Foster Engaging, Long-Form Discussions Online: Website Toolbox Leverages Two Decades of Experience to Make Forum Management Easy for Businesses

Foster Engaging, Long-Form Discussions Online: Website Toolbox Leverages Two Decades of Experience to Make Forum Management Easy for Businesses

TL; DR: Website Toolbox, an intuitive forum management platform, has helped users turn regular sites into thriving communities for two decades. Whereas social media networks provide for communication in quick snippets, online message forums encourage long-form conversation. With a quick set-up process and a range of premade themes that can be customized to match any site design, Website Toolbox is creating a user-friendly experience for forum administrators and contributors alike.

In 2007, Apple introduced its revolutionary iPhone, forever stealing the spotlight from the likes of BlackBerry and Nokia.

Though it was by no means the first smartphone to market, the iPhone quickly became a mobile icon. That’s mainly because it featured a remarkable multi-touch display, empowering consumers to control the device intuitively with the tap of a finger. In other words, you could pick it up, and it just worked — no training needed.

Sandeep Sondhi, Director of Website Toolbox, told us Apple set a laudable standard in terms of usability — one he said drives development efforts for the company’s forum management platform.

“In the same way the iPhone is functional but more simplistic than those crazy old phones of yesterday, our software is customizable yet user-friendly, so it just works well without the user having to go in and change a thousand options,” Sandeep said.

Website Toolbox logo

Forums, the easy way: Website Toolbox enables users who lack coding knowledge to create online communities.

The company’s intuitive forum management platform helps even the most novice users set up forums without struggling with coding or complicated software installation. “Website Toolbox provides a simple, easy, and user-friendly approach, from getting the forum set up to managing and customizing it,” Sandeep said. “We focus on those three things, so there’s zero hassle.”

Today, the company continues to keep simplicity front and center to ensure users can turn regular sites into online spaces for engaging and lengthy conversations. With quick configuration and a range of customizable themes, Website Toolbox is making forums approachable for both site admins and contributors.

A User-Friendly Experience for Admins and Visitors Alike

Whether you already have a website up and running or not, creating a community forum with Website Toolbox is painless. Current site owners have the option to match the forum’s domain name to existing homepages — for example, if Samsung owns Samsung.com, it could create a link named Forum.Samsung.com. It’s also a breeze to incorporate the forum within an existing site design.

“You can paste HTML from your layout into the forum so that it matches, or even just copy and paste the embed code as you would with a YouTube video,” Sandeep said. “That way, you don’t have to work with the HTML at all; the forum would just be embedded within the site.”

Icons depicting range of forum services

The company’s forums are designed to grow in step with customers and look stunning on a range of devices.

Individuals without a website can use one of Website Toolbox’s free domain names, or they can purchase a domain name through the company, creating a standalone forum and site. The platform is scalable as sites grow, capable of storing an unlimited number of categories, topics, replies, and members. This flexibility allows Website Toolbox to serve a range of customers.

“We’re able to handle the entire range of customers: We have some enterprise clients, some communities generating 5 million page views a month, and small groups of 15 or 20 people,” Sandeep said. “Our pricing is tiered so that you could get started for $15 a month, paid annually, and then as the forum becomes more popular, the pricing scales accordingly.”

Sandeep said discussion forums are unique in terms of growth patterns. “They seem small initially, but over time become very demanding on servers,” he said. “We have tons of clients who come over and say ‘Our XYZ forum software started crashing, the database became overloaded, and it became a nightmare to maintain.’”

The Important Role of Forums in the Age of Social Media

When Website Toolbox entered the tech market approximately two decades ago, there was no Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter — but there were forums.

“Two decades in the industry is a very long time: When we started, forums didn’t use databases; they used text files to hold data,” Sandeep said. “Those were wild times! Our systems were built from scratch, and over the years we’ve had to move from flat text file storage to databases in our own datacenters.”

Then came social media — a new breed of hosted discussion that many feared would send traditional forums to their early graves. But, as the technology evolved, the Website Toolbox team observed that people turned to discussion forums for something entirely different than social media.

“They’re not looking for short posts with little comments back and forth,” Sandeep said. “People come to forums to have real, long-form discussions, whether they’re related to customer service or hobbies like gaming.”

But Website Toolbox doesn’t discount the power of social media. Users can log in using Facebook, embed forums into Facebook pages, and share content on social networks. And, much like social networking platforms, Website Toolbox’s forums encourage engagement through a range of tools.

For example, the platform helps incentivize quality content by assigning users a reputation score based on the numbers of likes or dislikes received on their posts. The system also encourages engagement by assigning titles to users who post often and granting them special privileges based on participation.

A Range of Pre-Made Themes Customizable to Your Liking

Website Toolbox’s customization options allow users to precisely match their forum to company branding specifications. There are dozens of customizable themes available with accent colors and backgrounds in every shade of the rainbow. After selecting and customizing their theme, users have the option to upload their own logo, favicon, header images, and icons.

“It just takes a few seconds: Set up a trial account, and in the theme section, you’ll see different designs for everyone — from enterprise clients looking for something sleek and professional to a theme called ‘Playtime,’ a completely fun theme that features round tiles and more than 20 different colors,” Sandeep said. “These themes allow users to go in and customize them by pointing and clicking without any coding.”

Graphic depicting how forums look on different devices

Website Toolbox is integrated with social media platforms like Facebook to enhance engagement opportunities.

Once the user is happy with a design, a built-in preview tool displays how it will appear on desktops, tablets, and smartphones. If something looks off, the company provides access to live chat and an email support team who are extremely easy to reach, Sandeep told us.

“If you’re ever in need, you can always just click that little live chat support button hovering at the bottom right of the page,” he said. “It’s not like some systems that require you to click ‘live chat,’ enter your name and email address in a dialogue window, and wait for a support representative. You just click, and somebody’s already there waiting.”

Sandeep said Website Toolbox gets positive feedback from clients in terms of problem resolution and turnaround time. “When monitoring tickets, we consider everything to be extremely urgent,” he said.

Keeping it Simple: The Key to Effective Forum Evolution

Website Toolbox is working to update its platform while keeping simplicity in mind.

“Considering how fast the Internet in general moves and how much discussion forums have evolved, we have to be aggressive with our software development in terms of what not to include,” Sandeep said. “At the same time, discussion forums have been around for so long that there’s a tendency to say ‘Let’s do it how it’s always been done,’ instead of reimagining how to do things more straightforwardly.”

In some cases, the answer is removing unnecessary and confusing features. In others, it’s revamping an interface to improve ease of use.

“Right now, we’re working to make our entire admin area even more simple and user-friendly,” Sandeep said. “We’re also working to launch at least six new themes built around various concepts, including gaming.”

Sandeep is particularly proud of the company’s plans for its theme editor, which will allow users to change fonts, add more images, and better preview results. But that’s only one of the developments in the queue.

“We’re usually working on about 15 different upgrades simultaneously,” he said. As for what will come next, Website Toolbox will continue to innovate in the spirit of simplicity. “Whatever we do next we will plan out very carefully,” Sandeep said.

Christine Preusler

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