you are still concerned that it will not be utilised, you can set up the new category on a trial basis. Let your members know that you are willing to trial the requested category for a limited period (a month, for example) and will decide on its permanence based on its use.

If, at the end of the month the category is being used and filled with content, you can keep it as a permanent feature. If it is empty and unused, you can remove the category and your members should understand.

By taking this approach you are engaging with your members and showing your willingness to listen to their feedback. By establishing a new forum category on a trial basis, you are showing your users that you are willing to give their ideas a try. If the new category doesn’t work out they will understand and accept that you were at least willing to put their ideas into practice.

If the category is successful, then you will have an additional area of value within your community and your members will have a greater sense of shared ownership as they suggested its creation.

Have you set up a new forum category based on member requests? Was the new category successful? Have you created a requested category on a trial basis? How did it work out? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Smiley July 14, 2007 at 3:35 pm

I agree 100%

As you know, I cut down on categories big time, and I have benefited from doing so. It’s not as much of a strain on myself and the few loyal members creating new threads in 3-4 dozen different categories, for starters !!

Infact, I’m quite happy with the number of categories I have right now. Not too many so it’s ridiculously unmanageable, but not too few that it’s “the same as all the others”

I have added one new category under a members request, that’s the “Media Center” category, he private messaged me with an idea of creating this category, where people who regularly upload music to the site via the Media Center feature can then have their own thread in this category and update it letting everyone know the tracks they have uploaded.

Apart from that, I haven’t added any others, as everyone seems quite happy with the categories at the moment.

Having too many categories is not very ‘new user friendly’ either in my opinion, I think you’ll agree with that. If it’s somebodies first time on a message board, and there’s 50 different forum categories.. they’re going to be overwhelmed, confused, perhaps even a little scared?

I’m mainly developing my site to make it 100% new user friendly, so I’m always looking for ways to make it as easily accessible as possible.

Good post!

aaron July 14, 2007 at 10:53 pm

Well, I struggle with this as well. While it’s easy to say that you shouldn’t because they will just end up empty, it’s not easy to say the same when your forum gets 1000 posts per day and this forum might claim 50-100 of those. The forum could easily look fairly busy and through imports of old posts have 1,000 posts at inception. Everytime I have created new forums, the members requesting kept it alive by doing nothing but posting in those forums. My question would be, are there any negatives to new forums if they are going to get posts and not lay dormant. They might be the least active on your board, but they are still more active than others entire forums.

Smiley July 15, 2007 at 1:02 am

If there content is definitely going to be there, then that’s great if that’s what you want for your forum, I think, Aaron.. but like I said above, what about new users to forums, who are overwhelmed by dozens of different categories?

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 15, 2007 at 6:13 am

Smiley – I definitely agree that an excessive number of forum categories can be a little overwhelming to some visitors! I would suggest only creating new categories if you have the content to support them and are confident that your members will utilise the new sections of your forum.

Aaron – There is nothing wrong with creating categories if they are going to be used by your members. If your members want a new category, you establish it and it is populated with content, that’s great – if your forum can support additional categories then go for it!

The problem comes when forum administrators add huge numbers of categories which then lay dormant and empty – this gives off a bad impression of your community, making it look unpopular and unused.

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