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Help! Need to make forum PART of a big site, not the whole enchilada

What forum software will work WITHIN a big website?



12:12 pm on Jan 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hello there, I really do hope you may be able to help me!

I am working with a company that I am paying (a good deal of money) to develop my website. I am not a webmaster or developer myself, ok? So I may not quite put things "right" in technical terms and for that, I apologize...

My website is about 3/5's of the way completed (and many many months overdue -- but that is a wholly separate issue!). It is hosted on their development server so I have no way to show it to anyone as yet. One of the last remaining but very big and important pieces is to include a forum -- and it has become (yet another) very big problem.

But -- the developers are now telling me they can not make any forum software work as I want it to work within my website. The developers have tried to use vBulletin and phpBB and, they tell me, have spent a great deal of time looking at and trying other forum softwares. They refer to trying to proceed further on the forum part of the website as a great big time sink, though they say they will come back to this issue after they've gotten everything else completed.

The website will be, when it goes live, a member-based site for the exclusive use of folk who belong to our organization. It is not an intranet. I am hoping you may have some better answers than these developers are giving to me, and that you might be able to help me, please.

The website is being done in php, uses CSS, and it uses MySql databases.

(1) There are "headers" and "footers" that, per my requirements, appear at the top and bottom of every single page on my website. I have this requirement because I want design consistency, and want the site's brand identification and navigation to be always easily accessible for the site's users (who are not at all technical themselves). But, the developers are now telling me that it is not possible to make any forum software work between these headers and footers. That none of the forum softwares they have looked at or have tried to implement will work within the header and footer framework.

Do you know of any websites or forum software you could refer me to where forums DO work within a parent website's headers and footers? Such that no matter what page within the forum I'd be on, there would still be the "parent" site's headers and footers displayed? If so, would you please tell me of those site addresses if they are available for viewing? If you have positive experience doing this kind of thing, would you let me know please?

(2) The developers tell me that all of the forum softwares they look at have their own databases and there is no way (that they can figure out so far) for these databases to "talk" to one another. That the "parent" website databases can not populate the forum's databases so that, for members who are already logged on to the main or parent site, transition between the parent site and the forum part of the website is seamless.

I would like folk who are logged on to the site to be able to use the forum without having to register for, and log in and out of the forum part. And, of course, for folk who are not logged on to the "parent" site to be unable to log on to the forum part. Is this "seamlessness" between website and forum possible, do you know?

(3) THE only piece of forum software that I want to have working is the forum piece. Other aspects of the "parent" website already have messaging and email and etc. capabilities and for very good security reasons, I do not want to repeat those features. I just (? "just"?) want to use the forum part of the software. But the developers are telling me now that it is not possible on any forum software to disable or cut out code that is ancillary to the forum part... Are you aware of any forum software that DOES allow installing or using just the forum part of things? If so, would you tell me of that software please?

Again, I really really hope you may be able to help me with this problem. If I have not provided enough information for you to understand the problem(s) then please let me know and I will do my best to give better details. I can also ask the developers for some information but, because I am not technically adept my self, can't promise to accurately translate but, will do my best.

Thank you so very much! I look forward hopefully to hearing from you!


4:13 pm on Jan 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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In response to point #2, Invision Power Board 2.1 has remote user authentication; you should get you developers to look into that.

In response to point #3, there are plenty of simple, "light" forum solutions out there; for example UseBB. These may be simple enough to allow a solution to point #2.

7:09 pm on Jan 29, 2006 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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Many forums allow easy template editing so adding the main site's header and footer might not be too difficult.

Tying together the authentication part is the only tricky thing. Since many forums have well-developed authentication schemes, some sites will use the forum database as the site's authentication scheme. (Among other things, this avoids having to hack the forum software.) In your case, you may have to do something like port your existing users into your forum and then add new users to the forum database as the register on the main site.

7:43 pm on Jan 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hi TAWone,
If SE indexing is not an issue, the simplest solution to #1 is to have the forum within a frame or iframe whose parent has the site wide navigation header.
Regarding #3 it is generally quite easy to edit the forum header file and remove the links to unwanted features.
#2 is more complicated but it would be a matter of your login include the process of logging in to the forum and logging out at reverse. This would involve hacking the forum login form. Your registration process should populate the appropriate fields in the forum database.
Disclaimer: Any advice given is my personal novice opinion and please follow any of my recommendations at your own risk.
7:22 pm on Jan 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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You (and your developers) might want to look at the various open source cms's. I know a couple have intergrated versions of phpbb working so there might be insperation there. I use postnuke and the version of phpbb2 called pnphpbb2 does not have the two data bases integrated into one. They are in the same databse but both have the same table as if you were to install them separately. The way it works is visitors are automatically registered (first visit) and logged into the forums so it is seamless. However not all people visit the forums so they may not become a member of the forum which in your case doesnt sound like a problem since you are not using the forums pm system. I forgot the the forum is wrapped in the cms's template. So it is possible and not really being a coder I couldnt say how extensive the modifications are to something like that are.

You might decide which forum software you like and look for a intergration with a cms to see if there is an approach that your developers can use on the system they developed. Off the top of my head other cms's to look at would be drupel,mambo and joomla. I am not sure what all forums those would have intergrated but its safe to say some of the opensource one's will be covered and maybe VB and IPD.

Hope that helps and makes sense :)

7:56 pm on Jan 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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For 1), I can't imagine that you couldn't get a forum to work within a given header/footer. I've never run into a PHP or even Perl script that you couldn't hack to fit in your design. Some of the other suggestions here, like putting it in an iFrame, or editing the HTML templates that come with the forum should work. Is it a really bizarre and complex header/footer? Are the header/footer poorly designed or broken? This just boggles me.

For 2), again, I can't imagine that you couldn't hack bits of the forum to authenticate off your main database, while still using its own database. Again, I've worked with several different forums and other software, and I've never had a problem hacking them to integrate with another database.

For 3), I'm afraid I've got nothing. If it were me, I'd just take something like phpBB and modify the code to cut out or disable the extraneous features.

All three of the above, by the way, will make upgrading difficult. This isn't a problem for the person doing the hacking, but will likely be a problem for ongoing maintenance. Perhaps this is what they mean by "not possible?" Also, you may not be able to have 1), 2), and 3) at the same time.

When you say you were told "it couldn't be done," are you sure they didn't mean "it can't be done without a lot more time and money" or "it can't be done within your deadline?" Integrating 3rd party apps into other things can be tricky and time-consuming, but I've never run into "it can't be done" period. I've definitely run into situations where, when I tell the person how long it will take, they choose not to do it, and that's their choice. Sometimes it's not worth it. But it's not that it can't be done...

I hate to say it, but you may want to bring in another developer for a second-opinion. I'm sure there must be more to the story, but I've never seen anything you've asked declared "not possible," only "not feasible" or "not without more time and/or money." :-)


8:00 pm on Jan 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member encyclo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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One possibility for a simple forum system that can be integrated is MiniBB: [minibb.net...]