As the world moves towards Web 2.0, it is becoming increasingly important to have a dynamic website – something which most people are using the PHP language to achieve. Unlike the use of HTML by itself to create a website, HTML and PHP together allow a website to be much more flexible, such as connecting to a database.
If you are running a bulletin board based on phpBB3, then it is worthwhile considering the benefits of integrating your main website into phpBB3.
Maintain a single login throughout your website
By using phpBB’s login system, you can quickly and easily allow only certain users to access pages (using the permissions system or otherwise) or restrict certain part of the website to registered users. This eliminates the need to set up password protected pages, and saves time for you and your users.
Use forum content to power your homepage
Nothing looks worse than a website that has not changed in weeks or months, or years in some cases. A website that doesn’t change looks dead, so you can ensure your website looks forever active by using forum content (which on an active forum is forever changing) and displaying it on the homepage. Some working examples of this are the p3net.net and CricketMX.com homepages where full posts from the news forums are displayed.
Keep your users informed
Following on from the point above, by having headlines on your homepage it allows visitors to quickly see what sort of events or discussions are taking place on your website and whether your site will interest them.
Give your website the look and feel of your forum
Many people want to keep continuity between the website and forum, because it makes the site look more professional to be using one theme throughout – you don’t want any users to think that they have gone to a completely different website when they switch from website to forum! Using the template system in phpBB3, it is very easy to make your website look like it is part of phpBB3. Additionally, if you ever want to make a small change (adding a message in the header about an upcoming event, for instance) then this alteration only needs to be made once. Any change you make to the phpBB3 template file (in this example, overall_header.html) will be visible on both your forum and your website, so your message is reaching more people.
iWisdom from the Support Team integrated his homepage, http://write.p3net.net/, into his phpBB3 installation and has this to say;
“Integrating my website with phpBB3 allowed me to not only attract visitors to my forum and make their experience more seemless, but also aided in quick, secure development on a well supported, documented system.”
To learn more about the technical side of website integration and phpBB3, there is a large discussion about this in the MOD Writers forum worth reading at http://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=71&t=719055.
Tip: if you are finding that CSS or images are not loading correctly after you have integrated your website, it is most likely because of the directory structure you are using and relative paths are being used (which could be leading to the wrong place). To get around this, use the “base” html tag. To learn more about this, visit http://www.drostdesigns.com/base-href-tag/
You don’t have to be a programmer to achieve website integration though, there are many portals written for phpBB3 which will give the same result as a homepage you have written yourself, an example of which can be seen at Paul from the MOD Team’s website – http://www.my-bertie.com/. MarkTheDaemon, also from the MOD Team, summarises the benefits of a portal, “(Portals are) easy and fairly quick to setup rather than building an index page of your own.”
Brainy from the Moderator Team gives a good comparison of portals and custom written pages:
“In my opinion, portals and session integration are for two different things. For a web site that revolves around a forum, with few external pages with information, a portal is the way to go. It is easy to set up, fits in the forum design, and a breeze to manage. However, It is limited to one page. For example, if you want the title of the most recent topic, along with a link, available on every page of your site, it is not possible with a portal; you must use sessions integration. An almost unlimited amount of forum integration is possible when using the phpBB sessions across a site, but with the trade off of work, complexity, and stability. For someone with little php experience, sessions integration is definitely possible, especially with help from the MOD Author’s discussion forum – http://www.phpbb.com/community/viewforum.php?f=71 – but can quickly become more difficult depending on the complexity of what is envisioned. In the end, it really depends on what your site needs. Do your visitors need to be able to see the most recent posts, users online, etc, on one page, or do users need limited forum information, but across the entire site? A successful site is designed for the needs of it’s users, not the opinion of the owner.”
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article; iWisdom, Brainy, MarkTheDaemon and Paul
Coding for phpBB3: http://www.phpbb.com/mods/documentation/phpbb-documentation/index.php
phpBB3 template system: http://www.phpbb.com/mods/documentation/phpbb-documentation/template/index.php
“Full Site Integration” discussion in the MOD Writers forum: http://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=71&t=719055