Free Chat Rooms and Discussion Forums
Another excellent tool for keeping people returning to your site is
a chat function. Live chat rooms allow your visitors to chat in "real
time" with other visitors about things they have in common - hopefully
something to do with the theme of your site! Aim for a service that
gives good "branding" to your chat area. If you can display your
logo, customize the colors to match yours, users will feel they are still
using your site.
If you set up web site at a free hosting service, then the preferred
solution is to use a service which hosts the chat rooms on their servers.
People still have to visit your site to start, but the bandwidth is transferred
to the chat host's servers. This is a good thing since chat rooms
require lots of processing resources and may strain the patience of your
free web site provider - in fact, many free hosting services will not let
you run chat rooms directly on their servers.
Essentially discussion forums run like bulletin boards, where someone's
comments are pinned up for everybody else to see and comment on if they
wish. Usually the comments only stay up for a certain period of time
(days or weeks) before they come down. You can set up these discussion
forums to give you different levels of control over the content and people's behaviour- from anything goes, to nothing gets posted until you approve
it. Most services also allow you to set up different "threads" or
topics for discussion.
The down side of having chat rooms & discussions forums is that some people may become abusive
or bully others. Not only can this drive visitors away from your
chat rooms, but it may leave them with such a bad taste in their mouths
that they don't even come back to the rest of your site again. The
only real solution is to have someone monitor the chat room conversations
if this is a concern for you - but some chat services can have content
filters to block out the worst. However, you may find that a bulletin board
style of discussion forum is a better option instead of chat rooms.
You can get free chat rooms & discussion forums at: