The simple answer to this would to be get into the user’s shoes and think what they would like. There has been a raging debate for years now on whether a mobile app is a must-have for the success of a forum. Forum owners have had vastly divided opinions. Some say that mobile apps play no role in increasing the activity in a forum, while others suggest that having a mobile app is a sure shot way of improving the performance of the forum, while also keeping users active for longer. In the sea of opinions, many are unable to see what the reality is.
There are those who say that mobile offers the best convenience in today’s times
I myself browse a lot via mobile, it's easier than me sitting at my desktop doing nothing all day.
I've come across quite a handful of sites in the showcase that I've been interested in and cannot browse or register because they've not made it mobile friendly.
This day and age more people browse via mobile especially social sites as it's just easier to access than whipping out a laptop or booting up a pc.
Why is optimisation for multiple platforms not on people's to do list before they go live?
It's something I personally make sure works on as many platforms as possible.
Maxxamillion - The Admin Zone
There are those who say that mobiles are not the best option to interact on forums
I'm a mobile user, but (and it's a BIG 'but') I only use the Internet on it to obtain information about a specific subject, for example someone may tell me a celebrity has just died and if I did not know about it and I was out of the house I'd use my mobile to check it out. But for participating in a forum, or even a SM site, not a chance. I much prefer using my computer and 24" (1600 x 1200) monitor to engage with others. Perhaps I'm just old fashioned, perhaps it's because I know I will have a better and more fulfilling experience using my computer than using a mobile or tablet; that's my preference.
Maddox - The Admin Zone
Those that firmly believe that accessing forums through mobiles is the future
Ignoring mobile users these days is a fast track to the decline and extinction of your forum, IMO. For one thing, Google search will soon make it almost impossible for new potential members to find you; that's already in progress and will accelerate once Mobile First Search is launched in 2018.
Yes, the smartphone experience on most forums is pretty basic but it is a way for your members to at least keep up on new happenings while they are on the move or otherwise not able to log in with a larger screen. I think most realize and accept they're not going to get all the bells and whistles on a smartphone but it is a way to keep connected.
I had Tapatalk enabled for a while but I don't like the way they intervene between the forum owner and his members, or about how they impose their own rules and settings whether the forum owner likes them or not. But I do maintain a working mobile version of my forums for those who want it.
And don't forget that mobile doesn't only mean tiny smart phone screens. These days, smartphone screens are getting larger and many people supplement their phones with tablets. which are also getting larger and more functional. For tablets, they don't necessarily even need to use a mobile version of the forum. All they need is a responsive style and/or a responsive platform (like Xenforo or <shudder> vBulletin 5).
Djbaxter - The Admin Zone
Those who say that using forums through mobiles hinders the user experience
A few of my own points...
#Phones are slower than desktop in most cases, making sites seem slow.
#Sites are much more limited in what they can give the user as options, mostly due to size limitations.
#On all of my sites -- mobile users view less pages than desktop/laptop --- this they are finding less information.
#9 times out of 10, if a user has a problem with one of my sites, it come back to being that they are on a phone and couldn't find something because of the lack of screen size or low performance of their phone.
#People tend to say less when they are typing on a mobile device.
#People tend to search less deep on a mobile device.
Joeychgo - The Admin Zone
There are some who would like to take a cautious approach in this matter
TBH, I think both sides need to be reasonable on this issue. Yes, forum owners should recognize the rapidly growing use of mobile devices for internet browsing. And mobile users should realize that they won't get the same kind of experience on their phone as they would with a desktop computer. Forums are large and complex and cramming it all down to a tiny size will create issues. It's all about being flexible and having realistic expectations. I mean, are we to be expected to make viewing on a smartwatch possible too?
How about some degree of compromise - for example nobody is talking much about tablets, but they are often cellular enabled, easy to carry around, and for the most part have a display large enough for everyone to be satisfied with. Sure, it's less convenient than your phone but it's not that much less convenient.
The Sandman - The Admin Zone
While there are strong arguments on both sides, what is data telling us?
More than 50% of the users accessing the web are using it through their smartphones. Today, the web as we know it has become a mobile-first experience. Every waking hour, the smartphone is within 5 feet of the person. A person checks his/her phone nearly 50 times on average every single day. Time is also a big constraint for the on-the-go user. They are travelling to work or to the gym or to their home every single day. They wish to utilize whatever time they have and try to be productive or entertain themselves. A smartphone is where they can access anything 24x7. It is the highest level of convenience possible and it is available to everybody in today’s world. So why would someone ignore the golden opportunity of 24x7 forum access?
What do the users want?
At the end of the day, it is about giving your users what they want. While there may be users who prefer to use a desktop to write a really long post, in all other situations there is no reason why someone would not use their smartphones to access forums. Mobile is the future.
But what about the substandard experience on mobiles? Do users like that? When a forum is not providing a great experience on mobile, it is risking the loss of the user’s loyalty. It is not just one user, all of the thousands of users are faced with the same question, should they bear with the bad mobile experience or just access the forum when they are on their desktops?
Users on mobile need a mobile app to access their favorite forum. When users are comfortable using the forum through mobile apps, why make them suffer the mobile website of a forum?
Should I or shouldn’t I get a mobile app for my forum?
Forum owners who haven’t switched to a native app will live in denial for a few more years. But after that it will not be possible to retain a user with a mobile website. Native mobile apps have shown higher engagement levels, user retention and have been successful in boosting the overall performance of the website. So with the uncertainty in the forum universe and the gradual decline in the active users across forums everywhere, only a courageous forum owner would dare to take the risk of not getting a native mobile app for their forum.
A forum owner has everything to lose, if they don’t get a mobile app soon. So all we got to say is