This article was first posted on our blog on 04/02/2011. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.
When people start a new forum, it’s normally very exciting, and they want to experiment with everything. I know from personal experience; I would start to build a forum using one forum software, get bored, and want to try another one.
For me, the next big step was to add countless MODs to my forum. Most of the MODs I added had no effect, and sometimes, I even stopped maintaining them out of boredom (e.g. larger mods like cash).
This post is to give new (or experienced) webmasters more insight into what people really want to see on a forum and which MODs simply bog down your forum.
Simplicity is bliss!
Many new forum owners who run forums on free software often miss the key developing points to kicking off a forum. You have to remember that MODs alone won’t increase your activity; the posts on your forum make the MODs worthwhile. Overflowing your forum can lead to slower load times for each page, which can drive readers/posters away.
About a year ago, I did a post exchange with a small forum, and it was almost painful. The load speed, amount of MODs–everything. I recently saw it here in a bubble ad, and it was cleaner, lighter, and as active as my mind after a red bull.
There are a few MODs which are essential for new forums. I’ll be using phpBB for all the examples, but I’m positive that MyBB and Zetaboards have the same or similar MODs.
NV Last Topic Post Title
This is an extremely simple MOD that requires minimal effort to install. In layman’s terms, the title of the last post in the latest thread in a forum is displayed on the index. For an example of this, look at the Forum Promotion index.
Avatar Resize 1.0
This MOD is one of the most handy ones I’ve ever had the pleasure to install. It simply resizes all avatars that users upload automatically, meaning that each member hasn’t got to worry about finding a 100×100 picture of Pikachu to fit his/her profile.
Now, there is a slight downside to this. Instead of the MOD resizing the picture, uploading that, then displaying it; it simply shows the picture you used in smaller dimensions. This means that if you uploaded a 2mb picture for your avatar, it would still be a 2 MB image; its dimensions would just be smaller. Keep that in mind when you use this MOD.
3. PM on Registration
This can be used to welcome new members, link to the forum rules, link to the introduction page, and anything else you like! This MOD is widely used on forums of all types.
You can even make a slight profit from it and have people pay to advertise in the PM! If you were to do this, you probably would only want to sell one link, and it should probably be a text link (maybe in a different colour to differentiate between normal and sponsored links).
Making the PM look spammy is the worst thing that you can do. If you registered to a forum and the first thing you saw was a PM with tons of animated GIFs and spam links, you’d Ctrl + W and leave the forum for good.
It is recommended that you download MODs which have been approved by the MOD development team of your forum software. They will test for bugs and exploits, and only approve clean ones. Use BETAs and User Developed MODs at your own risk!
However, these are only some of my personal suggestions; if you need support starting a forum (i.e. under one thousand posts) and would like a free service from me, feel free to PM me!
I’m an expert in phpBB who has helped a forum with over 200,000 members with technical problems, so I’m more than capable!