Creating a Forum – Part 1: Choosing a Niche, Hosting and Software

Today i will start a series of posts about creating a forum. This is probably one of the long waited posts some bloggervenue readers wanted to see here.

I have more than 4 years of experience on creating and managing forums. During these years i have made many mistakes, i have learned many things almost by myself with trial and error. So im very comfortable with this subject and i hope to be able to share in an easy way, what i have learned in these four years.

First, let me clarify that the “Creating a forum” series will be only for standalone forums.

Standalone forums is an expression i use to define forums that are not integrated inside a website, that uses for example a CMS (content management system) like e107, joomla or mambo.

The model, that will serve as an example will be an established forum (dahh.net), which is a portuguese community, so you would probably want to see the translated version.

Now that the introduction has been done is time to focus on what do we want to use?

First, you need hosting, obviously, and secondly, you need a software compatible with hosting. So, to keep things simple, we will narrow our options to hosting with php capabilities and mysql driven database. Luckily, the best forums software out there use php and mysql (like 90% of the rest of the sites :p)

Things you need to know about hosting:

If you have hosting that meets the requirements mentioned above then you almost don’t need to read this. :)

If you don’t have, then i would recommend you to get a hosting package with at least 100 mb space and 5gb of bandwidth. This is pretty basic but you don’t need much in the beginning. Off course, in mid to long run, a hosting package with lots of space and bandwidth in a powerful server is advisable. I remember i started dahh.net in a 35mb hosting with 3gb of bandwidth lol.

I could recommend you a bunch of  hosting deals, but im sticking with one, that is by far recognized as one of the best if not the best hosting company at the moment: Hostgator.

Ironically, i don’t use them, because i have a contract with a portuguese company and im very happy with it so far :)

Choosing the right forum software:

Choosing a software for me it is an easy decision. There are only 3 forum scripts that i accept to use, and only one of them is free.

1st option: Vbulletin – One of the most used forum scripts in the world. It costs $100 for 1 year license. This is a powerful script, fully developed and with a strong community supporting it. I have only used it as a forum member and never as a owner. The price it costs won’t tempt me to buy it, specially when there are better options (free)

2nd option: Invision power board -  This was my favourite, until version 2.0 came out. It went commercial, and now you need $149 to buy it! Despite that, this is a great software. One of the most stable around and more appealing with an excellent community that constantly develops new skins and mods to use. The last free version released was 1.3.1 final, and it can still be used as long you have it on your pc (or just ask for a friend that have it :p)

3rd option: Simple Machines – This is the script we are going to use. It is free and in my honest opinion is by far the best forum script around. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Free!
  2. 5 stars active and developing community;
  3. lots of modifications and themes to choose;
  4. Package system, meaning you can upload modifications and used them with a simple click;
  5. easy to use;
  6. professional team of programmers: the software is being developed by a professional team that work for Simple Machines LLC

Now, that we have hosting and a forum software to use lets head on to:

Choosing a niche for the forum:

Dahh.net is a general forum and it doesn’t specialize in anything. I created it because i wanted an easy way to share with my friends all the fun stuff i received on my email, while discussing important topics of the world.

As any other site, i advise you to choose a topic that you like, or a topic that you feel confortable talking about. You can do some keyword research, but just remember that any topic you choose, it will require a lot of work on your part.

Unless, you have wonderful marketing capabilities, lots of money to spend in advertising and lots of friends, i would advise you to stay away from these niches:

- Tech Forums

- Warez

- Porn/Erotic forums

- General Forums

- Make Money Online Forums (obviously)

- Blogging forums

After you decided on the type of forum you want, you need to choose a domain name accordingly, preferably brandable. Take my forum example. I choose dahh because one of the strong points of the forum is the funny video and images categories.

I have just covered the first part, which is the very basic stuff need to establish a forum. I recommend you to subscribe my RSS feed to keep track of the following posts. ;)

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Comments

  1. What a super and insightful post … tnx for the info!!

    Eric “SpeedyCat”s last blog post..Legend of the Phepping Peoples

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  2. I have thought about setting up a forum before. What stopped me in the past was the amount of traffic and time you need to make it work. I however will be following this series of posts with interest.

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    • Hugo Santos says:

      it is not an easy task comparing to blogging. but it is worth the trouble :)

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  3. Those niches are over crowded!

    I’m sure that it would be to hard to compete with the pioneers.

    Pauls last blog post..Gmail is concerned with your safety [Digg]

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    • Hugo Santos says:

      yeah true. That’s why i advise to get a different niche.

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  4. Nice series. I am interested in forums and want to have one. It will be nice to know what all I need to know and do.
    Well I just wanted to know if you have any idea about the phpbb forum. I have heard it is good choice.

    Agent 001s last blog post..Trying Hard to Blog

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    • Hugo Santos says:

      yes. phpbb is another great choice. Probably the one with most themes and mods around. I have used it a couple of times, but i still consider it inferior compared with the 3 i have mentioned, so that’s way i didn’t talked about it

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      • Thanks for info. Can you tell me in what way it is inferior?

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        • Hugo Santos says:

          in my point of view, it is inferior because the features that come with installation are very basic. The last time i installed it there was no option to elect moderators, that would have to come with a modification.
          Don’t get me wrong when i say it is inferior. It is the most famous forum software available and it is free and it is a good choice to start up a forum, but in terms of usability, easy of use and update, SMF beats Phpbb by far.

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