Changing the forum: a suggestions box

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David Roth
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Changing the forum: a suggestions box

Post by David Roth » Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:20 am

We have noticed a tailing off of the use of this forum over the last year or so, and we'd like your suggestions for how we might go about attracting more people to it, and to attract people back to it who have stopped using it.

I'm a member of some of the family and friends care facebook groups that have been set up, so I'm aware that some of those groups are very active. They do operate differently from this forum, in that people post here under an anonymous username, where facebook might feel more personal because you know who you're talking to. At the same time, we have increased the involvement of FRG advisers on this forum, so that if you post any queries here you will get a speedy, well informed professional response.

One idea we have had is to reduce the number of folders that the discussion threads are in. If we only have half a dozen, that might make it more manageable and easier to use. We were thinking of just having the following folders: Natter and chatter; News and announcements; Court & legal matters; Raising children; Finance & support; Sibling carers; and Archive.

What do any of you think of this proposal? Do you have any suggestions of your own?

This thread is your suggestions box for ways to improve the forum.
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

Kate
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Re: Changing the forum: a suggestions box

Post by Kate » Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:18 pm

I have never liked last year's changes to the forum. I'm sorry to say because I know a lot of thought and work went into them, but if it were possible to return to how it was before I would think it worth a try. I don't think it's a case of how many and what folders. We lost so many people when the boards changed that I think it has to be connected to that.

Is it possible for FRG to contact all those who used to post regularly on here and ask if they are willing to give reasons for not participating any more? That would be a worthwhile exercise IMO.
Last edited by Kate on Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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David Roth
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Re: Changing the forum: a suggestions box

Post by David Roth » Wed May 02, 2012 10:01 am

Thank you both for joining the discussion.

After reading your posts, I must say that I feel you pain over the loss of the old-style discussion forum. In the past, the forum has provided a lively and fast-moving place where family and friends carers could support each other because they understood the sort of issues everyone was dealing with. Posters knew each other, and there was a real sense of a community, and that has been missing recently.

However, I'm not sure it was the change of format to the forum that was wholly responsible for this, as the forum was already becoming quieter before the change. I'm sure though that it didn't help that there were some technical difficulties in the beginning, which may have out some people off.

Perhaps you could tell us how we could go about getting that old sense of a supportive community back - what were the features of the old forum that helped it to have that feel?

Would any of the newer posters who have joined us more recently care to comment? Is there anything we could do to make this forum better to use, so that you and others in your position would drop in more regularly?
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

Kate
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Re: Changing the forum: a suggestions box

Post by Kate » Thu May 03, 2012 11:41 am

I can't express it better than Irene, in fact I couldn't find a way to express it so thanks for doing it for me too Irene :)

Another issue I've had is with the password system - if you need to change it (eg forget the old one) you have to get a new one given to you and then change that. It takes time to be effective and I didn't find it works easily so rather than create a new one and delay being able to use the forum til it's up and running I just gave up and am still using a password I was given three months ago. It's not memorable in any way so I save it in an email which I keep as new and copy/paste it every time I want to log in. Which is just a nuisance factor.

Kate
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Re: Changing the forum: a suggestions box

Post by Kate » Thu May 03, 2012 11:43 am

I'd just like to issue a plea for others to respond to this subject - it's very sad that things have got to the point that there doesn't even seem to be much interest in it :(

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Robin D
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Re: Changing the forum: a suggestions box

Post by Robin D » Fri May 04, 2012 6:51 pm

I've read Kate's plea but have deliberately stayed quiet up until now as I didn't want to 'steer' the conversation.

With my IT hat on, can I make the following observations:
1. Many specialist forums are suffering with falling user activity mainly as a result of Facebook and the like. There was some evidence of that before the site changed. Only the very technical forums seem to not to be affected by this trend although much of the old 'idle chatter' has stopped.
2. Any change/upgrade always hits forum traffic. Not least amongst this is that people are reluctant to accept change but also it can adversely affect search engine performance especially as in this case where there was a temporary loss of service and the new site was launched under a different domain name.
3. Getting existing users to re-register is recognised in the industry as creating a real hit on site traffic. It would be interesting to see the traffic stats to see what proportion of users browse but give up at the sign up page.
4. I suspect that the large number of categories is indeed off putting to some.

On a personal front, I find the colour scheme off putting and it means I need to now be a little careful if I access the site from the office during breaks as its so vivid.

My suggestion to 'recover' the situation would be to email all the old users (on the assumption that they are still available) and ask them to honestly say why they no longer come in. I don't mean a survey but a few pointers might help like 'I no longer need the support', I had too much hassle re-registering, I've been unable to find the new site, I just don't like the site etc. This might give a better idea of what others are thinking.

I hope this is of some help as I know many people have worked very hard. I think its just that the forum just doesn't 'feel' as clean and bright like the new FRG main web-site. It also displays badly in both Firefox and Chrome which is again an issue for some.

Best wishes ..... Robin

Edit to add: On the subject of colour, its been pointed by a male colleague who I've just shown that out that the site looks 'girly'. If he is right and its alienating men that could make a dent in the visits!
Former F&F carer, foster carer, adopter and respite carer for umpteen children. Now retired and when with kids, making sure they 'go home' at the end of the day.

Kate
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Re: Changing the forum: a suggestions box

Post by Kate » Sun May 06, 2012 12:08 am

Hi Robin

I find your input illuminating because I'm pretty clueless about the IT side of things. I do agree that emailing past users would be worthwhile. I hope this can be done, and that it brings in some helpful feedback.

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David Roth
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Re: Changing the forum: a suggestions box

Post by David Roth » Tue May 08, 2012 12:01 pm

Many thanks Robin for joining this discussion and for your interesting observations. We are looking at the possibility of contacting older members of the forum for their views.

The changes to the forum won't be taking place right away, but everyone's thoughts and observations are now on record here, and will help us when we think it through and try to get it right.

For people who're finding it harder to navigate the new forum, what is it in particular that you could do on the old one that is harder to do on this one? It may be that there are things that could be made easier with a few tweaks.

Anyone who has joined the forum more recently — your observations are welcome too. Is there anything we could do to this forum to make it easier to use, or more welcoming to newbies?
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

LLB
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Re: Changing the forum: a suggestions box

Post by LLB » Tue May 08, 2012 5:34 pm

I am sorry but I liked it when everything was together in the old forum.

Then you saw the latest topics as soon as you logged on.

If felt more friendly and it was easier to respond to different topics all at once because our experiences are varied and we are able to respond to many different topics at once in each posting.

We don't need everything divided up into headings because sometimes the things that we want to chat about are often varied and do not fit exclusively under one heading.

In other words people in trouble and needing advice could come in with subjects as:

We have just had to take on our grandchildren.
I will have to give up work.
How can I afford to do this?
Will I get any money?
They were just left here with me.
One of the children has behavioural problems.
What do I do about schools.
They have come from a different part of the country.
My daughter has just had a baby and it has been put into foster care.
I feel so alone with nobody to talk to.
What are Reviews?
What is a Care Order
They left the children and just talked about getting SGOs. What are these?
Two of the siblings are with another carer. Shouldn't they all be together?

I realise that a lot of work has gone into this new forum but I preferred the old one.

Also the wall on facebook just details everything as it is said doesn't it and not necessarily under headings?

Sorry

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Esme, Moderator
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On behalf of Kate!

Post by Esme, Moderator » Wed May 09, 2012 8:52 am

Kate has been trying to post a reply to LLB's comment but having difficulties (not sure what's happening there!)

Have copied and posted Kate's comment below.....

good to have your feedback LLB, and what you said made perfect sense to me. I especially found the various examples of subject headings a help
Esme, FRG Board Moderator

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