Category Archives: Forum Hosts

Forumotion Review

Alas, I have decided to start my own forum. I started looking into the host of new free forum services that are up for the grab – Forumotion, ZetaBoards, ProBoards are just to name a few of them. I am still confused which service I will utilize, so I decided to review all the available forum platforms. I chose Forumotion first because it looked popular and promising in the first glance. Here are my findings:

Forumotion is a free forum software service that lets you build your community in four different software – which include phpBB2, phpBB3, punBB and Invision. Forumotion lets you switch the available forum platforms any time the webmaster wishes. The transition from one platform to the other is smooth and takes less than 5 minutes with no loss of posts, topics, members or their information.

Styles and designs: While using Forumotion, you have two ways to add styles to your forum. You can either style it yourselves from any of the base themes or the default ones or you can use a preset design that is available for free from hitskin.com. Many of the themes on hitskin are very poor but with certain modifications, it is good to go. The good thing about Forumotion ACP is that you can format the CSS sheets through the control panel and create an entirely new theme for your forum alone. Submitting them to hitskin is optional, but once you do, the theme becomes the property of Forumotion after one month.

Hosting and domains: Forumotion is hosted by a range of powerful servers that there is hardly any downtime. In the rare event that there is one, its will be notified earlier- with complete details including the time interval, the reason for downtime and any expected loss of data. In my 2.5 years with Forumotion, I didn’t experience any downtime. They also let you have personalized domain names (which has to be either purchased through Forumotion itself or has to be obtained through the giveaway) and personalized email addresses. Domains purchased through Forumotion cannot be transferred to a third party domain registrar. In case you want to do it, you will have to wait until the domain expires and you complete a 60 days waiting period for that domain to appear in the ‘available domain index’. Though prices are comparable to popular domain providers, not having complete control over it makes it very less worthwhile. In that case, my advice will be to purchase your domain from a third party registrar and redirect to your Forumotion domain.

Advertisements: The free forum service comes with advertisements. The advertisements are placed just under the main banner of the forum (one per page) with administrators being given the option of either forcing it on guests and members or paying Forumotion for the removal of advertisements. In addition to this, another optional section on ‘sponsored content’ (a sponsored advertisement appears in the topic body either just after the first post or before the last post that is displayed in that page) are also in the works. But thankfully, this can be disabled or enabled at the discretion of the webmaster. Similarly, the Forumotion ACP allows you to connect your community to Google Analytics that gives you detailed analytical reports regarding the traffic that comes into your community.

Database: You don’t have to worry about the database getting too big. Forumotion provides a maximum capacity of 4 billion posts and 4 billion topics per forum with virtually no restriction on the number of members. You don’t have to worry about backing up your data and other security issues because Forumotion handles all that. However, you are not permitted to keep the database of your community and under no circumstances will this be given to you – no matter how much you are willing to pay. So if you think that your community has grown big enough and Forumotion is ill-equipped to cater to the needs of your community and that you require to move to a different host – bad luck – You have to start from the scratch.

Forum and social media integration: Forumotion is another free host that understands the evolving needs of the people. In their quest to appear social media friendly, they have various social media integration tools that are linked with Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. You also have the option of enabling a ‘Like’ button or ‘Tweet’ button or ‘mobile sharing’ feature which lets your members share their favorite content to their social media handles without moving away from the forum. Along with this, Forumotion has an integrated chat and gallery function. The chat, more like a shout box, is neat and user friendly but cannot be customized.

Support: The support forums are the perfect stop for all the FAQs, queries and new tricks and tips to make your forum more suited to the expanding needs of your community. Their tips and tricks section is a galore of customization methods, most of which, webmasters will have to use on their forum. However, the support forum is severely understaffed resulting in delay in answering your queries. Added to this, like the staff on most of the free support forums, they are not very friendly and pleasing to actually involve in a conversation. The support forum also has a section for forum reviews and graphic requests. Most often, hardly 10% of the requests are completed effectively and the others are turned away with the age old excuse of the support team being a volunteer staff group.

Security: As far as the security of the database is concerned, if you, as a webmaster, can prevent suspicious entry through your administrator account, all your data is safe and fully backed up. In case something goes wrong, you will have to access the utilities section, log into your founder account and restore your community with a previous backup. As long as you are able to strengthen your administration password, security is pretty decent.

Additional features: At Forumotion, they provide you with a lot of additional features including the possibility of adding fully customizable HTML pages and JavaScript on to your forum. Though in the past, users have questioned the security vulnerabilities that come along with adding HTML pages on to your forum, it seems to be the most used feature in Forumotion forums. Other additional features include – a photo gallery, integrated classified ads section, mention and keywords notification center and newsletters. And for those roleplayers out there – a beautiful dice rolling module with a character sheet management center.

Conclusion

Pros

1. Feature packed administration control panel
2. Extremely user friendly

Cons

1. Database cannot be transferred to the webmaster under any circumstances
2. Poor support

phpBB review – Slowly Becoming One of the Best

phpBB review – Slowly Becoming One of the Best

Disclaimer: I haven’t used phpBB in a long while so I decided to use the phpBB demo offered on phpBB.com. This gave me access to my own forum and its ACP for a while.

There was always something about phpBB that I liked, I’m still not sure whether it was the way that it’s structured or simply the way it looks. It might just be something to do with it being the first forum software that I came across. I feel like phpBB has come a long way since I first used it. The admin control panel feels a lot easier to navigate and so far I’ve had no trouble installing a new theme. All seems to be going well for me so far. Now it’s time for me to give phpBB another go after spending so much time with MyBB.

My biggest pet peeve with phpBB was the difficulty of adding plugins (or extensions as they are called on phpBB). Back then I knew about another extension called autoMOD which was meant to make installing other extensions a lot easier and automated. No matter how many tutorials I read I could never get the autoMOD extension to work at all. And that of course meant that other extensions were also a difficulty for me to install onto my forum. Another issue I had with the old phpBB was that for some reason importing a style (theme) onto my forum always caused errors. I would love to be able to see these errors now as I’m a lot more knowledgeable about these types of things and could work out if it was something I was doing that was causing an error. These two problems were the main reason I ended up going to MyBB. In my opinion I think MyBB has always been more popular especially with users that have never hosted their own forums or users that have never administrated a forum before. MyBB is just so simple while phpBB was always considered as being a bit problematic and a lot more advanced.

The first thing I tried to do with my installation of phpBB was import a new theme. Easy. I’d even go as far as saying it’s easier than MyBB. All that is required is uploading a file containing everything for the theme to a “Styles” folder and then you import it from the phpBB admin control panel. That’s literally it. Of course I haven’t tried/have no clue about how I can edit templates as I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere in my admin control panel. MyBB has always had an extremely easy template editor so it would have been nice to compare the two and see which comes out on top.

Next I went ahead and read an installation guide on how to install an extension for a phpBB powered forum. Easy. From what I can remember in the older phpBB versions it was quite complicated and required some template edits as well but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. A simple upload of the files to the web directory and then activation of the extension is the only steps required. A quick browse through both the phpBB extensions directory and Google shows a wide choice of extensions available for almost everything that a basic forum would need such as a points system etc. Another great thing that stands out for me is the notifications feature that comes straight out of the box. I know it’s a basic and simple feature. But most forums tend to have a notifications feature but with MyBB that requires a separate plugin.

However there was one thing that disappointed me. There is a real lack of free themes for phpBB 3.1. Considering it came out around October 2014, the fact that there are only 31 free themes for this version of the software is extremely disappointing. And personally, out of those 31 themes only 1 comes even close to even being used. The rest were bland, old and just plain boring. Compare this to MyBB which has hundreds of themes both on the MyBB site and around the web and you realise that phpBB is quite far behind from ever catching up to MyBB. If you want a proper theme then you will have to dish out around $17 for a premium phpBB theme. I have seen some great modern looking themes available on ThemeForest although the fact that there are only around 10 premium themes mean that most likely most forums powered by phpBB will have similar themes that you’ve seen before. Another issue that I noticed with phpBB is a lack of support around the web. Apart from the phpBB community I haven’t really come across any places that have experienced users that are able to help other users with any phpBB problems that they may be having. I’m sure there are some forums out there that concentrate on phpBB support but personally I haven’t come across any that stand out. No matter where you look, you will always seem to find someone on any forum that has some sort of experience with MyBB and can help you out. The same cannot really be said for phpBB.

phpBB is a great forum software. It always has been behind MyBB in terms of ease of use, functions and extensibility. But it is growing and recent updates have brought some great functions and improved the software overall. This should hopefully make phpBB a more attractive software to beginners and experienced webmasters. Of course a few things still need to be improved, the lack of proper free themes for phpBB 3.1x is a real turnoff. However, I will definitely be trying out phpBB more thoroughly after this experience as I feel like it is much improved since I last used it as a forum administrator.

MyBB Review: You Would Be Crazy Not To Use It!

I’ve used MyBB several times throughout my years of experience as a forum owner and I’ve never been disappointed with what it offers. Don’t get me wrong, it has a few issues ranging from its software to community, but out of all the forum software that I have had an some sort of experience with (as an administrator), it comes out on top easily.

Let’s get the first reason most people use MyBB out of the way. MyBB is an open source software therefore it is absolutely free. This is a forum software that can rival both XenForo and IPB easily, come out on top and still be offered for free for its millions of users. Of course this all depends on who you ask. There are several features that both XenForo & IPB have that I would love to come out of the box with MyBB such as notifications or the like system. However these are available as plugins on the MyBB Extensions site. But then you would expect such features to come out of the box for a software that will cost you $140. Spending $140 on MyBB could get you a forum with a unique look and unique features that no one else would have.

There is nothing complicated about using MyBB, either as a visitor or an administrator. The forum structure is basic yet exactly what is needed. Visitors will have no trouble finding exactly what they want, from the user control panel to replying to a new thread they have just read. Administrators and moderators need no experience at all as both the moderator control panel and admin control panel are extremely easy to navigate and use. Let’s start with the moderator CP – there might as well take it out. The only time I have ever had to go to the moderator CP is to read any reports submitted by the users. MyBB offers in post moderation which means that if you need to close, delete or move a thread/post it can all be done through the post. The admin CP, unlike other software (pointing at you phpBB) was easy to get around when I first began to use MyBB. Everything is broken into 6 categories: Home, Configuration, Forum & Posts, Users & Groups, Templates & Styles and Tools & Maintenance. This means that you know exactly where to go if you want to find something specific. One of the most important parts of a forum is of course the different categories and forums that house the various discussions. The developers at MyBB have done a great job with the “Forum & Posts” section of the ACP. Forum permissions can be confusing sometimes. Do I tick this box? Do I turn this setting on? The permissions feature has made it extremely easy – so easy that it is a simple drag and drop system. Drag this group here so that they cannot view the forum. Drag this group over here to ensure only they can start a new thread in this forum section. But it isn’t that basic. Experienced administrators can choose to set custom permissions which is more advanced.

But what about appearance? The theme of a forum can be the deciding factor for a member when deciding whether they want to join a forum or not. MyBB have again excelled at this part of the ACP. Importing a ready made theme is as simple as uploading a single file through the ACP and uploading some images or javascript files to the forum directory. Want to make that theme unique? MyBB contain in built editors so that you can add, remove or change any part of the themes coding easily to suit your needs. The templates have been split into several different parts from the postbit to the footer. This means that it is extremely easy to find a particular piece of coding that you want to remove or change.

Similarly to themes, plugins are easy to install on to a forum. Just upload a few files to the forum directory and activate the plugin through the forum. And that’s it. There are hundreds of plugins available for MyBB both on the official MyBB website and through other MyBB resource sites. Want to have a currency system? Then there is NewPoints. Want to have a betting system for NewPoints? A quick search on Google will give you a plugin for exactly that.

However, like most forum software there are some parts which need improvement. Although the available themes are great, there is a real lack of them for MyBB 1.8. The current themes all feel over used and if you want a completely unique theme then you will be required to hire a custom designer. You could visit a hundred MyBB forums and most likely you will see the same theme several times. Furthermore, although plugins can be extremely easy to install, they are an absolute pain to uninstall and remove completely. If you want to remove them completely, you will need to find each and every file throughout your forum directory and delete them. Or you can do what I do most of the time and just leave the files there to take up valuable space on your server. Spam is another real issue. The default CAPTCHA system is just not sufficient as bots will always end up getting past it. To stand a chance you will need to find a good anti-spam plugin.

My experience with phpBB a long time ago was short. I was, in the end, frustrated at how confusing it was* and that was what made me find MyBB. I am delighted that I found out about MyBB as if I hadn’t maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into forums. Maybe I wouldn’t have found out about Forum Promotion. There are a few cons of using MyBB but the advantages of using it heavily outweigh them, and that is why I recommend you to use MyBB.

* This is solely my opinion. This opinion is based on an experience a while ago and I’m sure phpBB have improved since then. This may not represent the phpBB experience now.

My Top 3 Free Forum Hosting Sites

Today in this article, I will be discussing my pick of the Top Three Free Forum Hosting websites that you can use to host your forum. I have used my time to try out and test the services the following has to offer. I do have my favorites and I will explain why in this article. Continue reading