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  Threaded vs. Non-Threaded?
What do you think is a better choice for a forum, threaded or non-threaded discussion?

The question of threaded vs. non-threaded is a common and important one. One is not "better" than the other, but may be more appropriate.

The answer to the question depends largely on personal preference and how you would like your forum to look, as well as on the kind of interaction you are expecting your message board/forum to exhibit.

In threaded message boards, the messages are threaded together so that a user may see where a discussion begins and where it ends. In a threaded board, the "context" of the post is explicit and fixed. For example, one person creates a post and then someone responds so that the response is placed right underneath the original post and it remains there. In this sense a threaded board has multiple levels, corresponding to the number of replies. Aesthetically, especially with the option to expand or un-expand threads, a threaded board appears like a tree structure.

On a non-threaded board (linear), the posts appear based on the time they are posted, in a linear fashion and not underneath the post being responded to. The "context" of the post varies and is time-specific. The organization of the board is simpler as there is only one "level" to navigate. On a web site page a non-threaded board appears much like a list of discrete items to browse through.

When it comes to using either system there are some basic principles:

If your board seeks to encourage questions and answer exchanges or "sharing" then most likely a threaded system will work best for you. It promotes discussion in context and provides the means for messages to be followed clearly from question to answer or beginning to end. Important, though, can be the option to expand/un-expand threads, which tidies up the board when it becomes very "busy" on a page. The complexity of a threaded board can be an issue if your target audience is less adept in the use of the boards, so providing them with the means to manage the threads visually can often be of value.

Linear boards are more effective for casual postings or for single post items which are not ultimately seeking a "reply" or discussion. This would include casual conversational postings, items for sale, help wanted, classified ads, etc. For these sorts of messages the intention is that there is to be no ensuing discussions on the boards related to them. The simplicity of the linear board can appeal to some target users, especially those who are less seasoned internet users.

Thank you so much for your question! If we can be of further assistance then please do let us know.

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
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