Custom icons for each individual section of your forum can truly make a difference by adding uniqueness, brand identity, and character. A basic theme can be made to appeal strongly to a particular niche by using flavorful icons related to it. For example, if a forum dedicated to Naruto has an icon of a different character for different sections of the board, then that forum can look more colorful. These icons can prove that the administrator has put a lot of effort into putting their forum together.
Here is an example.
As you can see the different icons allow the user to more easily find what they are looking for, and overall, make the design much more colorful.
This blog post is a guide which describes how to add these icons.
Step #1: Get Ready
Before you can choose good icons for your forum, you have to figure out a number of things.
1. What niche is your forum in? — This is important because the icons which make sense for a business forum are different than the icons which make sense for an anime forum. A business forum needs to be neat, tidy, and professional. An anime forum needs to be exaggerated, over the top, and flashy. A gaming forum needs to be hard core and dedicated. These attributes all describe how the design should appear, and custom icons are part of the design.
2. What design are you using? — Forum icons must be chosen in conjunction with a forum theme. If your theme uses two colors, blue and green for example, then the icons you choose will need to be one of those colors, or a color which goes good with those two. An entire blog post could be written on how to choose colors that go good together, but for the purpose of this post, you will need to simply pay attention to which colors you believe go best together.
Step #2: Find Your Icons
When selecting your icons, it is crucial that each icon look visually similar to every other icon. They need to be the same style, the same shape, and the same colors. If one icon is flat, then the other icons need to be flat. If one is glossy, then the others should be glossy. A good way to accomplish this is to choose a single icon which you really like, and then use other icons from the same icon set, or by the same author. If you find an icon which was the only icon made by that author, then choose another icon.
There are a number of good websites where you can find icons for your forum. This article will discuss two. The first is called IconArchive. It is a free website which allows you to filter by a number of factors, including color, license, and name.
To start, type something in to the search bar. Since all forums have announcements section, that is a good place to start.
As you can see above, there are only a few results. The first one look good, though, so click on it to see a full description.
As you can see, the license is freeware, which means that you can use this icon with free restrictions. To cover your legal bases, it is a very good idea to leave a backlink to the author’s website, however.
You can download the icon by clicking on one of the green buttons, as seen in the screenshot, but if you scroll down, you will notice that there are more icons in this icon set.
To be more precise, there are a hundred icons. The ones you see above could be used as custom forum icons for several different sections in a forum. They can all be downloaded to your computer, and then uploaded to your website. Step #2 describes how to do this using the MyBB forum software.
In addition to IconArchive, another good site to use is called IconFinder. It contains a good selection of premium icons as well as free ones. Below are links to both IconArchive and IconFinder.
Step #3: How to Upload Custom Forum Icons
Installing custom forum icons can be done in all major forum systems. Below are links to tutorials on how to do this.
Using custom forum icons, you can make your forum more colorful and unique. Using websites such as IconArchive, this process is completely free. While the method varies between different brands of forum software, each major software vendor supports custom forum icons either natively, or through a third party modification.