Here are my top tips for planning a forum and I hope you enjoyed this guide as much as I have writing it.
Step 1: Somewhere to start?
Thinking of planning a forum well you need somewhere to start so it would be best if you grabbed a pen and some paper.
Genre First try thinking off a genre that you enjoy discussion and others too, let's say music, millions of people listen to it everyday worldwide and that would be a great idea. You really want to think of a category that can never run out of discussion and think of a genre no one has.
Choosing the correct name Choosing the correct name is hard as all you see is people telling you to get a web2.0 domain name which is basically a selection of words that make up a unique word. But I disagree strongly with web2.0 domains sometimes as now that you think of it the more obvious names have came out such as PromotionBB, everyBB, Chat Forums.com and all that. So personally I would go with a word that you can actually say and pronounce and if you are looking at a web2.0 domain make sure it is a name that you will never get bored off.
Now the sort of hard parts are over we can move onto idea's for your forum.
Step 2: Idea's and things to discuss.
Idea's Thinking of new idea's for a forum that's subject is discussed world wide so this is when your thinking cap needs to be on. And honestly if you think you are not a creative person still doesn't mean you cannot come up with unique idea's so do idea's yourself and not on others people opinions. Let's say we did go ahead with creating a music forum, one idea I have always had is a featured artist and their song competition that is ran every two weeks as that is when the chart updates. But when thinking of an idea get a really basic one like song of the month or something and work upon it, twist and turn with it and think of an unique spot to place the idea where it will get noticed. So basically either think for hours for unique idea's or take a basic idea and work upon it by twisting and turning it around and some unique prizes relating to your forum.
Things to discuss When you start of a new forum new members find it hard to discuss things and are scared to jump into the forum in case they do things wrong. Well that is why you jump in and have discussion covering every subject of music, promotion, gaming or whatever genre your forum is. For music you can cover, instruments, song lyrics, artists, music history, legends, downloads, unknown artists that are going to be big in the year 2018 or whatever. I would cover that and much more such as genres and all that but say you wanted to start a promotion forum I don't see why you don't have some great tips and guides to promoting the forum also expand it with blogs, websites, wiki's and so much more and possibly some related web master discussion, or a gaming forum you might want to add some reviews, softwares, consoles, behind the scene development, just think of simple things and expand them.
Step 3: Choosing the correct software?
Choosing the correct software is never going to be correct for your forum, there will be ups, and there will be downs with the software but most forum software have different modifications and better themes and others but here are a few general tips.
What you feel comfortable with! Choosing the correct software is what you feel comfortable with whither it be phpBB, MyBB, SMF, IP.Board, or vBulletin. We all feel different so don't go with a forum software that most music, promotion, gaming forums are sticking with try something different.
Reviews You are always best to read reviews about softwares before you choose them because you might regret something they have that you badly dislike or you can ask a member opinion for something like that.
Checking patches, and bugs: You should try checking some of the bug reports or patches they have made recently just so you know there not so strong point.
Support Make sure they have good support, preferably live support or a suitable time for replying to your question. A forum with bad report means they will not update often enough.
Step 4: Having a reasonable amount of money to splash!
You want a good reasonable amount of money to splash before moving onto the next step. You will need around about $10/£10 for a domain if you register from NameCheap/GoDaddy. Hosting should be no more than £15 as you will only need a basic plan as not much space is required. So basically you need a minimum of £15 pound and a maximum of £25 so not much has to be spent if you are careful with your money.
Step 5: Choosing a cheap, reliable, friendly, support fast host.
Choosing the correct host over the past few years has really interrupted forums and caused hell for forums so you really want to follow these steps. Some recommended hosts from me are www.froghost.com which is only $4.95 per month for unlimited GB's of space and transfer, litespeed powered(it is fast), unlimited MySQL databases, money back guarantee, cPanel control panel, R1 soft protected and it is free instant set-up and 24/7 support with no hidden fee's. The company who owns FrogHost, Hawk Host is only £5.95 per month basically providing what FrogHost offer. Many others recommend too! www.hawkhost.com
Cheap but reliable Finding out if a host is reliable is always hard to find out, but a site should always have some testimonials around on the site or support forums. Also you know it's cheap when the price is under £10 as things come in dear these days.
Do they have what you require? You should always need to know what a host has such as cPanel, Fantastico, FTP access and more. If a host doesn't have these then you obviously have wasted your money. When your looking for a host it should always have a set out of a plan having all the features listed if you think it missed any then ask then.
Live reliable support Make sure the host has live instant support that is reliable but before asking anything make sure that they haven't mentioned anything on the forums or website about it. If you host doesn't respond within 12 days you are better to contact them again on forums or else you would be best to leave.
Money back guarantee If you are not liking the host, ain't giving you enough support or back up or just think you have wasted your money make sure they have a money back guarantee within 30 days or more. And make sure when you request it is within those 30 days instead of later on as host's can be tripping.
Follow these tips carefully as one mistake can lead into all problems and build up on one another so make sure you know what you are doing. Also no free hosts are recommended for obvious reasons and some don't have what you want, so basically with free hosts, what you see is what you get. Post2Host is a nice service although I have saw many forums like these close in the past and forums have been ruined with numerous attempts to get them back they would have to pay a big amount to transfer.
Step 6: Laying the forum out in a professional manner!
When you have to create a forum off course you need to fill it with categories and all that but you should make it more fun instead of spending ours of your day learning nothing, learn how I spice things up.
Planning the forums layout On many web master forums this has been brought up several time that you cannot make a unique layout for your forum as they are all taken. Think again! Instead of the boring universal layout with news and announcements, suggestions and feedback coming first make the main forum category on top. Basically it is reverse psychology but used in a different way. Let the main category and sub-category's come first and news and the boring stuff last. It saves members having to scroll down to see what the forum really focuses around so you can save some clicks and scrolling for later. But it is always good you keep members convinced to read the news and announcements forum.
Making descriptions more fun to read Many of you admins spend your day learning nothing well now you can suck an interesting fact into your head and have more fun all it requires is opening one more tab and research. Basically what you want to do for some forums like general discussion and all that stuff by adding some interesting facts for example:
Song of the Month: Did you know Justin Timberlake was voted for 12 Brit Awards but not one anyway, well now let's see if he can win a famous Forum Award.
Graphic Discussion: The font Sans Serif has been known as 11 separate names and there still thinking of more. Discuss that and all more in our famous graphic discussion forum.
Gaming HQ: Last year at least 2 millions gamers were all between the age of 9 - 16. God, get out there and find yourself some discussion.
Just some idea's you just need to research hard enough and you'll have a good idea.
Something new[/b] Adding something new to your layout is a great touch, take a look at www.thehazey.co.uk and then their forum, look at how Rich spiced up his Services category, unique eh?
Step 7: Appearance & Design
So other than forum content this is another important feature to work on, and making a theme just perfect to fit your needs can take minutes, hours, days and possibly weeks to those who try to improve each time. Well here are some top tips on having themes and choosing them.
Themes need to be neat as possible, all colours blend into a colour combination family and you can make suitable graphics. Also you need to know that members will like your theme, so ask them. If some don't add some more themes on some of my forums I have added 20+ themes that took a day to install and 3 weeks to get graphics perfect for them. Having a selection of 3 or more themes that are all different is recommended and if members don't like it they will just have to deal with it as they may be the pickiest members out of all.
Colour Colour in themes is important, you should stick with primary colours separate with secondary colours as brown will never match red and blue will never match orange just like purple will never match aqua. Sticking with primary and secondary colours would be the best way to arrange themes. You want themes with 3 main colours, blue, pink and white or green, yellow and white or black, orange, and yellow or any other good combinations believe me they attract attention.
SEO Friendly As time goes on you will learn about SEO but make sure the theme is SEO Friendly.
Guest attention: Guest's should be giving you feedback straight away and if they don't mention anything about themes then ask them as they may not like it but don't want to share or be scared. Act as if you are chilled, you asked for their honest opinion and you need to appreciate it for future maintenance.
Paid/Custom Themes It is true what they say now, paid premium themes or custom made themes work better around your members. Finding a really good time consuming designer works these days but you need to tell them exact details and it can take a while thinking it through but make sure they are trustworthy and provide you with daily theme prints so you know what your paying for.
Step 8: Hiring staff and writing rules and regulations!
Hiring staff has been a big problem that has encountered over the years and members have complained so much but it is there own fault that the vow to trust these people. Follow these tips and believe it or not you might have the correct staff members knocking on your forums door.
Seducing members Seduce members into your forum, it's like begging your girlfriend coming to your house for dinner or something(no I will not go that far). Tell members all the great features you have and what you have worked on, what they have to as their roles. Hopefully now there jaw is dropping them.
Choosing the correct application Applications are hard to choose from but you should constantly check the grammar and spelling over and over till you know that nothings wrong. Make sure they provide correct information and something you can contact them quickly on such as MSN. Also keep in hand the past experiences they have had.
Reviewing their background If a member is applying and has been staff at other forums then check with the administrator that they done a good job and what they think of them. Also questioning members are a great idea as you should know your staff members.
Staff Benefits Staff are always looking for something to bite you on so you should offer some benefits. Access to some special sections, arcade, themes, smilies, bbCodes or you could possibly pay them for their work that they do.
Moving onto some rules and regulations and what keep the members from doing crazy stuff. You and your staff should share writing regulations but you should have Rules expressing the whole forum and sub-rules for each different section of the forum, you should at least have more than 200 words in your rules, correct grammar and spelling and read them over carefully.
Step 9: Finishing star dazzle touches!
Before you release your forum you might want to consider adding modifications such as quick reply, PM notice, bbCodes, points system, lottery, bank and much more. Make sure these modifications are all secure and have passed modification approval. You can find these by searching the softwares support board, or simply Googling some modifications.
Members like myself hate posting new topics to a forum that you don't know are going to be active and give that hint that the administrator is lazy and thinks s/he has done enough. You should fill the forum up with plenty of topics - at least 10 topics per forum bar announcements and feedback and possibly introduction. Also hiring users to reply to these topics and create some new topics, your forum should have at least 200 - 300 post's before release and staff helping. There should be millions for members to discuss.
I hope this article has helped in anyway, if you would like to know more about me feel free to PM me for my MSN and we can talk there.
This article, ''Tops tips for planning a forum'' was written by Lee Lawson on 22/07/10 and was published at 16:31. I own full content and if you are caught ripping it consequences apply.