I wasnt real sure how to classify this post, but I wanted to take the opportunity to articulate some feedback about using the forum. Keep in mind this is only from my perspective. This is certainly not an all inclusive list, but I wanted to write it down while I was thinking about it.
First, I want to take the time to describe some of the details in which I use the forum. Primarily, I log into the forum from a web browser on a desktop/laptop environment. A software developer by trade, I have spent a majority of my computing career behind an actual computer. As smartphones have taken off, I have migrated some tasks to my phone, but still find some level of comfort behind a keyboard, mouse and computer monitor (I still struggle to type well on my phone). However, I also find that due to spending so much time in front of a computer, its also important to walk away from it and do other things. This is when I tend to use my phone more, especially when a computer is not readily available (mostly when traveling).
What I like -
- Forum is available from anywhere, web, mobile, etc. Accessible through any browser and is responsive (formatted so that its readable on any device).
- Organized in a fashion that I feel is usable for my purposes. I usually go right to "Recent Discussions" and I have been able to see what is going on in the forum relatively easily.
- Probably my favorite - the staff presence on the forum. Ive seen many times where the forum was simply put there to generate a community and when issues arise, the staff or moderators are nowhere to be found. I really like how much of an active role the staff at Cronometer take on the forum.
What needs work -
- Email Alerts - I always have a hard time with receiving or displaying any kind of messages, because there's a fine line between not enough detail and too much detail. In this particular case, one area I think that needs some attention is the email alerts that are sent when a topic that you're subscribed to or following has been updated. The email alert is pretty straight forward - An update occurred. Log into the forum to see it. Short, concise and to the point. And if you're already logged into the forum, then this likely isnt a huge deal. click the link, it takes you to where you need to see the update. One click. Simple. But, if I check email first and havent logged in yet, now I have to log in. Not entirely unreasonable, but more work. Now, consider mobile, especially when you dont store any passwords in the mobile browser (security is a real issue with mobile, in my opinion and I personally tend to not store passwords in the mobile browser). Each time I receive an update, Im directed to the site, have to log in, and then directed. If I close the browser, get another email update - I have to repeat that same process. Seems a bit cumbersome. I fight this battle with websites/apps all the time, because the transition from email to browser/app isnt always as clean as it could be.
So what would I suggest? At minimum, I think the email alert should include at least a brief summary of what was updated. If its a comment to a topic, then at least include a snippet of the comment. Some additional indication of what the update is. The login issue is a bit more complex to solve, because if you're not logged into the forum, then you have to log in. However, Im curious if the forum software works with apps that manage different forums that people belong to, like Tapatalk? If not, is there anything in the works to make the flow of mobile forum usage a little more....seamless. I can certainly understand some frustration behind using the forum on a mobile device simply because its not as seamless as it could be and what users have come to expect from a mobile experience. I also understand how difficult of a target this is to hit, especially with limited staff.
Just some thoughts....Im sure there's more to come. I'd love to hear how other people use the forum. Its a very useful tool in the arsenal, for sure.