Tag Archives: ZetaBoards

ZetaBoards Review

ZetaBoards Review

They say, the best of any product is yet to be made available’, but what constitutes the best is customized to every individual. What is acceptable to one person might not be acceptable to the other person. Unfortunately, this is the same case with forum software. The free ones available in the market are phpBB, myBB, ProBoards, ZetaBoards, SMF and on and on. This time, we will dissect ZetaBoards and see how well it is serving webmasters and administrators around the world.

Before we begin, we need to understand a little bit of history of ZetaBoards. This forum software began its footstep into the online world under the banner of Zathyus Networks 14 years before, allegedly before sitemaps for social media existed. Under their software engineers and staff, this community software had undergone a lot of changes and today, they continue to support around one hundred thousand online communities. The history is quite impressive, but we will see what they have achieved over this span of fourteen years.

Lets make a really quick note that the ‘About Us’ page informs us that ZetaBoards underwent 8 years’ worth development but the staff page says that the community began 2002. I really don’t understand the mathematics, but I am assuming that they simply forgot to update the ‘About Us’ page.

Hosting: Today, one crucial point about selecting a particular free host is the amount of uptime the host is able to provide. ZetaBoards is hosted on fifteen super strong servers, providing you with unlimited space to host any number of members and posts, and at the point of writing this review, all fifteen are online and working. Yet, in the support forum, we could find numerous topics relating to server downtime and most importantly, these are not regular server update notices. Compared to other forum hosts, we are forced to believe that the uptime is a little less. The live/realtime status of each of their servers could be found here: http://tachyondecay.net/php/bin/serverstatus.php (Link picked up from official support forum index, but not officially maintained by Zathyus Networks and pointing towards an external source. Cant make any sense out it!)

Domains: Unlike other free forum software, ZetaBoards re-affirms its commitment to the user experience by allowing you to purchase a domain from any domain registrars as long as they provide you with of the facility updating your server and CNames. ZetaBoards, however recommends that you buy your domains from Namecheap as the staff are fully accustomed to provide support with this system. This, in a nutshell, means that you have full authority of your domain name which is definitely a plus point to consider when you are looking forward to beginning a new community.

Styles and designs: ZetaBoards is notable for its hard curved forum index structure. Communities running other free forum software have been able to modify the themes and designs to such an extent that it would take even the most experienced hand to search in the footer to determine what software the board is running. But ZetaBoards will have a different story to tell. Even after all these years of surfing through ZetaBoards forums, we have never come across a community that has changed the forum index to such an extent so as to dismantle the default theme. In a real sense, the most important elements of the default theme has stood the test of time and is a testimony to how popular the original theme was. The Support forum has a very handy guide regarding creating new themes and installing them. By default, ZetaBoard is not adapted to mobile devices, so its always good to install a mobile friendly theme if you are looking out for that feature. In this department, the lack of a mobile friendly default theme is definitely something no webmasters or administrators could accept. Looking through the forum, it seems like a mobile app is in the consideration for a long a long time, but nothing has materialized. Hopefully, they will make it up fast.

Advertisements: Each free forum owned and hosted by ZetaBoards has a banner advertisement that keeps the project running – one placed at the top and the other at the bottom of the forum index. But for those users who would like to have these advertisement removed, the cost is calculated on a ‘per pageview’ criteria and is a very sensible criteria to use as far as the administrators are concerned. By purchasing ad removal, you can use your own content targeted advertising and pop up advertising on a forum (in other cases, you are not!). Additionally, you have the option of transferring add removal credits to other forums if you wish to do so. To shorten it, as far as the advertisement section is concerned, ZetaBoards do have a green signal.

Database:
Unlike other free forum software, ZetaBoards is perfectly fine with giving you your database should you choose to move from ZetaBoards to a new host or a new forum software. However, you will have to pay to receive the ‘copy’ of your database (which means that the original community will still exist). There are no clear pricing range for this, but the support request to the sales team will enlighten you. Nevertheless, we believe that this is another step that makes ZetaBoards very user friendly. However, do remember that the database is transferred in a pre-set format (IPB, for now) and that you will have to convert it to you preferred forum software – a process that is not officially supported by ZetaBoards support community.

Premium features: The following are the features that are offered in extra, to premium users:

    Administrator accessible private message logs
    Moderator accessible edited post log
    Unrestricted use of bulk email frequency
    Removal of advertisements placed in the bottom of the index
    Exclusive resource database
    Increased upload limit upto 7MB

To become a premium user, you need to pay around 80$ a year. Going by the list of features, I hardly think that anyone would really require to update their forum from a free to premium community. The fact that ZetaBoards has managed to keep a lot of original features for free are definitely a plus towards the user experience. So kudos to that!

Support system: One of the most beautiful part of a ZetaBoard support network is its dual support system. You can open a ticket that pertains to any of the four categories – Support, Theme, Sales and Personal request (related to lost administrator password, transfer of ownership etc) and a staff member will immediately get to resolve your issue. Additionally, you are also extended full support through the support forum staffed with really friendly people and some amazing members. Both these mechanisms ensure that you receive prompt support – another user friendly initiative by the Zathyus management. Despite these best efforts, if you are a mediocre ZetaBoards user, you will find it hard to locate help document because the documentation is neither complete nor professional. At many instances, you will have to use the ‘search’ function in the support forums to find what you are looking for – something that will turn away potential yet budding administrator and/or webmasters.

Finally, lets take a look at the pros and cons again.

Pros: Easy domain management, possibility of retrieving your forum database, dual support system.

Cons: Downtime in hosting, Exclusive resource database only open to premium members, unprofessional documentation.

Weekly Member Interview Series #8 – Reverie

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of our Weekly Member Interview Series!

This week, we have decided to interview Reverie. This member has been a member of Forum Promotion since March of 2014.

Now on to the interview!


Hi Reverie, what can you tell us about yourself?
Well I’m 22 and I currently am in college to become a teacher. I love movies and video games and I enjoy just talking to friends.

How has your time here at FP been? What do you like about the community?
My time here at FP has been interesting! I joined the party kind of late but have known several members through past forums. I like how the community tries to be a helpful one!

What can you tell us about Atrium?
Atrium is my baby basically. This project has been something I’ve been beyond excited for and the growth has been astonishing! Atrium is a place to come together and talk to all sorts of people! We not only have a general community, but we have advertising and little services as well. We even have resources (Zetaboards Themes, Renders, Avatars, Sigs). Atrium is a well rounded place in my opinion and I love the atmosphere we have created!

Are there any other projects you are currently working on?
Nope, Atrium is my only project right now! I really don’t think I could afford time for another forum due to also having a busy life as well.

I see that your forum, Atrium, has a thriving community. What were the most effective methods you used to gain members and posts?
Honestly it’s all about contacting old friends, making new friends, and just combining new with old to create a diverse community. Word of mouth has been amazing, but we’ve also had great friends who have helped us along the way that we are more than grateful for.

What advice do you have for members here on ForumPromotion who are new to administrating forums?
Do not give up on a project. Try sticking with one project as long as possible. I feel that many new admins are not sure of themselves so they feel the need to create multiple forums, in this case most of the forums die and they all become wasted time. Put all your effort into one and you can expect some great results!

What are your thoughts on ZetaBoards? Have you ever considered switching hosts?’
Zetaboards is one of the best free forum software! It has many pros while there are a few cons it is an overall enjoyable experience. I’ve considered using other hosts in the past but haven’t done so yet!

What would you suggest to improve Forum Promotion? It could be anything.
My suggestion would be to enforce more community participation. I feel as though most of the posting around the general forum (not the post exchanges and etc) are by staff members. It would be nice to see more of a community atmosphere while also keeping up the advertising and other sections.

What are your thoughts on the Forum Promotion Blog? What kind of articles are you interested in reading? Any suggestions?
I’ve actually never read many forum blogs. I would love to see tips for other advertising forums and such, I know there was a topic that once had some good ones though most are dead now. Or a topic such as “How to create an atmosphere” or something along those lines would be nice.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about during this interview?
I would just like to say thank you for asking to interview me, I appreciate it! I hope I could help in any way.


And that wraps up this weeks interview! Thank you for reading this, we hope you will continue reading these every week that they are posted!

Feel free to comment below on the interview. Also, feel free to ask the person that got reviewed any questions you feel like!

Chilled Echoes – Review Spotlight

Image
Full Review by phio_chan

You can access Chilled Echoes to see for yourself what it looks like, by clicking here.


Scoring:

Image First Impressions & Appearance – (14 out of 20)
Kickoff! The first category I will explore is the overall impression made from the appearance of the forum. My visit for this review was actually not the first, so probably a ‘first impression’ is not very accurate. Either way, there will still be things to check out.

Chilled Echoes. I like the name, it is a unique one and I was not able to guess right away what the forum was about. To build curiosity is one good sign as it sparks interest. Visiting as a guest, I saw the default theme ‘Cygnus’. A dark theme is a feast to my eyes, somehow, so I was comfortable browsing around. The left side bar is a nice layout element, with straight, to-the-point navigation links. Quickly glancing below I saw that the forum was a compact one, not too small but not too big either, with lovely activity and statistics. There are forum events and competitions! And a list of various themes to use! Those elements, in my opinion, are lovely start-up details. Those definitely gave a sweet first impression, and especially for those who feel comfortable in general discussion niche, the forum is one inviting place, in my opinion.

Moving on to the appearance, let’s take a deeper look into themes you have offered.

  • Starting with your default theme, ‘Cygnus’. As I mentioned, dark theme is easy on my eyes so I have no problem with it. Good color contrast, especially because colors highlight the text better in dark background. What I feel can be improved from this theme are the banner and the side bar. The banner is a good one, although I would vote for a different font style and stronger color combination to make it stands out more. What do you think of script font type? And if possible, an image to represent the forum can be put there too to give stronger feeling of identity for the forum. What do you think of tag line? I like the line you used in your signature on forums together with Chilled Echoes’ banner. I think it would be sweet to have it on the forum too. As for the side bar, as you scroll down it feels too empty. I think if you make the side bar fixated to show the current menu and only the index body which scrolls, it would be perfect.
  • You mentioned ‘Tranquil Echoes’ as your special theme, so it comes second. In my opinion, it is well done, but I still prefer ‘Cygnus’ over this one. I missed the decorative header of icons and texts to represent the navigation links, the header is not as empty as this one, and the color combinations are more interesting with ‘Cygnus’ than with this one.
  • I notice you offer various base color scheme in other themes. That is a great job to try to match what members may like. My overall impression of the themes is generally the same; they are not too customized in terms of banner, icons, and colors. ‘chilledBlue’ and ‘IFSZ Revisited’ are the prime examples of that. ‘Lucemia’ has a fresh pink, but I personally cannot use such theme for too long as it feels too bright for my eyes. ‘St. Paddy’ has the best attempt of all. The description text of the banner is somewhat hard to read (I could tell right away it is ‘Luck of the Irish’, but ‘u’ seemed like ‘a’ sometimes). The color contrast with group colors work best with this theme. I also notice this theme is the default theme for ‘St. Patrick’s Festival’ section. Unique touch to perk up the event, which is cool. Also, in regards to these other themes, try to make some time to check around all elements. In ‘chilledBlue’, for example, the footer is messed up with Planet Nexus’ footer and the private message and reputation buttons still have default ZetaBoards’ button. Minor details to complete the overall atmosphere!

In general, I feel that you have done quite well with your themes. My favorite would be ‘Cygnus’ and ‘St.Paddy’ because they have more integrated elements than what standard ZetaBoards themes usually have. They can still be improved, though, mainly involving more decorative elements such as text style, colors, and images to make them more outstanding.

Image Site Layout – (14 out of 20)
Chilled Echoes’ layout is straightforward. Short but compact. The sub-forums are made accordingly to the interest of the community, as I observe it, which is a good sign to do. I am especially fond of the event section. It is nice to see a general discussion forum dedicating such space for a fun activity for the community. All sections are also filled with decent activity and content in general; some may be less active than others but still showing life. There does not seem to be a need in expanding or merging categories/forums at the moment, except thinking further about a forum about sports falling under a section about movies. I am not too familiar with sports being considered an entertainment, and with its activity it can probably stand alone as its own section. Another possible idea is to ‘promote’ a sub-forum to a stand-alone forum when it has the chance to grow with exposure. ‘Critical Thinkers’ is my vote for now, since decent discussions seem to be on-going and hopefully exposure can make it grow even more.

My next concern is about the naming of the sections. Quite minor, but I notice the inconsistency with the names. The forum name is ‘Chilled Echoes’. The first forum is ‘chilledBulletin’ , but then you have ‘chilled events’ and ‘Chilled Echoes Extravaganza’. There is inconsistency in the way ‘chilled’ is used here. I like the idea of integrating the forum’s name to the sections’ name, but to have them all in one format would be better.

Last one is about the side bar in ‘Cygnus’ theme. Nice side bar set there, though it needs more content added there or else it would be too boring especially when I scroll down because the bottom part of the bar is empty. You can explore the active topics or staff list more, or advertise events of the community. With a sole link of ‘Promotion Bash’, the intention of the link was not clear at all; it is one possibility to put some teaser there to ignite more interest.

Image Statistics and Activity – (18 out of 20)
Now let us review the numbers a little bit. At the time I was reviewing the forum, it had 13,100 posts with 96 members. Roughly dividing the numbers it means an average of 136 posts per member! That is a great achievement, congratulations. Going through the member list, there are only a few registered users who have not posted yet. That is too bad, but every forum to its own lurkers. At least it shows that you have been doing a good job to keep mostly interested in engaging in the community after registration. Content is spread out quite well in all the sections. I will touch up what content I think you can offer more at the next section. There is a decent overall activity from regular members and staff members. Currently you have two administrators and one moderator. With a forum as big as Chilled Echoes, usually at least two moderators are put in charge to help provide better management. I know there are not too many sections to handle, and if both administrators can help moderation post it would not be a problem.

Image Content – (13 out of 20)
Now we are going to talk about content! Being the hardest section to write about, I hope I can offer ideas helpful for you. In my opinion, Chilled Echoes has quite a standard content on-going. Being a general discussion forum, the content is basically ‘general’. It is eternally gifted with abundance of topics to talk about, but the exact problem usually lies there. People often get confused about what to actually talk about when they have such a huge selection. Eventually they resort to common ones. I feel that this is what I see happened in Chilled Echoes. It does not necessarily mean bad; it shows that there are audience at the forum, and they are interested at the forum, as they regularly post around and respond to the threads. The types of discussion involved, however, are mainly generic ones. ‘Favorite’ threads or ‘current verb-ing’ threads are the prime example of what I talked about. Not much discussion could be pushed on in those kind of threads. I feel that some pushes can be attempted. What do you think about starting discussions about specific musicians at the music section? Or talk about what the members think about magic (the ‘real’ or ‘fantasy’ magic both works)? Or explore more about members’ cooking ability, maybe they have some wonderful recipes and tricks to share. Or mistakes they did in the past and how they learned to let it go or mended it. More sensitive topics can probably be locked from guests to see for privacy, but there are always more to explore. I also feel that it is okay for staff members to help bump old, potential threads with new thoughts or input. Who knows if discussions will bloom again. General discussion forums will have to explore their members to get everyone together and in return form a stronger link and more enjoyable stay. Definitely not an easy task. However, I see that potential from Chilled Echoes because I see dedicated staff members and some core active members which can be the start point of this inspiration.

Second point I am planning to ponder a bit more is the second category. I am personally a fan of such element in a forum; events help to bring some more fun to the community and bring the members together. I like the events you have provided so far. Some are simple, another one is more complicated but still not too troublesome. I am mostly confused with ‘Chilled Echoes Extravaganza’. Probably because it is more like a contest, a race, dedicating one whole section to it was rather confusing because there is not too many things to be done. A one composed thread under ‘chilled events’ would probably be better. Related to events and contests, such forums usually offer a spot in the index page to showcase the winners and advertise the event more grandly. I feel that this would be a great additional point to the forum as incentives for more people to participate. It also shows the great talents of the community which may be source of interest from visitors to turn into members. The header has big area to explore, and with ‘Cygnus’ you even have the side bar. They can be used to advertise content of the forum! Instead of just ‘Active Topics’ navigation link, a box of recent posts, threads, or most popular discussions with links to those threads right away would be more beneficial. I am not too sure about the design limitations of ZetaBoards, though, so I hope these ideas can be beneficial.

Image Spelling/Grammar & Professionalism – (16 out of 20)
Finishing up the review with an exploration to the professional side of the forum. From the forum names, organization, descriptions, and posts, Chilled Echoes has a good overall professionalism. I appreciate the effort taken to try to give unique names to the sections, which is a nice attempt to be different from other forums. With grammar, there are only several not-too-huge mistakes. For example, usage of capital letters in forum descriptions and hiccups like this in ‘Sports Bar & Grill’ description, with bold parts as the mistakes:

Are you avid sports addict? Willing to stick out the weather in the outdoors to watch your favorite team drive home the win? Or maybe you’re not a die-hard addict, but you have some knowledge of the sports? Whether you play the sport, or an fan this is your type of place.

The ‘Board Rules’ thread also says “This means that you won’t do any of the following: … (2) Refraining from making any comment that would be deemed racist or sexist. (3) Refraining from trolling or spamming.” With ‘following’, it would sound better to go straight to the things you want to refrain. The correction would be ‘…(2) Making racist or sexist comment…” That goes straight to the point without unnecessary words.

Total Score – (75 out of 100)

 


Final Remarks:
I enjoyed my time reviewing Chilled Echoes. The community has a fresh and friendly atmosphere to it, and I could see how it feels like home to several members. That is a wonderful feeling to achieve for a general discussion forum. The challenge is going to be harder from now on with the activity and other possible content to add. When in doubt, asking the community members can sometimes help. The more brains to think, the better! It also helps to bring everyone together. Do not hesitate to touch them all and build the forum together. Good luck!

Image Strengths:

Active member base with regular posting

Overall great professionalism from the management

Image Weaknesses:

Themes are not so well-organized

Forum layout can still be made more tidy

Lack of further discussions instead of generic ones