We recently implemented a suggestion from our users to insert the national flag for each user’s country of origin next to their user name after they add a post.
When several users advised us to implement this feature, we had not seriously considered how or why flags would enhance the forum community.
However, after implementing this feature, several benefits became obvious:
- Diversity & Tolerance. Flags emphasize the diversity of the forum and this seems to make people act more tolerant toward one another.
- Background Information. Knowing where a user hails from gives clues about their circumstances. This background information makes it easier to empathize with the user and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes.
- User-To-User Connections. Practically, knowing a user’s general location helps users connect with people from their own country and can signal whether a person is awake or asleep at a given time.
In sum, flags make the forum community experience more engaging. They’re not always useful — e.g., if your community is clustered around a specific physical location and everyone’s from the same locale, flags won’t help much.
But on boards where the user base is spread across the world, flags create an extra dimension that helps users engage with one another.