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Forum Moderators: rogerd
What's an "upscale professional" look, in your lexicon? Is it similar in flavor to WebmasterWorld? Is it "black tie" tuxedoish grey-scale? Is it monochrome in shades of just blue, just green? What?
And with the "look", what goes as far as "tweaks" for extended functions? No smilies? No sigs? No graphics of any sort? Some moderation simply for proofreading clarity, so that posts appear in "decent English" (assuming an Eng-lang board of course!)?
I'd probably opt for some subtle graphic elements (to give it a "designed" look), a fair amount of white space, no user graphics (except, perhaps, a few smilies ;)), a white or light-colored background, a modern set of fonts...
I'd do as much as I could with CSS to make tweaking the design easier. If the forum is attached to a website, I'd try to integrate the look as much as possible. I'd also replace the standard graphics that come with most forum packages to avoid looking like every other forum of that brand.
* Ditch the smilies / Avatars / pics in sigs / possibly pics in posts too.
* Go for a sombre / muted colour scheme (doesn't have to be boring, just make sure it's not garish)
* Sensible names for boards (An off-topic forum could be "General Discussion" rather than "Talk about other stuff")
* Each post has a 'report to moderator' button
* Mods are named on the board and act and respond quickly to TOS violations.
* No guest posting
Some additional thoughts:
I've visited boards where it seemed everyone was using rainbow type, a mixture of big fonts, pictures, symbols, etc. Truly horrible to view and impossible to read.