Dim, I probably are not gonna make your life easier by raising this one, but have you considered implementing: Thread Tags (http://custom.simplemachines.org/mods/index.php?mod=579
Everyone prefers to use a forum in subtly different ways. But what is a navigation improvement for one, can be the exact reason why someone else stops using the site, and picks an alternative that is set up more to that user's liking.
I am sure that the more elaborate "forum - subforum - childforum" set up here is really welcomed by some (I certainly have heard the requests for something like that in my own mod days, and it addresses certain "issues" well, easy of content location, and it helps to keep audiences with different "goals" apart). However, it also creates a downside, that maybe isn't as obvious, initially: it increases the requirements on the user to navigate more to locate the content he/she is after. It hides content further down the line, and splits it up further.
Clear layout and navigation address that downside to some point, but there is a real danger here that the amount of tree-nodes that are being created will be off-putting to the type of user who prefers to have a smaller amount of broad overviews over a larger amount of more refined ones (and -for argument sake- let's start at the assumption that the overview of all new posts is simply too unwieldy -if not now, than certainly when it gets busy).
There are two ways for a successful site to go:
- find an inflexible sweet spot.
- find a flexible way to cater to individual requirements in different ways.
The site is still rapidly changing, and there are still several tweaks that can be made to increase all users experience and enhance intuitive navigation.
The one thing that will be much harder to change in months to come is how you let users find the threads/areas that interest them, and how a user must
interact with the fabric of the site to reach this content.
But I am increasingly convinced that the static tree forum is only (still) here because that is how they evolved. But, increasingly, modern Content Management Systems are dropping the static approach for a more user-focussed flexible one: Thread TAGS!
Clever use of tags can create highly user-specific experiences through powerful and creative filtering. Not only do they find "their stuff" quicker, they also find the wrapping more appealing.
A clever way of tag creation and management defines how it is implemented (a discussion on its own). A clever way of tag "navigation" allows far more direct, personal, tailor-made and intuitive access to content than any defined tree structure can ever hope to accomplish. Plus it has thousands of other potential side-benefits and content presentation.
Sites with decent content that implement Tags are far more likely to become user-magnets and also are more likely to survive competition from similar, but more inflexible user-experience sites. Successful Tag implementation is another story, and if it is an admin thing, a user thing, or both, etc... all points to be debated.
But if you want to go down the path this site has embarked upon, by creating a more elaborate tree structure than a fair group will find workable from their point of view, by sticking threads further and further down more paths, be prepared to be experienced as a bit off-putting to some, who will find places that are simply "less work".
I think there is a huge argument for letting a user determine how they want to locate their content, and how they want to group it. Even with a few tags, well managed, and a good tag-filter-interface, you can create a site with much more appeal to many more people.
But if you want to go down that path, this is the point to set it up (and the mod exists, and velorooms-specific additional scripts and features can always be created). If you need to go down that path
, that is the real question. How far, and which version, the next.
But if people are finding that they are hunting around a bit before having determined if the sort of (new) stuff that would interest them is actually there, or suddenly locate a brilliant thread that totally escaped them but has been going for a couple of days (even with the embryonic content that we have), maybe all the little things that the site offer to find this content are a bit too cumbersome, or not intuitive enough, for some.
I do walk into that from time to time. Some of it is simply because of out-of-the-box set-ups that are likely to improve, and the way folk are throwing themselves at it, sooner rather than later (cheers!).
But I already know of people who have come, but are finding this the very stumble block that makes them a bit stand-off-ish, or expect this to be the reason to drift away. Others love it, I am sure. And neither approach id good or bad, it is simply personal preferences. But it is an issue that is flagged up already, and not one easy to address once things are bedded down. That should be food for thought.
I genuinely think that if you set up a forum now
, one that you want to be meeting expectations of people in two years time, you are missing a trick by not embracing tags. Not sure if a new, small but ambitious forum can afford that, to be honest.
Well willing to discuss the nitty gritty or give examples, if folk find this a bit vague. Also willing to be involved with some of this, or give more structured advice, Dim, time permitting.
Just wanted to raise it now, rather than regret not having done it, in a couple of months time.