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I'm looking to start a forum on our site (or as some threads advise - on a separate site called forums-mysite.com). I've done the site in Frontpage and it's hosted on a Windows server. I would prefer something that is easy to use and run. I've heard of one or two programs like vbulletin.
Any suggestions on where to start looking, and/or on the software or services that I need to be looking at?
Thanks in advance.
I run a Snitz forum on a FP site - all is needed is that your host supports ASP and Access databases (and you are able to setup a DNS through your hosting package) or MySQL databases.
It's fairly simple to setup (gawd knows I managed it! ;)) and to customise.
Only thing is that you cant edit the ASP in frontpage - it messes with the code - you need to use something else (I used dreamweaver, but I think notepad would do).
There are lots of free and paid packages for forums. A few key considerations:
-what is the expected volume?
-how important is search engine indexing?
-is powerful moderation needed?
-what languages are you comfortable with?
-what special features are important, e.g., subscribing to a thread or forum with e-mail notification, etc.
vBulletin is quite popular, and is now on Beta5 of their 3.0 version. InvisionBB and phpBB get mentioned frequently. There are also quite a few ASP forums that will run nicely on your Windows server.
Tell us a bit more about the application, and perhaps you can get some specific suggestions.
I don't know how difficult it is to build a community so don't have any measure of how big it will get for the amount of time I am devoting to it. It's a technical website in a niche market (see my profile) and if in the next year I have 200 regular users I will consider it a success.
Search Engine indexing would be crucial. I'll have to ensure that a la webmasterworld I request that titles of threads reflect the discussion therein. I won't need fantastic moderation tools as typical users will be responsible professionals, but I would appreciate some control like being able to remove threads that could get us into trouble (illegal, hate, porn, copyright theft etc). Perhaps I need to do some research into what facilities are actually available - like subscription to a thread - before I decide which ones we need.
In my defence may I add that I'm not a webmaster per se ;-)
I just happen to know a little more about FP than my mates here do.
My forum has a lot of its threads indexed (500 plus threads - 2.6k posts), gets 2 or 3 new members a day on average and around 20 or 30 posts. The Access database is currently around 6mb in size and I havent seen any reduction in performace.
In terms of setup for a Snitz forum:
1. Setup of a DNS - you can email your host and they will do all is needed - you will be given a secure database folder and instructions on where to FTP your DB to.
2. Knowledge needed - common sense! ;) There is minor editing of ASP code required for setup (literally a line or two) and the instructions tell you exactly how to do it.
You may need to ask for help from your host - the ASP required determines the location of your database (which you setup in stage 1).
3. Setup - FTP the files to your host - dont publish with FP (keep a copy of the forum folder in your FP web so you dont get asked if you want to overwrite them everytime you publish).
4. All the rest is configured in the admin section online - layout, colours, fonts, forum orders, members, etc etc etc - very easy (remember to make the forums publicly viewable if you want them indexed).
5. That's your forum setup. Next step is to customise it to fit in with your site. Find all the graphics in the forum folder and edit / customise / replace as you see fit.
6. There are a number of mods (modifications) available on the Snitz support forums. These allow you to add more features such as private messaging, headers/footers, etc (theres lots of stuff). These require that you download the required files, upload them to the appropriate location.
A lot of these require some editing of your exisitng forum asp files, but they do provide (usually) step by step instructions and support on the forums.
Thats it! :)
Main thing is to remember to not edit the asp pages in Frontpage - use dreamweaver or notepad or something! :)
And building a community is really a pain in the ass! ;) It does take ages. My forum is only a part of my site, so i didnt expect a large use of it, but it's been going for a year and only beginning to see regular contributions and feedback. It's worth it - but keeping it clean from spam and flames, and building the community is hard work.
In evaluating software, avoid any product that has Session IDs in the URL, and avoid query strings if you can. A few boards produce static pages, and particularly if your volume is low that may be a good way to go. (Discusware does static html pages, and I think it can run on Windows.) Rewriting URLs on a Windows server is more difficult than on Apache. If you must have query strings, keep 'em short.
Nutzy99, sounds good but it's got PHP in the title. I know you said it's easy to setup. Is my dread justified? ;-)
Scott, thanks for all your useful advice
Setup - FTP the files to your host - dont publish with FP (keep a copy of the forum folder in your FP web so you dont get asked if you want to overwrite them everytime you publish).Do you know any quick way of setting a whole folder to not publish? I know that in FP2000 you can set individual files to not publish but it would be easier if I could set the whole folder to not be disturbed.
I suppose it will take some effort to build up but I'm hoping it will be worth it.
In evaluating software, avoid any product that has Session IDs in the URL, and avoid query strings if you can. A few boards produce static pages, and particularly if your volume is low that may be a good way to go. (Discusware does static html pages, and I think it can run on Windows.)Good advice. There's no harm in getting more traffic from search engines.
But I'm going to have to scrap further research on phpbb and concentrate on the others as my stupid host doesn't offer PHP on Frontpage sites as... get this... it is a security risk!
For a small community it seems ideal. Only 1.3 megs in all (w/ all the images I've added included in that), and uses a flat-file so a dufus like me doesn't have learn mySQL to do manual edits and such.
This is the first community I've set up, but it wasn't the horror that I imagined at all, in fact it was relativly easy. Good job YaBB team! :)
Maybe I need to think afresh. There is the asp option that looked good but maybe I do need to dump this host. The problem is that we have so many things setup ...from databases to stats to secure site to everything else I know it's going to take me AGES to get all that working with a new host. But maybe that's something I need to think seriously about.
Again, all your help is most appreciated.