Hi,

I'd like to get people's opinions on the best options for a PHP driven BBS for start-up web sites. Start-up is the key word here. I'd prefer to start a site with low-no cost solutions at first. If the site is successful then an upgrade to a significantly more powerful commercial system would make sense.

I know that this discussion has been "done" before,. but there are so many upgraded and new offerings of BBS's out there that I'd like to get a "healthy" discussion going on here!

What is out there that you folks like / hate? There are lots of options out there and the choices are a little bewildering to a newbie like me.

I'm looking for a few features...based on the advice I've seen elsewhere on sitepoint.

a) The ability to e-mail this page to a friend. Is that something I should code in myself if it is not included in the system? See point "h" below.

b) Ease-of-setup. I'm a complete PHP newbie so it needs to be relatively easy and perhaps have a decent support community.

c) Ease of use. My target audience are complete (and I mean COMPLETE) newbies who will need the most intuitive experience possible. I love all the features of systems like IkonBoard 3 and vBulletin, but I think the feature set might overwhelm really neophyte users. The best of all worlds would be a system that has simple and advanced modes of use.....

d) Cost. Like I said above...payware is great once a site is running successfully, but it is a risk factor for "venture" sites.

e) Upgrade path....can it be ported over to a more robust solution if need be.

f) Speed. A decent speed on searches would be really nice.

g) Features. What features do you folks see being the most popular on your sites? Do people like chat? What about avatars and all the other fancy pants features. What is worth bothering with feature wise and what is "a little too much"....as in, it turns off average users who are not particularly computer literate?

h) Ease-of customization. As I pick up more and more PHP / MySQL experience I'd like to be able to get in and make mods. Are some systems better suited to this? In particular, what systems are the easiest to cut into HTML template pages. I figure if I bother making really attractive interface designs I'd like to be able to incorporate the BBS "into" the interaface instead of popping out to a page that doesn't share the same look and feel.

i) This is perpaps the most important. BBS's that help grow community. The whole point of setting up discussion boards is to grow community which grows traffic, and so on. What systems help do this through the provision of things like e-mail this topic to a friend, invite a friend, personal profiles (that are easy enough to use as to not turn off newbies). Related to this is the question of how easy it is to tie-into other personalization features that are set up on the site. If I'm profiling site members then that info should be passed to the BBS.

OK..there you have it...hope this gets a good discussion churn going!