Posts Tagged: "Forum Software"

The “I Want To Know Everything” Guide To Starting Your Own Forum

The “I Want To Know Everything” Guide To Starting Your Own Forum

So, you want to build a forum, eh? Well, it’s no easy feat. It takes a lot of work to get it right, and even more to create an engaging community. If you still want to do this, there are a few things you should do. I guess the simplest thing would be to start from the beginning, so that’s what we’ll do.

Step 1: Pick a domain

I would say that the first step would be to choose a niche, but considering you are already researching how to start your own forum, it’s probably safe to say that you already know your topic. The next natural direction is choosing a domain name.

Choosing the right domain can take a bit of soul searching. This will be your online identity. This is the name that people will come to know your site by. For this reason, it’s very important to pick one that is not only unique, but is a good fit for the atmosphere of your site.

There are typically two types of domains that people choose for a website: A branded domain name, or an EMD, better known as an exact match domain. Again, they both have their place, so this choice is entirely up to you. Here are the pros and cons:

Branded

Branded domains can be funny or clever, trendy or simple. The benefit of using a branded domain is that it is much more memorable. Think of names like Google, Facebook, or Nike.

While these names didn’t mean much on their own, through proper branding they were able to stand out in the market, rise above competitors, and become names synonymous with their respective industries. If you are in it for the long haul (as most forum owners are), I would encourage you to go with a branded domain.

EMD

An exact match domain is usually not pretty. It’s simply a string of keywords. So, using an EMD can give you benefits in the search engines. If the phrase you use in your domain is what people use to search for what you offer it can be a good choice. The problem however is differentiating yourself from your competitors.

Check out this Google search or look at the screenshot below. See how there are more than one person using this strategy? Unless you own all of the domains, you’ll have to deal with other people creating sites doing the same thing you are doing — which will make it even more difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Forum Search Results

Pro tip – Make sure you choose a name that has not been taken on popular social media channels. Social media is a great tool to drive traffic to your board, so you want to pick a name that allows you to own that name on sites like Facebook and Twitter. This will help you build a cohesive brand that is easily recognizable.

Step 2: Choosing a host for your forum

This is one of the most important decisions you will make as a forum owner. When you first start out, you can probably get by with a budget host, but often times that does not produce the best results.

Here’s why:

Forums have heavy bandwidth and disk space needs. Unlike a blog or regular website, a forum will have people connecting to the site for longer periods of time. Members will be posting in the community, and adding more content. This is a good thing. The problem is that if your host hasn’t configured the server to optimize for the software you are running, you’ll end up with a laggy site. No one likes a slow website. A slow forum can cause you to lose members, so this is something you’ll want to pay attention to from the beginning.

Another thing you’ll want to keep in mind is backing up your files. With a forum, user generated content is churned out daily (hopefully!). People are posting most hours of the day, plus you’ll have new sign-ups coming in. Make sure you are backing up everything. Most large forums either keep real-time backups or back up every hour. In the beginning you can get away with backing up everyday, but once your forum gets more interaction, you’ll want to start backing up your files more regularly.

Most forum hosts understand how important this is. For example, we maintain hourly offsite backups for clients. This is important because we host some pretty large forums, like the official San Diego Chargers forum.

Bottom line: Choose a host that not only understands all of the forum software, but choose a host that can help you manage your backups.

Step 3: Deciding on what forum software to use

There is no right or wrong decision here. It really boils down to preference and what works for you. If you just want to get your feet wet as a forum owner, there are plenty of free forum software options out there. Some of the most notable are MyBB, phpBB, and SMF.

Keep in mind that free forum software is just that — free. You may save on cost, but you might find it more difficult to get the functionality you are looking for. There is also no guaranteed support, as most free software is ran with volunteers and donations.

Pro tip – Take a look at our forum software list to get an idea of what’s on the market.

Of course, there are paid options as well. The top contenders are vBulletin and XenForo. vBulletin was the original “top dog” of the forum game. XenForo came later and was developed by to of the original developers to vBulletin. So, you can say that there are a bit of animosity between the two companies.

XenForo seems to be making a bit of headway. It still boils down to preference, so do your own due diligence. If you want an example of a production site in action Digital Point uses XenForo, while Warrior Forum uses vBulletin.

Step 4: Choosing a design

Creating a custom design for your forum, usually comes down to two things:

  • Experience

  • Money

You either have the experience to do it yourself or you hire someone to do it for you. Fortunately, there are a few more options. If you do a quick search online you’ll come up with plenty of themes. You can even find free themes as well. Either way, you’ll want to make sure you settle on a design that captures that personality of your forum and will appeal to your members.

Step 5: Choosing the best mods and plugins

Most forum software is expandable via mods and plugins from other developers. It’s much like WordPress in that regard. You’ll be able to find both free and paid solutions that help add extra functionality to your forum. What it comes down to is how you want your members to engage in the community. You can add extra mods that allow voting on threads, or even build an advertising into your forums (which can work great for monetization).

Step 6: Defining topics and threads

This is important. Besides a good name and an appealing forum, you want substance. It’s important that you help direct the conversation to where it needs to go, and the best way to do that is by setting up clear topic threads that not only instruct new members as to what is allowed where, but gives anyone visiting the site an easy way to navigate to the conversation of their choice.

This is really a matter of preference. It depends upon your goals for the community and what you where you would like to see the discussion go. When you are first setting up your board, you should visit other popular forums and see how they have set up their threads. It doesn’t matter if you are not in the same niche, just have a look around and see what you think would work.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Start with your forum theme/topic.

  2. Break this down into specific areas of interest. These become threads.

  3. Add a General thread.

  4. Add an Off-topic thread to allow members to talk about what they want.

  5. Consider adding a Marketplace or Advertising thread.

I’m quite sure you can come up with some more ideas (as you should), but those should give a general idea of how to structure your new forum.

Step 7: Creating guidelines and policies

This is quite possible the most important step out of the bunch. If you have no guidelines or concrete rules, you’ll struggle with keeping the community on topic — and there’s a good chance you’ll become a spammer’s paradise.

Here is some tips from GetSatisfaction.com:

  1. Know your special purpose

  2. Establish a social norm

  3. Set clear expectations

  4. Cast a wide net

  5. Create productive outcomes

  6. Make it personal

  7. Be a bridge

  8. Don’t feed the troll

  9. Measure the right things

  10. Assemble

Another thing you can do is just go look at what other forums are doing. Check out the community guidelines from popular forums, and see what works. This way you can adapt these to your own forum.

Step 8: Moderating the board

This is where you’ll have your work cut out for you. In the beginning, it won’t be as much of a job. Once your forum takes off however, you’ll want to enlist some help.

This is why you need to have clear, defined guidelines for the community. This will make the moderator’s job easier. The more concise the rules, the easier they are to enforce.

The main thing forum moderators deal with is spam. You can cut down on this through add-ons and mods, but you’ll still need a set of eyes monitoring the board. If you operate a marketplace as well, you’ll also want to vigilante with screening what people are selling. You do not want to open your community to scammers. If forum members are getting scammed on your forum, your site is the one that loses out the most. If trust is loss, you’ll have a hard time of attracting good members. You’ll also have a bad time monetizing your boards.

One way to combat this is to have people that post an advertising thread allow you to review the product, or offer “review copies” to other members.

Finding your mods

The best moderators are usually the most active members of your community — the people that consistently add value to the forum. You should reach out to these people and see if they would be willing to help.

Step 9: Driving traffic

Traffic is a big deal. If you have no traffic, you have no visitors, no new threads, no new members.

You have a dead forum.

This is something you’ll constantly want to be trying to improve. Here are a few tips to help you start driving traffic:

  • Use Twitter to tweet new threads as they are posted.

  • Visit other forums and see how they are driving traffic.

  • Run a contest or sweepstakes to attract people to your site.

  • Guest post on high traffic and high engagement sites related to your niche.

  • Experiment with highly targeted paid ads.

  • Reach out to other site owners in our niche and ask for a link.

  • Publish content your target market would find valuable.

Final Thoughts

Building a forum can be a lot of work, but in the end you can have a site that generates massive amounts of traffic. This can be especially beneficial if you sell products or services that your forum members use.

The really great thing about a forum is that it is fueled by user generated content — meaning the members of your forum are producing the content. When your community is tightly focused around a niche or topic this builds massive amounts of indexable content for the search engines. It also helps your site rank for a lot of long-tail keywords.

The most valuable thing about owning a forum is having a community around your brand. You create ambassadors and fans that know your business, love your business, and help it grow by engaging in your community.

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6 Different Types Of Free Forum Software You Can Use To Build A Forum

6 Different Types Of Free Forum Software You Can Use To Build A Forum

One of the first decisions you will make when starting a forum is deciding on what forum software to use. There are many options, both free and paid. But that’s not to say that there aren’t some great free forum software option available. There is a respectable list of great forum software options out there.

Here are six of them:

#1 PHPBB

phpBB Forum Software
phpBB is one of the top free forum software options available. It’s open-source, but what is unique is that they provide a unique and helpful database which contains all user created plugins. Everything is organized well and easy to find. Like MyBB, there are several plugins to choose from to customize however needed so the two are close competitors. Deciding which is better would be based solely on preference.

There are few things that give phpBB an edge from my experience. One notable feature would be their support section, which is well put together and extremely informative.

As far as actual features go phpBB seems to have better security from the start. They also provide anti-spam tools. Other than that many of the features you start with are similar to that of MyBB, except for the reputation system which is unique to MyBB. This is where it becomes a matter of preference. Due to the many plugins available with both of them, it’s always possible to customize to your needs, but it all depends on how much you want to customize.

Get phpBB Forum Software

#2 XMB Forums

XMB Forum Software
XMB is a good place to start if you’re new to forum hosting. They provide all the basic tools you need to get started. You can edit administration settings, templates, add/remove topics, and member settings. There are other tools available, but for the most part, nothing too complex, just your forum basics. Great for beginners.

Get XMB Forum Software

#3 UseBB

UseBB Forum Software
UseBB has the simplicity of XMB, but with a little more to offer in terms of security and anti-spam features.
There are also extra features for users to customize their profiles like remote avatars for example.

Get UseBB Forum Software

#4 FluxBB

FluxxBB Forum Software
Flux was born after forking from PunBB after it’s founder Rickard Andersson left the project in 2008. For a long time PunBB was widely used for many open-source and commercial product’s discussion boards, and several currently use FluxBB due to many of the ported over features.

Flux prides itself in it’s ease of use, fast speed enabled through their superb code, clean admin interface, flexible permission system, and powerful moderator tools that allow for easy user and consequence/reward management.

One drawback is that adding modifications might not be as easy of a task as other forum software on this list, because doing so requires manually editing source code. There are still a few plugins available, but not as many as you would expect. There are plenty of features already available for discussion boards. Unless you want serious in-depth customization there is not much more that would need to be downloaded.

Get FluxxBB Forum Software

#5 MyBB

MyBB Forum Software
What is great about MyBB is that it is both free and open-source. As a result there are hundreds of modifications and plugins at your disposal. Unlike FluxBB, MyBB will not require you to edit a single line of code. There is nothing for you to have to add anything. You get ease of access and amazing versatility. It truly is the ultimate sandbox for forum enthusiasts.

Features available by default will give you all the basics. Convenient administration, built in templates and theme editors, a reputation/warning system, a tasks system which helps with maintenance, easy moderation, private messaging, calendars and events, a mass mailing system, and fast performance. It even has MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite database support with replication/slave support built in. Any other features you would need can easily be added using modifications and plugins.

Get MyBB Forum Software

#6 PHP-Nuke

PHP Nuke Forum Module
Unlike all of the other software on this list PHP-Nuke is more of a content management system. It’s interface includes features that are specialized for online news sites, making it the perfect choice for any professional online publication.

For example, there is a WordPress like editing system so that authors can save pending posts which editors can edit before publishing. It also includes several features many news sites have such as a “Top Story” section to display the most popular stories at the top of the web page, surveys or polls to gather reader opinions on political events (or whatever poll you want to create), as well as archives to provide access to older articles. The features would also work wonderfully for guest contributor blogs as well.

PHP-Nuke can be more than just a news content management system. It’s a cake walk to add a discussion board, and as the name implies, it is PHP based. This forum software is based on bb2nuke which is a popular open-source ported version of PHP-Nuke revamped as a phpBB discussion board.

There are several add-ons and plugins available for the software which would enable users to customize their site to be able to do just about anything.

Get PHP-Nuke Forum Software

The Top Paid Forum Software Options

The last two forum software providers on this list are not free, but they are both well worth the costs. Just imagine forum software that incorporates everything we have talked about so far, but better. Let’s just say they should definitely be options you should look into, and here’s why.

vBulletin

vBulletin Forum Software
vBulletin is written in PHP, works on any operating system, and uses a MySQL database server.

vBulletin has two versions, one that is just their classic forum client, and another that is not just forum software. It also an article-based Content Management System and blogging software. This is what gives vBulletin a bit of an edge over all the others. They provide the most versatile all-in one solution for whatever you need. But, if all you need is the basic forum essentials they have you covered with the classic version, which still has easy to apply plugins.

Get vBulletin Forum Software

XenForo

XenForo Forum Software
XenForo has several influences from vBulletin because a few of the developers from vBulletin also worked on XenForo. It is written in PHP and works on pretty much any operating system. Due to it’s popularity there are several hosts that support XenForo as well, including us.

Interesting features include a “like” system a little bit like Facebook or Reddit, and it also has a feature that rewards users with trophies for reaching certain milestones of participation. User features like these encourage social engagement and participation in a way that other forum software solutions don’t explore. There are also several unique SEO features built in which has probably contributed to it’s popularity. They also do a great job with security and anti-spam.

Many of the default features will probably be enough for whatever you will need to do with your forum, but just in case, there is also a huge database of modifications and plugins at your disposal. Not only are add-ons simple to apply, but XenForo framework makes them simple to build as well.

Get XenForo Forum Software

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Premium Forum Hosting Benefits

Premium Forum Hosting Benefits
Although you can easily find open source scripted discussion boards and HTML set-ups as well as advertising supported free forum hosting services, larger forums with many users really require a paid forum hosting service. If your forum is amateur in appearance and function, it can really put a dent in the commercial viability of a project, and end up costing you both potential customers and dollars too.

A premium forum hosting service provider will take care of all of the details of setting up any type of web message board without you having to install any new software on your own. A good host will know how to address all of the set-up details and provide you with around the clock support too. As with many things in life, when you buy a premium web board hosting package from a reputable supplier, you’ll get what you paid for with more web space and completely hassle-free maintenance for all of your hosting processes, and you’ll usually get a bunch of other built-in features for free too. Just because you’re getting first rate service doesn’t mean you’ll have to pay a fortune for it either, as competition has improved the breed and there are many good board-platform hosting choices available these days. A good provider will provide the installation of any software needed at their end and handle the complete forum/board set-up process while still offering the customer the ability to make sure their new board platform matches the theme of any new or current website they want it associated with. Customization tweaks and other requests should be offered at reasonable costs too.

The more user/visitors a message board or forum has, whether actual or potential, the more it underscores the need for a paid professional hosting service that can help make the most out of it. Both the site owners and the people who rely on their favorite Internet message groups and boards as trusted community resources in the subject area of their particular choice will benefit from a fully functional and professional platform. Web forums provide the worldwide Internet community with the ability to share information and conduct commerce in ways never before possible and they can be profitable too when they are set-up and managed correctly.

A fully functional forum platform will:

  • Encourage users to develop a sense of community.
  • Allow the staff to instantly post announcements.
  • Encourage users to help each other.
  • Active content appears higher in search results.
  • Allow all users to interact in a fun forum atmosphere.

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Why vBulletin is Here to Stay

When looking for forum software for your website, there are many different options, but the one that stands out the most is vBulletin. vBulletin is a superior way to display your forum. Here are a few reasons why vBulletin is the best way to display your forum:

Professionalism/Styling: vBulletin has many different styles for you to choose from when creating your forum. If you do not like any of them, vBulletin software allows you to create your own styles and themes.

Fast and Efficient: vBulletin was written in PHP, which is a great for forum sites. Many users will notice the difference in the speed and efficiency in your site.

Adsense: vBulletin has integrated Adsense into their program, which is great if you have Adsense Ads on your forum. It’s an easy way to advertise on your forum.

Support and Updates: It is a very stable platform to use your forum on. Whenever a security flaw is detected in vBulletin, it is corrected within 24 hours. The software is constantly being worked on to keep up with the technology around it.

Social Media Integration: vBulletin has options to integrate popular media sites such as Facebook and Twitter into your site. This can help with promotion and attract other users to your website.

With all of these reasons, it’s no wonder vBulletin is here to stay. With such great forum software, you need a great company, such as URL Jet, to host your vBulletin website. We are the #1 high performance vBulletin Hosting Leader. Call our experts today at 1-888-699-2609 or visit our website, http://www.urljet.com/, to see what else we can do for you. Our friendly and professional staff will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your vBulletin hosting project.

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