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The Irish website that looks like it hasn't changed in forever is finally getting a makeover

We asked the head of Boards.ie how the site was holding up in the social media era.

OK, it's not quite that old.
OK, it's not quite that old.

BESIDES BEING A treasure trove of information on everything from whether to get a pet monkey to the most-awesome t-shirt ever, it’s a site possibly best known for looking like something straight out of the early noughties.

But Boards.ie, that grand old dame of the Irish internet, is about to get an overhaul and its head is promising a better experience for users as the site gets closer and closer to becoming legally of age.

It’s a revamp perhaps long overdue, judging from a recent thread on rival forum Reddit in which users vented their spleens on what they would fix about the 17-year-old site.

“Firstly get rid of the completely outdated layout and the countless, baron (sic) sub-forums that aren’t moderated adequately,” one wrote.

Another said: ”Don’t bother. The whole forum thing is dying/has died out. Boards is just a shadow of its former self … because of Facebook, Twitter, and ironically, Reddit.”

But despite the cannibalising effects of social media and other platforms, and the clear need for an update, Boards CEO Seán Coughlan insists the platform is still strong.

Coughlan Boards.ie CEO Seán Coughlan Source: YouTube

“Boards kind of sits under the radar a bit; if you ask people if they’ve heard of Boards it ranks really high, but I think people don’t realise how big Boards is,” he told TheJournal.ie.

I think the proof of (our success) is that when Boards started 17 years ago there was no Facebook, there was no Twitter, there was no Instagram, there was no Snapchat – all of those other ways of engaging and interacting online exist now and yet Boards still remains as one of the most-popular sites for an Irish internet audience.”

He said over 800 people were signing up as new users each week and the forum, which makes its money selling advertising space and “talk to” slots for companies like banks and internet providers, had about 2.2 million monthly visitors.

I think one of the reasons for that success is that, no matter what you want to talk about, there is a place for you on Boards. I think one of the other driving success factors, unlike lots of other platforms, it’s Irish and the conversation is very uniquely Irish.”

‘A bit Irish of us’

The site was founded by tech entrepreneurs John Breslin and Tom Murphy out of a gaming bulletin board the former established in 1998.

Breslin1 Boards.ie co-founder John Breslin Source: Andrew Downes

Coughlan took up his current role just over a year ago after stepping down from his position as chief executive of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, an organisation he co-founded in 2004.

The new site launch, scheduled for October, would give Boards a “very different look and feel” that made it easier for people to find the information they were after, he said.

Boards.ie Topics Menu A snapshot of the new Boards topic menu

The mobile version for smartphones and tablets would also be updated to offer the full functionality of the desktop site.

Looking further ahead, Coughlan said the company was toying with ways to use mobile device location data to better tailor information to users, as well as adding more “expert answer” services to complement existing conversations.

He said it was “a bit Irish of us” that people tended to only celebrate the success of shiny new startups, rather than companies like Boards that had managed to survive and grow over nearly two decades.

I do think it’s important that we start to celebrate success and it isn’t just the shorter term or more ephemeral success of something that got series-A investment in the last 18 months.”

Note: Journal Media Ltd has shareholders in common with Boards.ie.

READ: The CEO of a billion-dollar startup who quit for his family is back working in Silicon Valley >

READ: Ireland may have big entrepreneurial dreams – but we’re still wedded to the boss’s chequebook >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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