Running a site doesn't only require Web development skills. Any site where the users can add content and communicate with each other requires a great deal of care and attention if it's going to be a success.
Increasing user participation on your site is achievable if you aim for the old adage KISS, or keep it simple, stupid. Beyond that, there are a few things you can do to get more people to interact with your site. Here are seven tips to set you on that path.
1. Enable Social Logins
I'd suggest losing registration altogether if you can. But if your site requires registration, best to make it as simple as possible. A quick click here, a quick click there, and hey presto - one registered user without the barrier of a signup form.
Check out our guide to JanRain Engage and you'll be setting up social logins in no time.
2. Clearly Signpost the Forums
Got a forum on your site? Good! Now make sure it's easy to find. Forums are not a great deal of use if nobody can find them. Put a link to the forums in the main navigation bar - don't bury it on a sub-page.
3. Show Avatars Everywhere
I've always found forum software to be rather plain and boring. Avatars are shown when you view a post, but on the topic listing, not so much.
Something like this seems much more appealing:
This is a layout I developed for a site with built-in forum functionality. Displaying avatars at this level helps when differentiating between the topics in the list.
4. Highlight Recent Activity
People are much more likely to participate in a site if they can quickly find what's new and updated across the site. Whether it's recent blog comments, replies in the forums, new members or site upgrades, some people will be interested to see what's going on. Let them find that information.
5. Talk To Them!
If you're building a site for someone else, there may be limits to what you can do in this area. But if it's your site, or you're contributing to a site where it's acceptable for the developers to get involved, do so. Being approachable is a very good character trait for a developer to possess - it shows you care.
6. Run Member Polls
If a lot of people have something to say, particularly about new or proposed features, it can be useful to distil this information into a member poll. Running a poll from time to time gives you a good insight into the general views of the community, while simultaneously sharing the same information with members.
7. Reward Top Contributors
Do you have a few people who stand out as being helpful, resourceful or good at keeping the peace? Depending on the goals of your site, giving out small tokens of appreciation can be a big help. Be careful not to alienate the less frequent contributors though.
Photo by JamieL.WilliamsPhotography