Reading a well thought-out essay today on sign-up forms
, (go ahead and read it, I'll wait) got me to thinking about forums and how we attract new members and the holy grail - actual contributors - to our sites.
In ancient times of the pre-7 series of ubb.threads (wwwthreads before that) and the venerable ubb.classic (descendant of the great and powerful Ultimate Bulletin Board) we made it difficult as hades for new people to sign-up and contribute to our message boards, giving them all kinds of hoops to jump through without showing them much of a reason to... that is, unless we opened the forum to random anonymous posting. In recent times we've gotten much better, using teaser forums (not quite to teaser topics yet, but getting there). We show new site visitors a taste of what we're about to entice them to join, but still they have to go through the gauntlet of sign-up forms, TOS agreements, email verifications, buggy CAPTCHA's, seperate log-in pages, and on and on... what about making it easier
to join and
contribute while still maintaining security measures against the eejit's of the intartubes?
I remember when the lastest greatest modification ("hack" to you youngsters) was the quick-reply. Saved me at least a month of my lifetime by not going to an actual full-reply screen - how would I keep up with gizzy's posting if I had to go to a full reply screen AND wait for the transition page to get me back to my glorious well-constructed prose post?!? Heavens and earth moved and it was soon adopted into the base code by forward-thinkers in Seattle. (Thank you, again
What about taking this a step forward and giving the user the quick reply box and/or a link to the full-reply "advanced" screen (for forums regular users can actually post/reply in). Below the text area box we have a link to either log-in or create a new account
- - in this day and age of ajax we open a drop-down box for them to input a username and password,
- - the ajax function checks to see if the username is already used and if so if the password is verified and a checkbox to remain logged in is presented next to their "welcome, username" response under the text area
- - that's good for current users, but for new people who want their message to be seen by the world
- - after verification of username/password fails, we give them the option to "create new account" by
- - adding an email box under that and
- - a checkbox that they agree to the linked-to TOS
- - a CAPTCHA box for those who like them
Email verification would be the sticking point to our in-line ajax registration, we could present them with "thank you" text that would ask them to post the verification code from their email into the box presented next to the thank you text, but I believe the point is we give them another reason to join (the posting of the message they just lovingly typed above) along with an easier-to-use way of logging-in/registration/verification.
- They get to sign-up more easily
- They get to keep the text they've just typed so it can be posted when the log-in/register process is done
- We get more contributors
Something very similar can be done to the upper-right of every page, right where it says "Welcome AllenAyres [logout]" - for those not logged-in/registered yet it should say "Welcome! [register/log-in]" with the same/similar text presented as above. The current "new user" or even "register user" link is confusing to lots of visitors - I actually get email from people who just don't notice it. It also sends the prospective member to several seperate pages when it could be handled with ajax and allow the user to stay on the page they are reading. Besides the magic code sent in the email, we can give them links to complete/update their profile, a link to their new post, a link to the faq, etc. - endless reasons to come back to the site.
We did a piece of this back in the .classic days when we'd allow people to input the username/password on the posting page, but have gotten away from that in recent years. Making it easier/seamless for users to log-in/register and contribute would go along way to forum software catching up to current trends in usability.