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I am working a blog like site (with a specific niche) where users can come and makes posts. I have been thinking about whether to make the site open, closed or semi-closed. Here are my thoughts:

In case of open site, when the users come in, in the homepage they can see the latest postings, categorized content etc and then they can click on these contents and read them freely.

PROS:

  • Might succeed in getting more readership for the postings and encourage readers to come back as it is easy to access the postings without registration etc
  • Easier access to many content in homepage can pique reader's interest and get them going.

CONS:

  • Writers might get discouraged, because anonymous reading means, lesser chance of getting feedback/comments. Having a high readership with no comments is pretty discouraging.
  • The homepage can get pretty cluttered and overwhelming

In case of closed site, when the users come in, they only see a few sections stating what the site is and what the benefits of registration are. They will be needed to register/sign in before they can access any postings. PROS & CONS are opposite of an open site.

PROS:

  • The homepage can be made more clean and professional.

  • Since the reader went through the trouble of registration (which will be a VERY short form), we can expect the reader to be more participating in providing feedback etc.

CONS:

  • Hitting a registration required screen in the homepage can cause massive dropoffs

A semi-closed site is where users can view SOME of the postings without registering. Like say, N number of postings a day or so.

PROS:

  • If content is good, users will be encouraged to register to continue
  • Seems fair to both readers and writers

CONS:

  • Harder to maintain/manage
  • There is a chance that the user hit the unregistered usage limit for the day, and let to never return.

So what are your thoughts/comments? What kind of the above three options would you prefer as a reader, writer? What user experience do you think will have most engagement?

All feedback welcome!

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I would go with open.

Writers might get discouraged, because anonymous reading means, lesser chance of getting feedback/comments. Having a high readership with no comments is pretty discouraging.

Less chance of getting feedback only when seen in relation. Really interested people might register anyway. I also don't see why having a high readership should be discouraging. But if it's only about the comments you could try to provide the option to comment anonymously (by providing an e-mail address) and see how that works. In some projects I worked we've started with open content and the option of anonymous comments and then turned the anonymous option off when the traction with registered users was high enough.

Since the reader went through the trouble of registration (which will be a VERY short form), we can expect the reader to be more participating in providing feedback etc.

I wouldn't take this for granted. Maybe the user expected different content before registering.

The major concern that speaks against closed that came to my mind isn't really UX related: by having a closed community with closed to public posts you'll also lock out Search Engine Bots and you'll potentially lose a lot of this "free" traffic. There's of course the option to have the bots crawl your closed site, but then you'll have to ask yourself if your articles can be found via search engines, then shouldn't it be open anyway?

  • I agree with you - what you said makes sense, especially about the bots... – open_sourse Jun 25 '14 at 12:06
  • @open_sourse if you agree and you find this answer helpful, then please consider accepting the answer by clicking the green check below the votes counts. This will result in having the question marked as "answered" – msp Jul 8 '14 at 9:29
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I'd definitely go with open. The cons you bring up for it are assumptious/design choices. Many sites will also let unregistered users comment on posts by filling in a CAPTCHA.

That said you could always add some locked sections to provide a bit more incentive for users to register if they find themselves returning to your site.

Semi-open ;)

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