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Community Building and User Generated Content Forum

    
How do you start your own forum
what do you need to build one
hannamyluv




msg:1561817
 12:16 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

I am an ecomm person. I know about setting up shopping carts and designing webpages. I always wondered about forums, but never really took the time to look into making one.

The "Starting a Web Community" thread addresses what to do after everything is up and running. But what about before?

I'll admit, I'm being lazy just posting the question out instead of doing my homework. But since this is a new forum, I thought it might give one of you more knowledgable people the chance to start explaining from the bottom.

What are the nuts and bolts steps involved in creating a forum website?

 

hanuman




msg:1561818
 12:47 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

the first stage will be asking yourself why you need one? because it cool or because you need the content?

rogerd




msg:1561819
 1:38 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hannamyluv, it's VERY easy to set up a forum using either commercial or open-source software. The general procedure I'd follow would be to look at several software solutions and see what their server requirements are. (E.g., ASP forums will normally run on Windows platforms, other forums require MySQL, etc.) If you identify a few packages that will run on your server, visit some of the sample forums and see if you like their look and operation. Also, check out the admin demo that just about everyone offers. If you have any special feature needs, of course, check to see if the software offers them.

One step I take when choosing just about any software is checking the support forum. (Is there a support forum? Is it active, and do the software authors/publishers play an major role in solving problems? Are there an excessive number of bug reports or issues that don't seem to be resolved?)

Early in the process, you'll want to decide on your site architecture, i.e., how the forum will fit into your site. In some cases, the forum IS the site. One thing that I'm seeing more of is the use of portal add-ons, where a site's home page is integrated with the forum and able to display selected forum content, recent posts, user login/welcome, etc.

Most forums require a little bit of configuration - you'll have to set some paths to your database, your forum directory, your database name & password, etc. Usually, the installation guide walks you through this. The normal software installation tasks apply, like uploading files, setting permissions, etc.

Once the software is running, you'll have additional steps - tweaking the appearance, setting up main topics, deciding on user groups and moderator powers, etc. The major packages let you do a lot of customization right through their control panels.

For a starter forum, you probably won't have to hack the code except, perhaps, for SEO reasons. Many forums still have bad titles and descriptions, or use session IDs in their URLs - a little tweaking here will help you get your forum pages indexed properly for their page content.

When picking software, pay particular attention to security and tools for dealing with problem users. If you achieve any measure of success, you'll attract visitors who want to hack you or spam you - be sure you've got the tools to deal with these problems efficiently.

Don't be intimidated by all the bells & whistles. If you've installed other software, like a blog, a CMS, or other web app, installing a forum won't be any more difficult.

ScottM




msg:1561820
 1:58 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Pay particular attention to the layout. It needs to scream "Content here!"

If you have to scroll and scroll to read just 2 or 3 posts of one or two lines...forget it.

Go light on graphics and colors. Keep the focus on the community and less on the look and feel. The forum should be transparent. If the first look is, "WOW, cool looking!"....it probably is not going to work in the long run. It will be too noisy.

Keep it simple...forget most of the bells and whistles. They typically aren't needed and MOST (90%) won't even know they exist.

Example: I removed the "profile" link from one of my forums. It was nearly 2 months before I got one email asking how they could change something.

rogerd




msg:1561821
 4:41 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

One other thought, Hml... forums CAN be demanding on your server - when you are selecting software, you may want to read up on how much server you'll need at various levels of activity. Generating really complex dynamic pages, showing lists of who's looking at a page, etc. can be quite burdensome on your hardware. This won't be a huge deal when you are getting started, but if volume picks up you could be forced into a comparatively costly upgrade.

macrost




msg:1561822
 4:53 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

You should also look for one that is SE friendly. I have one, and yes, it does have vars in the querystring, but they are limited to two vars.

pleeker




msg:1561823
 6:57 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm with hanuman -- you have to make sure a forum is something that will really be beneficial to your users and to you. So many people come to us and want to start a new site with a message board ... and they get no traffic out of the chute, so the message board ends up looking like a ghost town with tumbleweeds rolling across the road.

I think it's best to have a community in place first before you start the forum. That community can be created through a mailing list, a blog that invites reader comments, etc.

And the other thing, of course, is to plan for success -- what if your forum really takes off? Are you ready to keep a close eye on it? These are things that should all be considered before starting/building a forum.

freeflight2




msg:1561824
 7:09 pm on May 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

It needs to scream "Content here!"

totally agree - that's what made/makes webmasterworld so successful.
The other important thing is to attract people who all have something in common

hanuman




msg:1561825
 7:54 am on May 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

i would recommend two MUST books here that covers all the basics.....

Design for community by derek m. powazek isbn 0735710759

and

community building on the web by amy jo kim isbn 0201874849

both available from amazon.

i really want to see more advanced threads on this forum

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