View Full Version : Cheat-master30's Ultimate Guide to Forum Management

09 Aug 2008, 00:44
Based off of what I have written in reviews, the Good Forum Guide and the Clan Guide, this article is pretty much a what to do and not to do list article about running a good forum. Now, I'll be honest and say that many of these tips are rather much common sense, but seeing as half the forums I've reviewed completely ignore the advice, I guess it's important to post this up.

Forum Structure and Layout

Now, first of all, you must be reasonable with your forum organisation. Now, as the Clan Guide I once wrote said, covering multiple topics is a must, and you NEED at least one area for non topically related posts to go in. However, here are a few good tips for numbers of forums and such like.

1. Keep the forum number to a normal level

Now, you don't know how many times I've seen forums with hundreds of empty forums lying around, and many having about 0 posts. I've seen RP boards which seem to go completely overboard with areas, gaming boards which try to cover every minor console released in the last 20 years and webmaster forums which try to be Sitepoint 2.0 complete with the exact same huge numbers of forums. Keep it down, because too many forums WILL confuse your members, and will make the forum look far less active than it already is.

2. Keep your forums related

And this comes in two parts. One, do not do the Gamefaqs style everything for everyone forum layout with about fifteen boards related to interests only marginally related to your topic. Seriously, there is no reason to have a forum about food or a forum about a TV series on a webmaster forum for example, and trying to be the jack of all trades is getting kind of old.

The other piece of advice is to have forums that relate to your theme, and don't overgeneralise it. I've seen three boards with come under this exact category. They have clear connections to a Nintendo gaming related site, yet the forum structure isn't related to the topic, and demotes the site topic to one forum called 'video games', with then TV, music, movies and webmaster forums among others. That's boring to me, and pretty much says that you have very little interest in the actual topic the website was set up to write/talk about.

3. Fill up the ones you have

No forum should ever have zero posts, and the ones you have should indeed have content in. Three topics is a nice round number, and I'd say one of those should at least a semi intelligent one. Seriously, this along with the 1st piece of forum structuring advice is one of my main criticisms of many, many forums I've reviewed at vBulletin.org

Features and Style

Then we come to the next most important things after content, the feature set and the style. Yes, I mentioned using vBulletin in other articles I wrote away from vBulletin.org, but since this article is being posted on a vBulletin resource site, advertising the king of forum software is kind of pointles. Never the less, here are the few tips I'd say.

1. Never use default

Because default to me shouts 'boring'. And yes, just using a logo on a default style is still a default style, regardless of what some forums seem to think. Be imaginative, replace the images with related ones, or if you really, really have no idea how to make a style and cannot find someone to make you one, use a premade style. Anything is better than a default (which itself is only designed for the official support forum).

2. Add smilies and avatars beyond the default

I hate these guys quite a bit:


And if your forum pretty much only uses these basic 10-12 odd smilies, I'll probably say to get some new ones. From my experience though, you should be adding at least a few smilie packs from vBulletin.org and .com and if possible, add a few custom smilies that relate to your theme. Because as you know, your users will really thank you for it.

3. Add Interesting features

But don't go overboard. Add things your competitors don't have on their forums, and keep your members happy by adding new toys and forum features every now and then. Of course, your forum topic will suggest exactly what you should install, but in general, a few good recommendations:

1- Gaming- Arcade, Gallery

2- Design/art- Gallery, gallery images on home page, etc.

However, and this is a but, you should not go overboard. 200 mods is overkill, as a certain member here at vBulletin.org found out the hard way, and a navbar with 300 links in it starts to look incredibly cramped after a why. Besides, if any involve javascript or the like, and you add hundreds, the page load times will start to slow right down, and errors get more and more prone to occur (I learnt this the hard way myself).

3. Do not having flashing or blinking gimmicks!

No offence to the mod creators, but those scrolling alert bars, pop ups and marquee modifications are incredibly annoying, and more likely to drive away your visitors than anything else.

4. Put most mods near the bottom of the page

Again, should be easily to figure out. Too much stuff at the top equals scrolling to reach the content, and if you need to scroll too far to reach any of the actual forum content, it's wasting your user's time and giving them no information on what your forum is about. This double applies to quick register forms and X stats modifications, which some people seem to think are greatly important enough to be placed at the top of the page.

General Management Tips and Advice

1. Don't make forums all private

Seriously, I do not like boards where every single forum on the front page is either hidden completely from guests or says private where the last post information is supposed to be. This is because it gives no taste of what the forum is like to potential members, blocks out the search bots and looks like you have something to hide.

2. Don't fake the stats

Because to be honest, faking the member, post and online count by multiple digits higher just looks bad, especially when the promised content or community is nowhere to be found. On a similar note, don't set your admin post count to higher than the forum post count, that too looks very, very bad (1000% of forum posts by admin?)

3. Don't give paid users too many ridiculous powers

Like only giving signatures to paid users, or avatars. Worse yet, I've seen at least three forums which gave paid members powers to GIVE INFRACTIONS to people, which is probably the least responsible use of power in forum history (which is frankly like letting millionaires arrest people or such like). Don't also withhold, as I said, powers which are common across forums from the normal user. It's annoying.

4. Splash pages are useless

This is no joke. People do not wait for 2MB splash pages to load before trying to access an internet forum, or even a normal website. They also have zero SEO benefit, provide another barrier between the users and the content and are hell for those on dial up.

5. Allow javascript to view content

What? Try to design your style so someone without Javascript enabled actually has a hope in hell at navigating it, because I've seen times where forums have literally not displayed anything of use until Javascript was allowed. And again, think of the screenreaders, search engines and text only browsers here, full ajax websites are not smart in this respect.


There you have it, my average tips to running a good forum. Sure, it's an unusual guide, and most of it is common sense, but reading this article is far more likely to get you a good review here and at various administrator forums, as well as get your members to hang around, so take it into account.

Links and References

vBulletin Modifications (http://www.vbulletin.org/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=198)

vBulletin Pre Made Styles (http://www.vbulletin.org/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=164)

vBulletin Smilies (http://www.vbulletin.org/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=124)

The Good Forum Guide (my original guide) (http://dsultimate.net/Articles/GoodForumGuide.php)

AdminAddict (A great forum administrator resource) (http://adminaddict.net)

19 Aug 2008, 19:37
No ideas on how to improve said article or what to add?

26 Aug 2008, 08:43
Great article. Lots of good information, even if it is common sense, we all need to see that time and again.

I would add, keep your moderators fresh and in proportion to your user base. As I hit the the 15,000 member mark I realized that too many crazies were being unchecked too long. Had to add in a few more mods and replace some that went on to greener pastures.

27 Aug 2008, 00:14
I forgot to mention something about checking your staff are still doing their job probably? Should have mentioned that, because what you just said is good advice. But thanks for the compliments on the article.

Zamurick X
27 Aug 2008, 02:04
Thanks Cheat, I'll be sure to fix the issues you mentioned which apply to TG.

28 Aug 2008, 22:00
Thank you Zamurick.

09 Sep 2008, 05:10
I forgot to mention something about checking your staff are still doing their job probably? Should have mentioned that, because what you just said is good advice. But thanks for the compliments on the article.

Definately a problem on my forum, it seems only about 2 other mods actually do anything there. Some of my mods make a rare edit of a post, a rare deletion, a rare authorization of post/thread, etc... I dunno, maybe they don't realise I see all in the logs??

09 Sep 2008, 12:23
Inactive staff is indeed a bit of a problem, and myself personally has seen such staff. You may want to send them a message or something asking why, if there's anything they should indeed be doing why they aren't doing anything, and maybe if they're inactive for too long removing their staff roles.

13 Sep 2008, 14:33
The admin zone is very helpful - great link - thanks:up:

13 Sep 2008, 19:16
Good article, 5 stars;)

13 Sep 2008, 23:41
Thank you everyone for your comments and praise.

03 Aug 2009, 00:28
i had know some, but this is one of best article here

04 Aug 2009, 00:44
Thanks basketmen, it's always nice to see some positive comments.

Oh, and for anyone else reading this, I've also submitted the article to AdminAddict.net.

08 Nov 2009, 08:14
Excellent article cheat-master30! :cool:

Any chance of writing an article how to attract members? ;)

*subscribed to this atricle, under favorites*

08 Nov 2009, 12:27
This is quite an old topic already, so I don't think the author is going to respond.

There are some articles about attracting more visitors and members. Check them out in the Articles section: http://www.vbulletin.org/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=217