Monday, May 11, 2009

Building Your Web Forum, and What To Do With It

Many years since they were first introduced, internet based message boards remain as important as they have always been, if not even more so. With many new forums opening every day, it can sometimes be difficult for a new forum to attract an audience of it’s own, but having a game plan ready in advance should certainly help you. This article should help to get your planning under way, and to give a better indicator on what lies ahead.

One of the first things you will want to do for your new forum is decide how and what you will be using it for, and if you are planning to use it as a stand alone forum in place of a website, or in addition to one. When you already have a website with a dedicated following, it can help to generate interest in your forum right out of the box, and you should generally find this route easier, than if you were to try and start a brand new forum from scratch, with no audience at the ready.

Another important decision is if you want to go with a forum at a pay host, or if you want to try out a free forum host, and contrary to what some people may say, free forum hosts offer a nice starting point for new forum owners, who aren’t yet sure if they want to invest in a paid forum, which may potentially fail. Also be sure to take a look at the various types of forum software out there, and see which one looks the best to you, and has all the features that you want or need. Currently, the most popular forum software is Vbulletin, Phpbb, and Invision Power Board. While Vbulletin and Invision require buying licenses which can cost hundreds of dollars, Phpbb can be used entirely for free, assuming that you have a hosting site to place it on. There are also large numbers of lesser known forum software, many of which are also free, and could be more to your liking than Phpbb.

Depending on if your forum will be used for your business or just for recreational discussions, you may have different goals on what you hope to achieve out of a forum, and what kind of activity level you are anticipating. Most forums have a staff of at least a few people to help out around the forum, and to be there for members when you can’t be. Finding willing staffers for a business forum without being prepared to pay them can sometimes be difficult, so be sure that whoever you pick is reliable and trustworthy. Even non-business forums are often in need of a staff, to help the forum’s community to grow, and to keep the existing user base happy and healthy.

Picking an easy to remember, but unique name for your forum can also help to attract and retain members, and generally shorter names are better for this, but not always. You want to pick a name that people will associate with your forum, so be sure that the name suits whatever your forum is about.


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