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Solve problem of overly complex forum structure and users not finding the right forum

Discussion in 'XenForo Suggestions' started by Stuart Wright, Aug 4, 2015.

  1. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    The reasons for creating a new subforum are
    1) it is needed because the parent forum is being swamped with threads on a specific topic
    2) Having a forum for a particular topic can attract traffic. Both those people visiting the forum and from search engines.
    We've ended up with hundreds at AVForums
    It means that someone wanting to find discussions on a particular subject might have real difficulty finding the appropriate forum. For example, where would you post a question about Android TV boxes?
    The answer is
    Home Audio Video Forums -> Player & Recorder Forums -> Streamers & Network Media Players
    Yes, I'd struggle as well.

    We've found a website with way more forums than us who have created an elegant solution. Trip Advisor, which is an absolutely huge forum obviously doing something very right.
    Here is Trip Advisor's Florida Forum, Travel Discussion for Florida – TripAdvisor
    You'll note that it displays the threads from this forum and all the subforums (places/major attractions in Florida) rather like (but better presented than) this addon we commissioned the Forum Digest by Waindigo
    I think Trip Advisor's thread list is better presented because the subforum is in a separate (first) column which provides essential context for the thread title (second column). The number of thread views is omitted and I don't think that's a great loss.
    Note that above the list is a helpful drop-down list of all the subforums as opposed to the verbose list of subforums like we have in Xenforo. If there are a lot of subforums, this list can be long. E.g. TVs
    Replacing that verbose list of subforums with a simple drop-down list also means that the breadcrumb would be immediately above the list of threads for easy backtracking if the viewer decides they have landed in the wrong place.
    Also when all the threads are displayed from the current forum and its subforums, it means there is more visibility of the latest threads from all those forums. One of the biggest complaints from users when forums are split up is that they have to visit different forums to see the latest threads. Creating this 'digest' of threads overcomes that problem.

    I would like to suggest that Xenforo core to have an option globally or on a per-node basis to display a 'digest' of all the threads from the current node and its children. Also an option to display the simple subforums drop-down list like Trip Advisor does rather than the verbose list of subforums.
    Grant, IPF, Gladius and 20 others like this.
  2. JulianD

    JulianD Well-Known Member

    I think this is where forum software should be heading: solving the problem of content discovery. Great post and great suggestion Stuart.
    adwade, Marcus and Fred. like this.
  3. Fred.

    Fred. Well-Known Member

    I agree with this, On travel forums it's a problem.
    Not sure about the implementation on tripadvisor because on a small forum it might look empty.
  4. mjda

    mjda Active Member

    I like this idea, but wouldn't this work a lot like prefixes do now? What I do on my site, in some forums, is require users to choose a prefix. I used to have everything divided by sub-forums, but decided it would be better to use the prefixes instead. So, I merged all the sub-forums into the parent forum, and applied the appropriate prefix to each as I moved them.
    Coop1979 likes this.
  5. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    No, this idea is nothing like prefixes.
  6. Coop1979

    Coop1979 Well-Known Member

    Exactly what I was thinking. Prefixes have replaced the use of subforums on my forum as well, and our usage rate has skyrocketed. All you need is a good way to present the prefixes (ie, have a dropdown with a auto-populating search bar next to it ), along with better control over the page title for the forum once a prefix is selected, and boom, you have what you need.
  7. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    No, this is the opposite of using prefixes to delineate all your threads in a single forum.
    This is about retaining a distinct separation of your threads into separate forums for organisational and SEO reasons, but giving people visibility of all the threads in the current forum and subforums.
    CyclingTribe likes this.
  8. Coop1979

    Coop1979 Well-Known Member

    What other SEO work would be needed if we had better control over page title and other metadata for prefixes?

    I definitely see what you're suggesting, but I'm just saying that it could be done really well if the current prefix system was extended and more robust.
  9. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    I think we need to retain the forum structure for SEO because, for example, the breadcrumb is picked up by search engines. If you want to see improved prefix functionality, then that would need to be in a separate suggestion. My suggestion here, and this thread is about improving visibility to threads in forums where there are plenty of subforums and I have no interest in removing the subforums and replacing them with prefix functionality.
    Coop1979 likes this.
  10. Kevin

    Kevin Well-Known Member

    This is kind of a free-thinking response.... :p
    XF's thread prefixes would work if we had a way of seeing thread prefix searches across nodes instead of a specific one.
    If we could do that then in the TripAdvisor example you gave "Florida" would be a prefix for threads in the "Walt Disney World", "Key West", "Tampa" and so on forums (either manually selected or auto-prefixed on new threads in those forums). A user could then click the "Florida" prefix and be shown a listing of threads across forums that meet the criteria in the same fashion you linked to.

    Unfortunately right now (as least that I'm aware of) XF only supports searching for threads within a specific node (eg: the "1.4" prefix in the upgrades forum Installation, Upgrade, and Import Support). That functionality combined with something like showing the prefixes available (Prefix Forum Listing) would do what that Trip Advisor page is doing.

    But.... interestingly the new tagging feature in XF 1.5 does return results across forums and nodes (and gallery?). For example, here's the results for the "1.5" thread tag xf 1.5 | XenForo Community.

    In the Trip Advisor example if "Florida" could be automatically added as a tag to threads in the "Disney World", "Key West", and so on forum then clicking on the "Florida" tag would indeed show all activity across multiple sections of the site.

    Putting it all together, using a highly visible tag cloud (maybe something like what @Daniel Hood has been working on as a widget) or some other nice way of displaying a tag index along with being able to force all threads in certain forums to have a specific tag (eg: "Florida") would easily allow XF 1.5 to mimic that Trip Advisor page.
    Coop1979 likes this.
  11. Daniel Hood

    Daniel Hood Well-Known Member

    You can search threads with a prefix for all nodes, there's just not a great interface for doing that currently. The search Threads page does enable it but you also have to enter a keyword so it's not exactly the same thing.

    Not just "been working on", it's included already in the widget add-on ;)
    Kevin likes this.
  12. mjda

    mjda Active Member

    Maybe the way you see it, but I don't see much difference at all. The threads are all listed together, and if you only wanted to see only the Florida threads you would simply need to click on the Florida prefix and you'd have them. It would return the same results as clicking on the Florida (sub)forum link on trip advisor.
    Coop1979 likes this.
  13. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    Ok, and what if you wanted to use prefixes for other reasons within the forum? Then you have multiple prefixes? That would be a mess. (Yes I know there is an addon to use multiple prefixes, but IMO that's a mess).
    Also don't you appreciate that Google recognises and uses breadcrumbs? You're ignoring the SEO and user interface benefits of having structured information. I'm thoroughly unconvinced that prefixes are an alternative to what I'm suggesting.
  14. Kevin

    Kevin Well-Known Member

    .... which is why in my post above the new tags feature of XF 1.5 would work easier.
  15. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

    What do you think about these possibilities:
    Node filter on forum index
    Access to "faceted" search please!

    The latter basically allows users to filter nodes & node contet by preset search tags, which basically is what tripadvisor does. This allows the same content from one or from multiple nodes to be indexed under multiple links. Pretty much in the same manner that thread tags display content that is also displayed in nodes. This is great for SEO.

    What TA does seems similar to thread prefixes, but its node agnostic. Much more flexible. Its very similar or the same as to Faceted search.
  16. EQnoble

    EQnoble Well-Known Member

    Alfa1 likes this.
  17. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

    Thanks. Facets were replaced by the next generation: Aggregations.
    The page in your quote is very interesting:
  18. Biker

    Biker Well-Known Member

    While the "digest" works great for showing people there are forums for specific topics, it still does nothing in getting those users to start a new thread in the proper forum to begin with. Finding existing topics to respond to is easy. Getting new users to post in the proper location is what's hard.

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