How To Create a Message Board For Your Website

   
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Creating a Message Board (Forum)

Three Ways to Create a Message Board (Forum) for your website

Option 1 - Create your own message board
Design and write your own message board software.

Option 2 - Buy, install, run, and maintain Message Board Software on your own server
Buy message board(forum) software and then install and maintain it on your own server.

Option 3 - Use a Message Board Hosting service
Use a Message Board Hosting service.


Message Board / Forum Hosting Recommendations

Type of Message Board or Message Board Service
My recommendation, in most cases, is Option 3: Use a Message Board Hosting service.
There are many message board hosting services available. Some will charge a fee, others will host your board free. Using a Message Board Hosting service, eliminates the need and expertise to purchase, install, and maintain your own software. There's much less need for technical expertise using option 3.
If you are software knowledgeable or have your own programming staff, or need to exercise physical security of the operating hardware/software, you may want to consider options 1 or 2, in order to have total control over the system used.

Message Board Format
No matter which message board/forum service you use, your board will use one of three basic display formats. There are three basic ways to displays messages within a message board system:
Non-Threaded, Semi-Threaded, or Fully Threaded.
Not all message board systems will offer all formats.
If your board is going to be used for posting messages such as one time notices, or events where there's not a need for an ongoing discussion, then a Non-Threaded display format is the way to go. It's the simplest of the three types. If you want to allow other users to discuss and post replies to already posted message topics, then you'll want to use either the Semi-Threaded or Fully-Threaded display formats. A more detailed explanation, including graphic depictions and examples of each format can be viewed at:
    Message Board Display Formats

What You Need to Host a Message Board

Option 3 above, will not require you to purchase any hardware or software, and depending on your situation, may not require that you create a domain name either.

Hardware
Purchasing computer hardware is never needed, regardless of which option you choose.  You can certainly purchase your own computer server and run your own message board software on it, but it's not necessary.

Software
If you decide to use Option 1 or Option 2, you may need to purchase additional software, or ensure it's available for use. Some Message Board systems have additional software requirements such as: PHP, MySql, Pearl, Cold Fusion, etc. It's possible they may only run with a particular type of Operating System. You'll want to confirm what additional software requirements are needed with any Message Board system you purchase.

Domain Name
Registering a Domain Name for your Message Board/Forum is something you may want to consider. If you already have a website and simply want to create a button/link on an existing page on your site to your message board, then you probably don't need to register a new domain name.
If you want to have a domain name of the form: www.YourName.com, you'll need to ensure it's available,
register it, and have someone host it for you... and finally have it associated/pointed to your Message Board.
Some service providers will do this for you, or can provide you with a virtual domain name of the form: www.TheirSiteName/YourSiteName which eliminates the need and cost of registering your own name.



Other Message Board / Forum Solutions?

Following are some additional message board information sources and providers, including our message board hosting service(BulletinBoards.com):
BulletinBoards.com
Ubbcentral.com
ThinkOfIt.com
Activedataonline.com
Bbv2.com


Searching for other Message Board Providers
Finding a list of alternative Message Board / Forum providers is easily done using a search engine such as Google or Yahoo, and searching with keywords such as: bulletin boards, bulletin board software, message boards, message board software, message board forums, message board hosting, bulletin board hosting, etc.

Blog Alternative
Another option you may want to consider, is creating a Blog vs a Message Board.
The main difference between a Blog and a Message Board,
is that a Blog is usually structured so only one individual can post messages, while anyone can view... whereas, with a message board, anyone can post as well as view. Some Blogs will be configured to allow users to post replies to message topics/comments started by the Blog owner. Some message boards can be configured to operate in either manner.


Message Board (Forum) Features to consider

Not all Message Boards offer the same features. There are hundreds of features that can be implemented within a message board system. It's unlikely your group will require all possible features that can be provided within a message board system, however you'll want to review your groups requirements in relation to the features that are available for a particular system. A comprehensive list of features that a message board system can provide is available at our site at: Message Board Features.
I've highlighted some of the most common features most groups will look for in a Message Board/Forum:

Advertising
Determine if your provider will be placing advertising on your system.

Password Protection
Determine what level of Security/Password/User Registration is available. Consider any special needs you might have, such as perhaps restricting access of certain forums on your boards to only selected members.

Limitations
Determine what limitations and/or additional fees are charged, regarding number of messages/bandwidth/users.

Tech Support
Determine what level of technical support is provided, e.g. none, email, telephone, etc., and if additional fees are charged for it.

Customization
Determine what level of customization is available, in regards to customizing the look and functionality of your board. For example, can you control/specify your Board Logo, background/text/link colors and specify what operational features should or should not be provided to your members.

Special Requirements
Consider if there are any special requirements your group will want, such as perhaps the ability to attach photographs or files to messages, or perhaps an integrated chat room, or maybe a List Serve feature(where members can be notified of posted messages without them visiting the board). You may want the ability to configure your board as a "Moderated" board, i.e., posted messages are not viewable to other users, until you or someone you've designated as a Moderator, "Approves" the message.

Spam and Member abuse control
These days, with the amount of spam and problem posters, you'll also want to investigate what type of Spam control and Member control your Message Board system provides you, as the board manager. e.g. Is there any built in spam control technology, what spam controls are provided to you as the board manager. Can you identify, and remove and restrict problem users easily. Many Message Board (Forum) systems will provide you with the ability to impose different levels of spam restriction, and the ability to block problem users by IP addresses/Email Addresses, and/or utilize a Moderated board system. Is it important to your board members to have an integrated Calendar, Spell Checking, Profanity Language filter, etc.


If you have other questions or want to discuss in more detail any of the ideas above, call or email me.
Al Bennett - Tech Support
BulletinBoards.com
Message-Boards.net
al@bulletinboards.com
(321) 984-9080 9-5 EST US Mon-Fri