SSC Facelift and changes

Mark

Founder
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May 27, 2012
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I'm toying with the idea of giving SSC a facelift and changing several aspects but I would like feedback to see if I am on the right track so feel free to speak your mind...

The reason I think SSC needs a facelift is to make it more active and to do this I need to obviously make our site more attractive to visitors. People come to forums for three main reasons, to get information, share information, and to discuss common interests. Therefore, what I need to come up with is a forum that people want to join and participate in rather than just visit.

There are several things I'm considering (or have decided) on implementing to improve SSC:
  • Reviews system - this system we have been working on (and I helped fund) is almost ready so this will definitely give members more ways to participate and add interesting content.
  • Theme change - Perhaps introducing a more modern theme with a review of colours and/or logo? Are you happy with how the forum look and performs?
  • Change Showcase into Rare Seed Swap or something else - with the introduction of Reviews the Showcase area will essentially become redundant; however, instead of removing the showcase I could transfer most of the current content over to Reviews and then use the Showcase as an area for people to swap seeds? I'm keen to start offering several of my own organic seed varieties for free online. Is there something else we could use this section for?
  • Competitions - Bringing back more regular competitions is something I want to do; unfortunately, what I have noticed happening is people signing up or returning only to enter the comp and then buggering off. I'm working on a way we can encourage (make) people contribute to the forum before they gain entry into the competition so that it's fairer. Overall, could competitions be an incentive to be part of our community and contribute?
The above are my main points of consideration please feel free to provide any feedback at all and/or suggest other ways to improve SSC.

Ultimately, an active forum really just requires a solid membership and a core of reasonably active members and I think we have a good core of active members but if we could expand this core SSC has potential to become one of the most influential, helpful, and social self-sufficiency/gardening sites on the web... I reckon anyway.

Cheers :)
 

stevo

Backyard Farmer
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From what I've seen on tv and the net lately, backyard chickens and native bees are starting to grow in popularity, also simple backyard vegie patches. The majority of people live in the suburbs so that needs to be taken into account aswell. We all dream of having a hobby farm or property but that's not going to happen for the majority of people but we all like to do what we can with the property we have, so that might mean things like small vegie gardens, a few chickens, bees, aquaponics etc.

People may not agree, but i'd reduce the amount of forums. When a website or forum is quiet you have less categories so the small amount of activity is not spread out so with the small amount of posts happening it makes the forum look busier. If you have too many categories it spreads the activity out too much. Once a forum starts getting messy, only then you start adding new categories for specific topics.

Here's my view of what could be done to the forum structure. If you open the site in the another window, this is how i'd re-arrange it, going from top forum to bottom:

1. delete the competition sub forum, have one forum with competitions mixed in with the announcements.
2. keep "introduce yourself"
3. Fruit and Vege - no sub forums - merge all the threads to one forum
4. "General" and "Chin wag" merge together to have one forum
5. "Recipes" to have no sub forums, merge them all to one forum
6. "Building things" merged with "Machinery"
7. "Domestic Livestock" , delete all sub forums - merge all threads to one forum. Possibly a name change to mention chickens because that might be the main thing people are in to? Maybe have a new forum for Aquaponics, Hydroponics, Fishing? because that might be popular with people so it could be a separate forum.
8. "Health" leave as is?
9. "Energy" leave as is?
10. "Photography" leave as is
11. "Farmers markets" and "Business Listings" could be merged together to have one forum
12. "Machinery" merged with "Building things" as mentioned
13. "Chin wag" merged with "General" as mentioned
14. delete "Archives"
15. I'm not sure where to put bees, but I think it might be worth mentioning it somewhere.
16. The "prepper" side of things might get some interest? Doesn't need to be extreme. Tips on how to do things, prepare for being offgrid etc.

But simply changing forums around wont create more traffic...

Next, the look/theme? Yeah a new look is always good, I think it looks ok at the moment but if it's easy enough for you to change it then you could try a new look every now and then.
 
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Mark

Founder
Staff member
May 27, 2012
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Bellmere, QLD
www.selfsufficientme.com
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Thanks for the advice Stevo - I think I will take a lot of what you said onboard in regards to simplifying and merging the forums. I guess I just like things to be easy to find and thats why I categorised so much (my military background) but we do have a search function plus a "similar threads" function so if people really want to look for something or a particular animal for instance they still can easily enough can't they?

What do you think of using more prefixes? For example, merging all the fruit and veg but having a prefix "fruit" and another "Veg" in different colours so they can still be easily identified?

I am a big believer in the small backyard self-sufficiency movement that's why I always say "you don't have to be self-sufficient in everything just self-sufficient in something to be self-sufficient and make a difference." However, I do want to create a balance and also cast the net wider to larger properties without forgetting the suburbs - if you get what I mean...

I think a theme change is probably due and I might overhaul my blog also.
 

stevo

Backyard Farmer
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Clontarf, Qld
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I appreciate your taking that onboard Mark, and not getting defensive and angry about it as i'm not saying that it's all wrong. On other forums and facebook people can get pretty angry or negative about suggestions. I'm no expert in anyway, the above suggestions are just my views. It'd be interesting to hear other peoples views/opinions also.

Prefixes? I have seen a forum with a review section that you could select an icon to stick to your post, for example "Event" / "Gear" / "Location", each had a little icon graphic, text and colour, so yeah that's a good idea. I'm not sure about this forum script, but some like phpbb and smf have a thread icon you can select, so you just create a new one that people can choose.

yeap I know what you mean about the farm properties, I agree. I was just commenting from a marketing point of view that possibly the biggest audience could be from the suburbs. So you want to draw them in somehow.

In the end, it's your forum and you should go with what you feel works best or what best suits what you're trying to achieve. I'll just rave crap and post weird stuff :cheers:

PS/edit, doh i forgot, yeah you have the prefixes now on new posts, so it's just a matter of adding new ones?
 

Mark

Founder
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May 27, 2012
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PS/edit, doh i forgot, yeah you have the prefixes now on new posts, so it's just a matter of adding new ones?
Yes, that's right I can make up a heap of colour coded prefixes relevant to different forums and this is another way people can immediately see what a thread is about and also use it to filter out and show all threads on a particular subject. I think that's a winner!

Like you said though, changing forums won't necessarily entice more people to be active but it could be easier for visitors to see at a glance that there are some people here who are willing to help and answer questions because the discussions won't be so scattered around. We'll see hey ... :)
 

Mark

Founder
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looks like you've been busy Mark. I'm on the phone at the moment. The forum layout is simple to navigate on the phone.
Yes Stevo, I've implemented just about all your recommendations plus several ideas you have inadvertently given me!

I'm glad you are finding our forum easier to navigate. I still have changes to make but I'm also pretty happy with how it's coming together. :)
 

Steve

Valued Member
Premium Member
Jun 5, 2013
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Brisbane Australia
Just catching up on some SSC forum reading...been a bit busy of late with house plans and all the research I need to do on that.

I'm not sure I will be much help but in the spirit of it being a forum and forums only work if someone contributes here are a couple of thoughts.
I agree with Stevo on his points to rearrange the topics to 'minimise' the choices. It looks like this has already happened and it looks good.

Competitions, well I don't think they really bring the crowds. Despite the fact I was a very happy winner once I don't think they encourage people to participate, only to enter.
If you really want to give stuff away perhaps you could give random prizes if someone writes an awesome post. I don't know the answer but I'm just not sure about competitions value.

I like the seed swap idea although I have nothing to offer in that realm. Wish I did though. Maybe one day.

I think an updated overall colour/theme/logo change could be a refreshing thing and catch the eye of passers by. I'm not one to participate in forums much so I'm no expert but an eye catching design is always good as is easy to find info. My main reason for going to a forum is to find information. It normally starts with a google search for something and then if it catches my eye and info is easy to find, then I'll stay around a while. With this forum, I'm hanging around because of the good info plus the awesome people who post with no judgement and support. Without that I'd be out of here.

My other thought is advertising. Not being a forum-guru, is there a way to somehow advertise your forum on other sites? Maybe you already do this and thats great if you do, but if not it might be something to think about. Is it rude to mention your forum on other peoples forums? I'm not sure if thats an accepted practice but I know on some 4x4 forums I've been led all over the place following recommendations of other sites. just a thought.

Anyway, that's about all I got.
Keep up the good work Mark, love the site.

PS: I know what you mean about having sub categories and the military mindset. I have a monster filing systems on my work and personal computers with folder in folder in folder. I really should see about some therapy for that......

Cheers
 

Mark

Founder
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May 27, 2012
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Bellmere, QLD
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Thanks for the feedback @Steve i really do appreciate it!

I'm glad you approve of the forum slimming down but I must admit to swallowing hard before giving up my sub categories - it feels messy to me. However, finding info or related threads is pretty easy with our search function and "similar threads" feature so I can justify the changes and i like it.

I am going to modernise the style but I plan to use a simple default style also and have this as an alternative so members and visitors can choose.

Advertising on other forums is generally not good form but I don't think advertising our site is needed to be honest because it gets enough through traffic from my blog, YouTube and search engines anyway. Generation of content brings people and I have plans to build on that but establishing a larger core of regular members is the hardest part. This will take time.

Best of luck with the house plans (how exciting) be sure to take your time and try to enjoy the whole process.

Cheers mate
 

Mark

Founder
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May 27, 2012
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Bellmere, QLD
www.selfsufficientme.com
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How are you coping with the "messy" forum Mark? :ROFL: ... I have to get some spare time and go around and update my project threads :blush:
I keep telling myself that I can always use the search... :) and I have been using the search more now too!

Nah, I like the simplified nodes better.