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I am involved in setting up a forum/message board site that will be used for client communications and support. I would like to plan the categories/topics that messages will be posted under.

Obviously a little common sense would go a long way here, and the process is likely to be evolutionary. That being said, are there any references for good/tried and tested categories for forums in general, or support forums specifically? (Including options to avoid.)

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Wouldn't this question be better suited on User Experience? –  DKOATED May 8 '13 at 12:17
    
@DKOATED ah I see, I've flagged it for moderator attention, thanks –  d3vid May 8 '13 at 12:37
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2 Answers 2

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I strongly recommend reading this excellent article on best practices for community specific design. From a design perspective and to ensure you allow for easy collaboration and contribution, To quote the article :

Browsing

Community sites, like any other website, need to facilitate browsing using design tactics > that immediately tell the user the purpose of the community and answer the question, “Should I stay?” At first glance, the community visual design should welcome the visitor and communicate the brand. Clear headlines, content previews with links to full posts, thumbnail imagery, meaningful organization of information, faceted search, and calls-to-action can help users browse and engage beyond browsing.

Searching

Community search should help users find useful and relevant topics by allowing them to refine faceted searches based on content types, members, topics, recency, and user ratings.

Contributing

Community contribution depends on the community access. Some communities, especially those requiring paid access, are closed, requiring a login to view content. Others let visitors browse for free, but contribution requires registration. For either scenario, the contribution process must be effortless; otherwise users will leave, thinking it’s not worth the effort.

With regards to defining the information architecture, the article has this to say:

A Broad and Flexible Information Architecture

Communities are made up of a set of members and content that is constantly changing. A hierarchical site taxonomy and information architecture create a sense of place for the user, but content and contributions are typically not tied to one topic, so the information architecture needs to be flexible. Community information architecture (IA) should account for the big buckets—the high-level categories where all discussion, curation, and collection can take place in a manner that makes sense for the community. Then, at sub-category level, tagging, recency, and ratings can help surface the most valuable content within the category.

A community site’s nomenclature should be consistent with the user’s terminology and not the company’s. Communities can assign their own nomenclature with tagging and categorization that evolve with as discussions in the community grow.

Since the community is a collective of people, a “members” category should be part of the top-level navigation as a place where people can learn about each other and manage their own member profiles. Depending on the topic and realm of the community, consider describing members in more specific terms. For example, a golf community can have a member’s category called “Golfers” and a software community can have a category called “Developers.”

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The smaller the amount of topics/threads you expect the smaller the initial amount of boards/categories. For example, you can start with "Technical Problems" and later divide into "Technical Problems Product A" and "Technical Problems Product B".

To find a good solution I would

a: google for "information architecture"

b: look at/search for comparable examples

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