Back in the Dark Ages of October 2006, I started a discussion forum based on T-Buckets. At the time, there were a few T-Bucket sites on the Web, but the majority of them were painful to use. I felt I could offer people a more enjoyable forum site, by running the site on higher-end software and on a decent server.
The T-Bucket Forums have done well over the years. I never imagined the site would grow as large as it is and be as popular as it is. The site was started on vBulletin forum software. In 2009, I made a terrible decision to convert the site to Invision Power Board software, which ended up costing me a considerable amount of search engine optimization work. Two years later, after seeing Invision was certainly not going to work well, I converted the site to XenForo forum software, which has been one of the best moves I have ever made with a Web site.
Within 30 days, XenForo was bringing about the positive changes I had hoped to see. Our search engine results were climbing by leaps and bounds and our search engine traffic quickly recovered from the black hole Invision had brought us. Since our conversion to XenForo, there have only been 6 or 7 months where the site has failed to set a new record for site traffic.
But I have been watching a rather disturbing trend, over the last few months. Whilst we continue to see record numbers of visitors on the site, it seems as if participation by the forum members has reached a plateau. I have tried to add some new features and functions to the site, but they go largely unused. Our active users averages have flat-lined and daily post count numbers are softening.
Seeing this happening is a bit painful, but I’m not about to stop moving forward, just to cry over spilled milk. Either the site will recover from the blahs, or it will not.
I’ve long been aware that we had members who owned other street rod / hot rod projects, but the members of the T-Bucket Forums have remained adamant about keeping the site all about T-Buckets. For the last 3 – 4 years, I have noticed a lot of the T-Bucket Forums members complaining about a couple of the other, more generic hot rodding discussion forums. It seems we have been rather successful in creating user-friendly Web sites, so I started considering starting up a new forum in the general hot rod niche.
On 11 May 2013, the new Hot Rod Refuge forums were born. And this new site seems to be showing some very positive signs of growth. The new site is regularly seeing more post activity than the T-Bucket Forums, so I am buoyed up by those numbers. I think as we continue to get the word out about this new site, we will see a lot of growth. We are using the same recipe as we have always used – to provide a discussion forum with a level playing field for all members, to use every tool available to prevent spam and to listen to what our members want added to the site, in the way of new features and functions.
I want to thank my pal, Lisa Swift, for helping out with the logo for the new site, offering her constructive criticism and for always being there with helpful advice and direction. Lisa has always been involved with successful forum projects and currently is focusing her efforts on the new Xen Admins forum.
If you are into hot rods and street rods of all kinds, be sure to stop by the all-new Hot Rod Refuge.