Choosing Forum Software

Choosing Forum Software

When setting up a forum for your website, you will have to make a choice on the piece of software that you want to use to ensure that a forum can be easily run and accessed on your website; there are many different pieces of forum software out there, so it is important that you make the right choice when you setup one for your website so that your visitors are able to discuss topics with each other, and should help create a sense of community for all the visitors that you receive to your website at the moment, as well as new visitors who might discover your website through a search engine keyword search. There are many different factors that you should consider when looking for a piece of forum software to use for your website; this is because forum packages normally contain many different features – some which you might find are surplus to your requirements, or you might find that the software you have chosen doesn’t contain features that you need it to have. You should also consider the factors which might be affect the visitors that you receive to your website, since after all, the visitor is the most important asset to your website; if your forum isn’t accessible to the visitors of your website, this might mean that they will go to some other website or forum community to discuss or view what they might already be using your website for. You should also take on board the technical side of the forum software that you are looking at, in relation to the specifications and features of the web hosting package on which your current website resides; this is because you might end up with a piece of forum software that is unable to function within your shared website hosting environment because it is designed to run under one environment, which is not the same as what you have. If you are webmaster who likes to be able to find their way around with the administration areas of applications, then you should take on board the design and functionality of the administration interface of the applications which you have decided to look at in your hunt for a piece of forum software; in this case you should consider the placing of links and other important items since these play an important part in your ability to be able to adjust to a new administration panel with ease. Other things that you should consider when looking for a piece of forum software which you can incorporate into your website include the level of skill that may be needed to incorporate the chosen program into the design of your existing website, as well as how far you are able to customize the program – for example, you might be able to complete incorporate it into the existing design of your website, but are unable to remove the copyright and trademark footers from the bottom of all the pages which are contained within the forum software – this will be in the case in most situations since the piece of forum software being used is open source, which means that it is being used freely and does not have to be paid for.

Theming

One of the most important things for webmasters who are using third party applications within their website structures is the ability to skin/theme the applications which they are using; this is because they, like anyone want the designs of these third party applications to try and blend in with those of their main websites as much as possible, since it looks more professional and in some cases such as where the data being entered into the third party application is of high confidentiality, can also boost the trust that visitors and customers have in you and your website. With the ability to theme an application so that the design of it suits your main website more, you are able to customize it in a way so that you can make it look and in some cases function in the way that you want it to; this means that you can build a highly functional and interactive website for your visitors, without the need for you to put in any hard work to make it function in the complicated way that it does, since all you have done is taken a third party application which has all the functionality there for you already, and added a design of your own choice so that it looks and feels the way that you want it to be for yourself and your visitors. With the using of skinning and theming, you can also give the third party application that you have chosen to use a unique identity from the default identity which is provided with it, and is most probably used by many other websites who have chosen to use the same piece of software as you but haven’t chosen to skin or theme it in any way; this means that your installation of the third party application will be much more distinguished than the other installs of it there are since you will be using your own design, whereas others will most likely be using the default skin/theme which was already applied to the application concerned when they installed within their website hosting space. When using a piece of forum software along side your main website, you should always skin/theme it to ensure that it blends in with the design that you have chosen and applied to your main website which is separate from the piece of forum software that you chosen to create a community within your website; this is because it should hopefully become a community point for all the visitors that you receive to your website where they can all discuss topics related to any subject that you or they want, which means that it should have some sort of custom design since you don’t want such an important part of your website to look ugly and ‘standard’. The design of the piece of forum software which you are using can also denote the amount of visitors that it actually receives, and whether your existing visitors choose to stay or not; this is because that if you use your own design which looks rather nice, then people are going to want to stay on your website, but if you haven’t used such a nice design then people won’t be as willing to return to your website in the future.

Features

Because of their nature, many piece of forum software contain many different features that main allow for members of the forum concerned to communicate with each other both privately and publicly; this means that the features which are built into the piece of forum software which you choose to use will help you build a stable community for your website which your visitors can then join if they want to – this should then build up over time meaning that your website will be more attractive to first time visitors who might have reached your website through a search engine keyword search. The most basic features that most piece of forum software include are private messaging for members, the ability to see who is online in your forum at one time as well as the main feature which is their purpose – allowing members to communicate with each other through the means of topics which they can create and respond to within the forums/message boards that you have set up and configured; these features put together mean that you are able to monitor the people or search engine robots who are visiting your forum at any time, and also mean that your forum members can easily communicate with each other in public via the means of forum topics which they can create and respond to – if they feel the need to, then they should also have the ability to communicate with one another privately via the means of the private messaging system which she be provided as standard with the piece of forum software which you have chosen to use as part of your website to help create a community for your visitors. Most pieces of forum software allow you to download third party add-ons for them which you can then install within your install of the forum application which you have chosen to use in your website; this means that you can easily extend the functionality of the piece of forum software that you are using quickly and freely – in most cases the functions which are carried out by these third party add-ons are ones which are not normally handled by the application itself, which means that the new features that you are adding to your forum can help make it more interactive for both your website’s visitors as well as the members of your website’s forum. You should also look at the management features that are provided by forum software packages when you are looking to choose one which you are going to be using within your website to help create a sense of community; this is because you might need to delete and edit threads and posts which are created within your forum effectively and quickly, this idea is reinforced by the fact that forums can easily attract spammers and hackers since they see them as places where they can easily paste up what they want to with the likelihood of them going unnoticed for a while which means that many people are likely to see the adverts of text that they have posted up on the piece of forum software which you have chosen to use.

Add-Ons

Almost all the major players within the forum software industry have websites at which you are able to download third party add-ons that allow you to extend the functionality of your install of the piece of forum software which you have chosen to use; this means that you can easily expand a basic piece of forum software so that you can give your website’s visitors an interactive community where they are able to communicate with each other both publicly on certain subjects, and privately on any subject that they wish to discuss between themselves. Most add-ons that are available for pieces of forum software allow you to extend the functionality of the basic features which come integrated with your chosen piece of forum software once you have installed either on your dedicated or VPS server or within your shared website hosting space; this means that these features give you the ability to create an amazing forum which is much more enhanced than those of others websites who happen to be using the same piece of forum software as you – this is because the basic features of the piece of forum software have been changed and enhanced within your forum so that your website’s visitors and forum members are given much higher quality features that they can utilize when using your forum. However, add-ons don’t always have to be about enhancing the user expierience which you give your website’s visitors and forum members; in some cases you can get add-ons which can enhance the experience for you as the webmaster who looks after the day to day running of the forum concerned – this means that you can normally get add-ons for the administration panel of the piece of forum software which you have chosen to use, these add-ons can make managing your forum much easier for you since they normally extend management capabilities such as the editing of posts and the removing and banning of trouble members who might be spoiling the community atmosphere that you have created within your website for the visitors that you receive to discuss topics which are related to the main subject of your website. Other add-ons give you the ability to manage the and view the traffic/visitors which you receive to your forum, and not your main website; this is because the add-ons concerned are only set up to monitor the pages within the forum package which you have chosen to use – however, this does mean that you can monitor the activity of your forum and see where you might be succeeding and in some cases, failing. When choosing a piece of forum software, you should always consider its ability to accept add-ons when you are wanting to expand its abilities so that you can make the most of the piece of forum software which you choose to use as part of your website to help create a community; you should also make a note of the types of and number of add-ons which are available for the chosen package since these two factors can affect your ability to expand the piece of forum software concerned.

Commercial or Open Source

One main factor that can affect your choice of forum software is the fact of whether the pieces of software that you have been looking at are open source or commercial; commercial piece of forum software are ones which will cost you to have the ability to use them since you will have to buy a license in order for you to be allowed to use them, open source pieces of forum software on the other hand are completely free meaning that you can even download the source code for them so that you can construct your own add-ons based around their infrastructure so that the piece of forum software which you have chosen to use functions in the way that you want it to – this wouldn’t be possible with commercial forum applications since in most cases, you aren’t given access to their source code. In terms of support, you are normally given phone support with commercial applications, since you have paid them money and in turn will provide you with one to one professional support – in most cases this will only last a year meaning that you will have to renew your cover for it when you’re six months is up; there is no official support for open source forum applications since you are not paying anyone for the right to use it, meaning that there isn’t the money there to pay people to provide telephone support for the piece of forum software concerned – however, there are normally dedicated forums which are normally able to provide you with a good level of support if you are new to the world of forum software, and have come across some sort of problem – whether it be not being able to install the application correctly or forgetting the administrator account’s password and not being able to reset by yourself for whatever reason. In most cases you will find that commercial pieces of forum software are much more secure than their open source counterparts – this is because you are paying for a license which means that there are paid developers who are there developing the product day in and day out, which means that if a security flaw is found in the application then it can be rectified by the paid developers more or less immediately; open source pieces of forum software on the other hand are usually much less secure than their commercial counterparts, this is because there is nothing to pay for a team of developers to develop the application day in and day out, which goes along with the idea that these applications are normally developed by a few developers within their spare time – this means that is a security flaw is found within a piece of open source forum software, then it isn’t going to be rectified immediately since the developers don’t have the time to stop their paid job to correct the problem concerned.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when choosing a piece of forum software which you want to use so that you are able to create a sense of community for your website you should always consider the most important points such as the availability of support for the applications which you are considering to use, as well as the option for using add-ons to expand its capabilities at a later date; you should also take into consideration the level of support received in relation to the amount that you are paying for a license to use the piece of forum software concerned if you happen to choose a commercial piece of forum software in the case that you have the money to pay for it. Other things which you should take into consideration also include the basic features provided by the pieces of forum software which you are considering to use for your website; this might be because you don’t have the appropriate knowledge to allow you to install add-ons to extend the capabilities of your chosen piece of forum software – although this process may be simple, it may still be quite complicated for some people who aren’t computer literate. In the end, the piece of forum software which do choose to use your website can affect the success of the forum which you are trying to set up on your wesbite; this is because if you choose a rubbish piece of software which doesn’t contain many features then people won’t want to be visiting your website or forum since they can be easily put off by your choice of software, surprisingly. If you are starting out with your forum, and your website doesn’t receive many visitors, then you should consider an open source forum solution for your website – this is because the piece of forum software that you choose to use is free, and although official support isn’t provided, you can still get pretty good support from dedicated forums and from the documentation which should be provided; on the other hand, if you require a scalable enterprise solution then you should consider a commercial solution since these are much better maintained by the creators, and you can normally get official support via telephone and email.

About The Author: Joshua Hold

Josh works alongside with our marketing department in the production of editorial content for our company blog and knowledgebase.

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