August 25, 2015

Online Forums: Are They Right for Town Websites?

Discussion boards, message boards, or forums –whatever you call them, they all have the same purpose: to provide a place for members to comment, and discuss various issues, interests, or concerns.

[caption id="attachment_303" align="alignnone" width="640"]

Online forums can be a way to facilitate discussion –but they can also be difficult to manage. Is there a better way?

Online forums can be a way to facilitate discussion –but they can also be difficult to manage. Is there a better way?[/caption]Discussion boards, message boards, or forums –whatever you call them, they all have the same purpose: to provide a place for members to comment, and discuss various issues, interests, or concerns.While the purpose of adding a discussion board to a town website is usually done in the interest of transparency –enabling the public to post questions and hold discussions in a public setting, the reality is that having a forum is much more involved than you might think.A forum may seem like an ideal way to create two-way channels of communication between the municipality and the public, but the reality is far more complicated. Forums require a significant amount of patrolling and monitoring in order to ensure that the conversations stay on-topic, and to make sure that all of the questions and topics are addressed in a timely manner.It’s true that there are some benefits that come from having a forum on-site. Discussion forums can occasionally draw crowds which can increase the amount of traffic your website sees. They can also help you to build relationships with your visitors, and give you a chance to educate the public on various issues; giving you a platform from which to speak. However, there are also some downsides to having an on-site discussion forum, and in the end, municipalities often decide that they’re just not worth having.Let’s look at some of the issues that discussion forums can cause, and see some available alternatives.

Downsides of Discussion Forums

Alternative Options

Ok, so we’ve seen how having a forum requires diligent monitoring, and in some cases, could present a liability to the town. But the good news is that if you’re looking for a way to open up communication between the municipality and the public, there are other safer and less time-consuming ways that you can do just that.

So there you have it! The reasons for –and against having a public discussion forum. If you have any questions regarding a website or forum for your town –don’t hesitate to contact Town Web Design today.At Town Web Design, we offer web design for small and medium-sized municipalities. Contact us today to learn more about a website for your town.Image: Hillary