I have seen it time and time again. And yet, every time, it irritates me to no end. You are on a professional web site. You are navigating around and at some point you hit the link for their forums. And just like that you feel transported to another place. The whole site design just changes. Colors, layout, navigation… everything. Here are some examples, including the new C7Y site from php|Architect which inspired this post. (I really do love you guys on the podcast I promise =)
- php|architect’s C7Y – main site – forums
- Zend’s Developer Zone – main site – forums
Zend’s forums do at least use the Zend.com header, but you can’t get to the forums from the main Zend.com site. You have to go to the Developer Zone.
- TextPad (great windows editor) – main site – forums
The header is kind of the same. Fonts and link colors change slightly though which is worse in some ways than a wholesale change. It looks like they just wedged in their HTML into the phpBB template.
I could continue to list some here, but you get the idea. So, what is the problem? Does most message board software make it too hard to edit their templates? Are forums an after thought and some underling is given the task to make them work and not allowed access to the main site’s templates?
Some people do better at it. MySQL for example. Theirs is still not perfect. An ad awkwardly appears in the forums in a way that makes it look like an error. However, thanks to Phorum (cha-ching), MySQL was able to make their own log in system work with their forums. Heck, even at dealnews I have not done that. Mostly because our forum logins predate our site accounts for email alerts and newsletters. I am not asking for perfection though. I would just like to feel like the company/entitiy gave some love to making their forums part of their site and not an afterthought.
So, I call for all web sites to start treating their forums like real pages. Give them the same love and attention you give that front page or any other page. And, if your message board software makes that hard, give Phorum a try.