Forums were the first version of social networks. They have been around for decades and were immensely successful in connecting people. Lacking a long-term vision, a lot message board script developers clearly missed the bus by not thinking ahead how best to put an already available userbase to better use.
Even in the era of real-time tweets and status updates, forums are still going strong. The primary reason is that communicating via forums is less annoying and often strictly on topic. While using a web browser to access a forum from the desktop is awesome, using a mobile web browser is far from being ideal. That’s where Tapatalk comes into the picture.
With Tapatalk, it is now possible for you to login and access any forum or message board on the go, customized to fit the tiny real estate of your iOS device. From replying to a comment to creating threads, all tasks can be performed from your mobile screen. The only catch is that the forum you are a member of has to be made Tapatalk compatible.
If you are a forum admin or a webmaster, the good news is that Tapatalk supports popular forum software such as phpbb, vbulletin, IPB and other popular forum engines. Tapatalk claims that this process is relatively simple and all forum administrators have to do is go to Tapatalk.com and activate their forum.
Even if your favorite message board isn’t Tapatalk ready yet, you can browse through the thousands of forums that are already in their library. Taking into account all the crazy niches covered by forums, I would say the developers have done a fairly decent job of organizing all the topics.
Use the Explore option in the slide out menu to get started. Forums are tucked inside their respective categories. Talking about categories, Tapatalk team has a done a comprehensive job and there are hundreds of them covering virtually every topic known to mankind. Displaying the forum favicon and description in addition to the name is a nice touch.
The search option works really well and is a huge time saver. Once you have found the category of your choice, all available forums are listed for you to browse through. Earlier, there used to be a list of sub categories, but in the latest version, you are taken straight to forum listing screen.
Forums in all niche topics associated with the category are displayed by default by their popularity. Unfortunately, the saved search and many of the sorting options are missing in the new version.
Once you have found the forum that you are looking for, accessing the threads posted in it happens in a similar fashion like you navigated through categories. Except at this stage, these are the categories of the respective forums. Swipe to the left to bring the star icon to the front. If you tap on it, you can follow and access all updates directly from the slide out menu.
Domain specific forum descriptions aren’t displayed in subsequent screens, but given the smaller screen size of the devices we are using, it’s quiet understandable and doesn’t deter the overall experience. Sticky topics and universal announcements have their own section, so you won’t miss out on the feel of using a forum.
Replying & Commenting in Threads
Tapatalk has options to not only login to a forum but also to sign up for an account, too. If you opt for signing up, you’re taken to the registration page in Safari. After logging into a forum, you can do almost all activities that you can do from the desktop.
And, as soon as you login to a forum, the user interface changes with exclusive features. Unread thread count is a thoughtful addition and thoughtfully placed indicators show threads and forums with new, unread updates. I was so delighted when I discovered that jumping between pages is as easy typing a number. Plus 1 for a great implementation!
The slide-out menu in the newest version has cut down a whole bunch of usabaility bottlenecks. In version 1, there used to be too many jumps from the the start to finish. With a slide out menu and axing a few features, the usability of the app has gone up significantly.
I’ve been watching Tapatalk closely since its launch. Over the past couple of years, from being just another niche iOS app, it now has become a market leader in this segment (there is an Android version as well). So you can count on them to keep innovating and adding more features as time goes on. In fact, there isn’t anything missing IMHO!
However, it would be great to have the good old sorting options back. There are still a few many screens to jump, but logging into forums bring the slide out menu to life cutting down the navigation nuisance. Tapatalk is close to perfection with the new release. As soon as you get used to the new slide out menu, staying on top of forum updates will soon be as smooth as any other modern day social network app!