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Chat Rooms or Forums on Business Websites

As a bespoke web designer, one of the most frequent requests from small business owners is that they would like a chat room included with their website. So far, none of these businesses has gone ahead with one. The reasons are many, but the main reason is that they have not thought this through.

Did you really mean a chat room?

For a start, most of them do not mean a chat room. A chat room allows a group of Internet connected individuals to send messages to each other in real time. It requires them all to be connected to the chat room at the same time. They serve a purpose for specific types of websites. For example, a website dedicated to a group of enthusiasts for a particular hobby, especially if that hobby attracts very young people.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum

When most people refer to wanting a chat room for their website, what they really mean is that they would like a forum. A forum is a bit like a notice board where people can register topics which everyone else can ready and reply to. There is no need for everyone to be connected to the Internet at the same time as the board is permanently available to all of its users. Therefore "chats" are carried out on forums over a span of hours days or even weeks. In theory there is no time limit to how long a "chat" or "thread" can last.

So why is it that none of my customers has gone ahead with a forum for their website? Once again the reasons are many but two main reasons are the decider for most businesses not to go ahead with a forum.

A popular forum has its problems

If a forum is popular it takes a lot of work for the website owner to maintain. Forums attract "trolls" (people who just join forums to offend wnd wind up people) and spammers in large numbers. Therefore you need to keep tight control over the posts made on your forums as well as the things that are said as you could be held responsible. The forum must be extremely useful to your business to justify the length of time you will have to spend administering it.

But an unpopular forum has more

However, it is more likely to be the case that the forum will not be popular. Your website has to attract a wide enough and enthusiastic appeal in order to make a forum useful. It is better to have no forum than to have one whose last post was in 2009 in just the same way that it is better to have no news page than one without any recent news.

Tue 17 May 2011 12:10:35

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