I’d really like to start a forum and was looking for some startup advice.
Im guessing a forum runs on PHP and was wondering if I was to purchase something like Vbulletin can I style it with CSS and HTML as much as I want…? Is there a limit to how much you can affect the layout of a forum…?
Also how much does it roughly cost to run a forum…? Is it the same as much as a normal website or substantially more…?
I love the design of this forum, may I ask how it was written…?
To run a forum you’ll need php/Mysql. I’d advise getting a host that gives you cPanel, it’s easier to manage the account.
I would advice AGAINST paying for VB or IPB. While they are pretty good scripts, they cost a lot and are not that good as their sellers would like you to thing. I’d go with MyBB hands down. You can style any script using HTML/CSS. I can give you few examples of how I’ve styled some of mine: www.invatam.net (it’s on MyBB, and works super OK for me) and www.travel-forums.info (VB.4, wanted to test this too).
You can go with MYBB and have a super OK forum. The platform is excellent and you don’t need to pay 200 bucks and 50 every few months for this. Let’s say my romanian forum (the one with MyBB) is making more money and has a lot of more success than what I’ve had on VB or IPB.
As dojo has rightly mentioned there is no use paying for a commercial forum software when there are some excellent alternatives available free of cost and you don’t even require lots of programming knowledge.
But here is a quick advice: you should be at least a bit comfortable with the tools you are going to use so better start exploring PHP and MySQL at least 10-15 min everyday.
Having said that you can try out phpBB and also bbPress. Both of these require a bit of customisation but it’s worth it. PHP BB has some spam issues but if you are careful it can prove to be one of the best online forum software.
It definitely has spam issues, but they can be overcome with addons. It’s pretty easy to customize and add some better anti-spam features. I’m not much of a programmer but I was able to pretty easily eliminate spam on a forum I had running phpbb.
For me, the only cost of running the forum is the hosting. There is also the cost of the domain, but that’s only maybe $20 every few years (I have them on 3-year cycles so I don’t have to worry about renewing each time). The hosting is expensive for me as I’m on a VPS ($47.50 a month), but if you’re just starting out, you can find great hosting for $5-$10 a month (make sure you do your research though - sites like BlueHost, 1and1 and GoDaddy which offer a lot for very little $ are not worth your time).
Do have a clearly visible introduction thread as an aid to fostering the sense of belonging to a community.
Do have a clearly written and readily available site TOS / T&C that encompasses the legally required elements as well as your mission statement or (at least) something that identifies a reason for people to stay
Do have brief bios on your forum leaders that can be easily found. We included them at the end of the TOS so that they weren’t missed and they help in putting an identity to the forum.
Do include a clearly visible privacy statement. In many countries now it is a legal requirement but even where that is not the case they provide clear guidelines for prospective members.
Don’t have too many categories on the main index or landing page and if your forum software supports the capability either display sub forums next to the category or roll them up. This is less daunting for new users but it also makes it easy to see at a glance what you have that is attractive to visitors.
Don’t fill the forum up with advertising and (if possible) avoid ads that pop-up. Commercial reality dictates the need for advertising on many forums but we have over 40 site sponsors that sit in a rotating flash banner (three at a time) and this is both unobtrusive and effective for click throughs. Also ensure that the advertising is pertinent to your member base!