CMS's provide (or should provide) excellent revenue from quality content and search engine traffic.

Forums provide user generated content and a traffic source that is more stable than the search engines.

If and when the search engines start using visitor behavior in the SERPS algorithms, sites with forums could receive a major boost in the SERPS.

Software Options

Most CMS's have lousy forums and most forums have lousy CMS's. That's painting with a broad brush, but it's is unfortunately close to the truth.

vBulletin 4.x will have a CMS component, but vB 4.x doesn't even have a target release date yet.

Drupal has vBDrupal -- which is a full version behind Drupal in development. It's stuck back at Drupal 5.x.

Joomla has it's own forums, such as Agora. It also has integrations with vBulletin, phpBB, SMF, and MyBB.

Integrations

Integrations are not all created equal.

Here are a few questions to consider when evaluating integrations:

  • Does the integration provide seamless single-sign-on capability?
  • Do the integrated softwares share templates?
  • Will the integration restrict your ability to apply future software upgrades?
  • How tightly are CMS articles and forum threads connected to each other?

Choices

For TopBits, I chose Joomla and Agora.

I chose this solution because it was very important for me to have the comments on each CMS article become a forum thread. In a previous attempt to add a forum to a CMS site, the two parts of the system developed independently and failed to capitalize on their synergies.

This solution also had the benefit of (mostly) sharing templates between the CMS and the forum. Agora does have it's own templates, but they exist within the Joomla templates.

Now I have the same decision to make all over again, with Sleep Troubles.

Where TopBits leans heavily towards the CMS side, Sleep Troubles will lean more towards the forum side.

Sleep Troubles will be about topics such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. But it will also be about how we live with those issues -- about late night TV and all-night diners and trying to fit in to "normal" society. Sleep Troubles will be a cross between a visit to your doctor and a night out with Dave Attell.

Now I must choose to copy the Joomla/Agora solution I'm using at TopBits or the vBulletin solution I'm using at NetBuilders -- or to select a new toolset for the new project.

What do you think?