@ljpp has a point. Topic templates aren’t very appealing visually. Even more, they are tough to use with mobile devices. All the erasing, copying and selecting and pasting tends to be too much work for users at our site.
The site is a fan forum for an ice hockey team, and three of the categories currently have topic templates. For instance we have topics for each match Tappara plays, and the opening post is supposed to have links to the web site of the league for line-ups and to Tappara’s site for match preview. It’s really painful a job to do with my phone while with my laptop it’s much more comfortable. A consequence is that sometimes when no staff members are online around noon when it’s the optimal time to create the topic, nobody bothers to do it. When somebody finally creates the topic in late afternoon, it usually gets plenty of posts in a short period of time which suggests that everybody has been eagerly waiting for somebody to do the boring job. The bad thing is that the match is already starting so there is no time for deeper discussion.
A somewhat different example is the marketplace category, where you can sell and give stuff: match tickets, fan merchandice or anything. The topic template doesn’t require any links or anything. It has just two things we want every first post to have: the price and the preferred method of delivery. It also has some guidelines for how the title should be which the user is supposed to erase. What regularly happens is that the user ignores the template, writes a few sentences below the template and sends the message. Really annoying! The protocol is that we send the user a PM in which we ask him to edit his post immidiately or the post will get deleted. I don’t enjoy sending those messages at all.
A long story but in a nutshell, topic templates have two problems: they are laborious to use as illustrated by the first example and they are visually unappealing as illustrated by the second example. They have great upsides, though, which is why they are worth improving. I think the new topic UI could be a form. It would have fields which could be mandatory to fill or not. A field would accept a number, a string or whatever admin wants. The form would have guidelines above the fields which tell you what you are supposed to type. When the user reaches the bottom, he presses the post button and a nicely formatted post is created. No erasing and no selecting the right position for the cursor so the labour is cut to a half. Also, no more ignoring topic templates so no more angry moderators.