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Old 19 Dec 2007, 00:51
Ted S Ted S is offline
Join Date: Dec 2003
The History of Welcome Headers

Welcome Headers started out as a method of displaying messages to visitors based on their status. After more than 3 years and thousands of installations, vBulletin has added a native feature that allows for the creation and customization of welcome messages out of the box. As a result, Welcome Headers has migrated from a system of displaying messages to a set of default, suggestion messages that are intended to be used to help get forums started on personalizing their experiences.

Even with the new Notices system, the purpose of Welcome Headers remains the same – to help forum owners with limited experience in personalization and marketing to improve their forum’s experience. The messages and the system are only meant as a stepping stone – what you do with them is entirely up to you.

Details on how it all works:

As an enterprise forum consultant, I developed Welcome Headers for a handful of select sites in order to encourage more registrations and repeat visits. From there they grew to help address the needs of returning visitors and users who were having difficult registering, not sure where to post and so forth. Eventually based on continued requests the system was developed for public use and launched as an addon/hack over 3 years ago.

Step One: Turning lurkers into Members
For most forums, upwards of 50% of traffic comes through search engines or deep links to threads, profiles and categories. Out of the box, vBulletin only displays a welcome message on the forum-homepage, meaning someone who enters through any other page does not have the benefit of seeing an explanation of the site or welcome message. The guest welcome header is used to explain the purpose of your site, sell users on the benefits of joining the community and push them to proactively register.

Step Two: Making Users Confirm their Account
Many vBulletin sites require email confirmation prior to being able to post or access an account. However, activation emails are often misdirected to spam folders, ignored or simply deleted, leaving unconfirmed users with little access rights and no explanation as to what is wrong with their account. The unconfirmed welcome header is used to inform unconfirmed members of their account status and to direct them to automatically resend their activation email, or to contact the webmaster for support.

Step Three: Get non-posting users to post
Another chronic problem faced by many forums is insuring users post after registering. Many new visitors register in order to access certain features with the intent of posting, but never do so. The never posted welcome header is used to encourage users to post for their first time and should ideally be linked directly to an introductions or new member forum to help users "break the ice".

Step Four: Getting inactive users to become more active
Many members start out as lurkers, register, post once or twice and then go back to being lurkers. Often time these members are not actively thinking about participating in topics or are still shy about interacting. The inactivity welcome header reminds members to make a post after a predetermined amount of time as specified by the forum administrator.

Step Five: General Announcements
Unfortunately the standard announcements are often overlooked or never even seen by members who use the "new posts feature". As a result, urgent notices may be missed by users causing problems and high volumes of support requests. The global announcement welcome header creates a message shown to all members who do not fall into the other welcome header groups (guest, unconfirmed, never posted, inactive). Whether it be a scheduled outage/ upgrade, an important request or the need to display an advertisement in a prominent spot, global announcements allow an administrator to effectively and quickly display messages in a way that is certain to be read.

Optional: One-View Messages
Some forums find that users grow tired of seeing the messages thus there is an option to show the welcome messages only once per browser session as determined by using a cookie.

Optional: Custom Messages
Welcome Headers addresses 5 common needs, your forum probably has more. I highly encourage you to add messages based on profile fields, user states and other criteria that may impact your users.

The results:
At first glance this system may seem a bit superfluous, however, the numbers rarely lie, nor does the feedback. On ScubaBoard.Com, the site the system was originally tested on, posting rates increased by over 100%; new user registration rates by over 60%; user activity by 50% and the welcome/ intro & greets forum has exploded over 400%. If you browse through the pages of this thread you will find even more real life testimonials and experiences from the thousands of people using the system.

vbSEO Add-ons
Some forums have found that after adding welcome headers, the welcome message shows up in their search descriptions. To address this issue, user's at vbSEO have recommended turning the guest welcome header into an image -- this way there's no duplicate content for the bots to spider. To learn more click here. My recommendation is that you test this option if you are allowing bots to spider your front-end pages.

Limited Guest Viewing compatibility
If you are concerned about messages overlapping, use welcome headers version 3.6.
New features released for Product Review Forums 1.3 (4.0)
Helpful Answers (3.8) (4.0) | Limited Guest Viewing (3.8) (4.0)

Last edited by Ted S; 19 Dec 2007 at 01:02.
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