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I'm getting ready to release a new software product, and am setting up my support forum. Should I require users to login to post or reply to topics, or not?

I'd like to make it easy for users to request help, so I'm leaning towards no registration and login. Especially since the forum will be empty to start. However, it seems like many (if not most) support forums require login. Is it to prevent spam? To collect email addresses? I'm just trying to figure out the pros and cons, and if I'm missing something.

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Not sure I see the UX angle here. However, I would require logins to post. –  ChrisF Jul 3 '12 at 21:42
    
Why would you require them? Why wouldn't you? Whether you should or not depends on a lot of things; user identity, spam risk ect. –  Ben Brocka Jul 3 '12 at 21:47

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The main reason for asking users to register in order to participate in a forum is to avoid spam (in the shape of affiliate links). You will still get spam with a registration, just not as much because it's one extra step the spammer has to go through. Also, your support questions will probably show more 'elaboration', since the person had to invest time in the process of registering. But this is quite relative anyway.

Now, if and once you decide to go for a registration, you face two new questions:

1) Will unregistered users be able to read all the messages and use all functionalities?, and

2) How quick and thoughtful is your registration process going to be? Will you require an email verification? How much personal information will you ask for?

Another advantage of having a database of registered users is the possibility of getting better statistics (not to mention some valuable info about your users). These things can also help you with advertising in the future. And the winner advantage, for me: Email notifications. Users can get notified when there are new answers (but only if you have their email!), and the return rate will be much higher.

But I guess if you don't want them to register but you still want to avoid spam, you can moderate the questions yourself before they are posted.

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Thanks Yisela, I hadn't thought about the advantage of email notifications. To answer your questions: 1 - I've set it up so unregistered users can read all messages. 2 - I think the registration is quick, I just ask for a username, email address and password, and there are some other optional fields. The user will then need to verify their email. What I've ended up doing is allowing moderated guest posts, but making the benefits of registering more clear - e.g. no moderation and email notifications. –  Kevin Jul 4 '12 at 16:12

It's also about behaviour and features.

I believe anonymous users would feel less responsible for what they put into the forum. Allowing activity when not logged in is promoting a Hit-and-run behaviour.

Do you expect them to return? Do you expect them to follow up on their actions on the site? Could you support those features without requiring a login?

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Thanks JOG. I think I can support the actions you mention without login. I'm planning to allow moderated guest posts for now, as I mentioned in my response to JOG. If this turns out to be a problem then I can move to a registration-required system later. –  Kevin Jul 4 '12 at 16:14

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