One of the problems I have always had about with using a forum to handle customer support is not being able to structure or frame the initial request. A help desk allows you to capture certain fields and ask questions before a request is submitted. These questions help the support person better understand the context of the request and possibly answer the question with the first reply. When using a forum for customer support we have to hope that a customer will read (and remember) the pinned topic that explains what is expected when submitting a new topic. Very few people pay any attention to pinned topics.
Over the years I have witnessed customers using forums for basic discussions, customer support, work order management, project tracking and many other creative uses. Many of these hybrid forum implementations work pretty well but they would work even better if they could structure the content.
With Active Forums 4.3 you can structure content with tags, categories and now, custom properties. Our Active Social customers that have used custom properties with groups will find custom properties in Active Forums very familiar. Custom Properties are defined per forum and allow for plain text, yes/no or custom list.
Once the properties are defined, they will then appear when a user creates a new topic. The fields are also template based so you can customize the layout the way you like.
As you can see in the screen capture above, we have required properties for the version of DotNetNuke and Active Forums. Now when we create our topic we will be able to display the property values along with the rest of the usual content. Again, the output is also template based so you can style and adjust the layout to meet your needs.
The next step would be adding the ability to filter and search based upon the custom fields, but we need to save something for Active Forums 4.4.