Setting up a community: checklist

Posted by battye in Support with the tags , , on August 25th, 2009

This blog post outlines the key points you must consider if you are going to set up a forum. It is mainly directed to people who have not set up a forum before, but it might also be helpful to existing forum owners who are thinking about creating more in the future.

Feel free to print this page out and work through the list.

Choose a topic. What will your community be about? Do Google searches about your topic to see if there are any existing communities covering it. If there are, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the idea. You can refine your topic so it appeals to different groups. A good example of this is a sports forum – there are countless soccer forums on the internet so it is unlikely that you would be able to succeed by creating another generic soccer forum. But say you create a forum about your local soccer team, it is likely to be an untapped market but would probably take off because the people visiting it would be passionate about their local team and there would be a greater sense of community because everyone is “on the same team”. This logic can apply to many different topics.

Choose a domain name. You can search for the availability of domains on a website like Many people try to find names that are short or easy to remember, contain some keywords about the topic of your website, and end in “dot com”. When you have decided on a name you can proceed to purchase it – you shouldn’t have to pay more than $10.95 for a one year registration on a dot com domain. Normally you can register domains through your webhost, which leads to the next point.

Select a webhost. To run a forum you need to make sure the webhosting provider offers PHP and a database such as MySQL. The full list of phpBB3 requirements can be found on this documentation page (1.1. Requirements). If you intend to build a website in addition to the forum, make sure that the webhosting provider offers everything you need. Webhosting is overall quite cheap – it is possible to run a forum for a couple of dollars a month. As your forum grows you will probably need to upgrade to higher packages. For more information about choosing a webhost, visit (or if you have to go with a free host,

Install phpBB3. The process of installing phpBB3 is covered in detail in the phpBB3 documentation, for more information visit this page:

Set up your forums. It is best to start off with a small number of forums and expand over time – there are a lot of benefits in doing this, such as smaller page load times, decreasing user confusion about where to post, and increasing the level of activity on your board. I have covered this topic in greater detail in a previous blog post: How many forums should I create?

Customise your forum. If you wanted to install any MODs (modifications) or use a different style than the default proSilver, now is the time to implement them. For more information on MODs (as well as a link to the MOD Database) visit For styles, go to

Create your rules. It doesn’t need to be comprehensive at first (although later down the track once your forum has grown you might revisit this), but a few lines in the first post on the forum to outline what is acceptable and what isn’t will be useful to new users and gives you something to refer people to if any problems occur.

Promote and advertise. Word of mouth is a very powerful tool in promotion, especially now through social networking sites and Twitter. Not to mention for targeted websites (such as the local soccer team example I gave earlier), where the name of your website could come up in a typical conversation between friends. Advertising the site yourself is important too – there are many services out there that can help you with this, such as Google Adwords (the advertising end of Adsense) and the like. Getting your name out through relevant chatrooms and other forums (including through signatures, if that is allowed) can also be useful, but please respect the rules of these places if you choose to plug your new site there!

Bring moderators on board. Once you have built a nice userbase, you might need to introduce more moderators. In the beginning, you will probably be able to keep on top of any problems, but the more posts and users there are the harder this will become. Moderation is a common topic on the blog, so please have a look at these previous blog posts for more information about choosing moderators: Choosing your moderators, How many moderators do you really need?

I hope this blog post has been useful to you.

20 Responses to “Setting up a community: checklist”

Posted by Dog Cow on August 25th, 2009 at 7:18 pm:

Here is my number 1 tip about registering domain names:


I have heard only too many stories of people who have registered for both a domain name and hosting with the same entity, only to later have a dispute wherein this web host has “captured” or “held for ransom” the domain name. Don’t let it happen to you!

Instead, register a domain name separately, with a separate company. In my case, I’ve registered my two domain names with Yahoo Small Business ( ) Their rates are affordable, and the level of service is unparalleled. This is Yahoo, the world’s most popular web site! What do you think their down time is like? None, that’s what. I have had my main domain name with Yahoo since 2005 and haven’t had any problems in the 4 years since then.

Fact: your web host will have down time. Yahoo will not.

Yahoo Domains allows you to configure a small starter page which you can put information and contact details. I have had to do this plenty of times when my web host has gone down. You are free to setup an email address, and of course, you can use that domain with whichever web host you please. You don’t have to use Yahoo web hosting with a Yahoo domain name.

Posted by Nathan on August 25th, 2009 at 8:49 pm:

Definitely agree with Dog Cow, never use the same company for hosting and domains. No issues with transferring the domain when you want a new host either as you can just update the DNS settings with your registrar and be done.

Posted by marcusbacus on August 26th, 2009 at 7:28 am:

I have to disagree with the above comment. If the host/registrar is dishonest, they will do that and register domains in their names. But a lot of trustable hosts will register the domains in your name. Just read their TOS and every legal statements. I have domains on my name since 1998 and I never saw that happen.

Also, when a domain is offline, it’s not usually the registrar’s (the company that registers the domain for you, as Yahoo in your case) fault. Most of the time, it’s the host’s fault. You said you’ve registered with Yahoo because you wanted a stable domain, but are you hosting your domain with them too? Or are your domains hosted in a different company (you said they are I guess)? So if the domains are online and never went off, it’s not due to Yahoo, but due to your host.

Posted by Reijo on August 26th, 2009 at 7:41 am:

If you buy hosting and domain from the same company make sure they register the domain under you name.

Posted by Pony99CA on August 26th, 2009 at 5:36 pm:

I agree with Dog Cow about registering the domain name separately. Some Web hosts will give free registrations with hosting, but I’d be worried who owns the domain name if you want to switch hosts.

However, his claim about Yahoo being Yahoo and therefore never going down should be taken with a grain of salt. Every site can go down. Microsoft has had problems, Google has had problems and so can Yahoo.

I use Go Daddy (horrible name, but good service) and haven’t had any issues. Also remember that your registrar’s up-time isn’t as important as your Web host’s up-time unless you’re using the registrar for DNS. If your registrar is down for some reason, you might not be able to update contact information or buy new domains, but your site will still be working (unless you use the registrar for hosting, of course).

Posted by b3rx on August 27th, 2009 at 11:17 am:

What can I say, I am a victim of this. Now I can’t have my domain back unless I extend my webhost’s plan which I don’t plan in doing. Enough said.

Posted by SyntaxError90 on August 27th, 2009 at 7:34 pm:

I have to agree, GoDaddy works well for the domains, but don’t host with them. Spread out your services to multiple providers, you may not be able to pay a single bill each month, but you will be able to take the best service they have to offer from each one.

I personally hate Yahoo domains, they used to charge $0.99 (USD) for the first year, then went up to $9.99 (USD) for years after, that is a good deal; but I get a notice saying the domain registration will cost me $34.99 (USD) a year effective a month before my domain expires, forcing me pay that amount for my next renewal. I said goodbye to Yahoo and now I am at GoDaddy.

Posted by Drugs on August 28th, 2009 at 1:47 pm:

I agree with Dog Cow too and I hope the post is re-edited. Registering your domain with your hosting company is about the worst thing you can do. I made the mistake and when it came time to renew, they wanted twice as much then say Godaddy. Then, once renewed I wanted to transfer it and they wanted a good bit to transfer it. It was a nightmare, please redit the post. A big reason is if you decide you want different hosting, you don’t have to worry about moving your domain and all that.

Posted by Martin Truckenbrodt on August 28th, 2009 at 10:23 pm:

if you are using the standard prodecures for moving a domain name very consequently and correctly, it’s no problem to have hosting and the domain name on the same provider.
But you should use always serious providers.

Other points:
If your aims are to get as much users and posts as possible than just stop your project! You should accept that it is always the user’S decision which board he want to use. So for me promoting and advertising is only needed for the first start of the board. Just be active in other boards and set some crosslinks. But if your board doesn’t offer more help you have to wait.
For small boards moderators are not important cause they have not to do true moderator activities. The only thing is that user’s will see: Yes, there is somebody looking for my questions.
Be carefully with coloured gimmicks and stylish things! They can be looking unserious or not professional.
Bye Martin

Posted by battye on August 31st, 2009 at 7:26 am:

Regarding registering domains with your host, speaking from personal experience I have not had any problems – in fact, my webhost has given me great service when it comes to anything domain related.

Obviously you do what is best in your circumstances. For me, using my webhost was a logical choice. For others, separating domains and webhosting may be the best choice.

Posted by Anita on August 31st, 2009 at 9:36 am:

I am going to build a website. But now I wonder to build a Blog first or build a forum first. I am doing online marketing now. I think a forum can attract more people if the theme good enough

Posted by power tools reviews on September 9th, 2009 at 10:37 pm:

If your forum will be large….it will take numerous people to help you moderate….a blog is easier to handle as long as you keep a small number of topics.

Posted by Artur on September 9th, 2009 at 10:46 pm:

I have my 4 domains and my many sites at my host. i didn’t had any problems with domain or something. my domains are registered on my name. So, if stop my sites, i can transfer my domains there i like. But if you use unserious host’s you don’t have to wonder they steal your domains. The cheapest host ist not the best host. You need to read the TOS and look for more things like reviews on internet about the host. If you watch out and don’t catch a black sheep, there is no worry about your domain.

Posted by Ferox on November 24th, 2009 at 6:25 pm:

Question on forum set up. Can you control who signs up? As in, the approval process needs to go to you so no one can post until you allow them to?

Posted by TtotheZ on November 30th, 2009 at 5:40 am:

I have worked for a web hosting and domain name provider company and they were reliable and did not take advantage of their clients in anyway. I would just be careful who you are doing business with period.

Posted by Patrick on December 23rd, 2009 at 6:38 am:

Agree with Dog Cow.

I also experienced the same thing.

I had an issue with the hosting company who kept charging monthly hosting fee and domain fee to my credit card even though I had terminated their service.

They simply refused to acknowledge my cancellation of service. And my credit card company said that I had no right to stop payment unless the hosting company instructed them to do so coz “the vendors are their customers and they cannot offend them.”!

I think they have gotten their priority wrong! Can you see this conspiracy to trick the small guy?

Posted by Dave on January 12th, 2010 at 8:41 am:

I agree about the domain hijacking by “bad” hosts, although there are some great hosts that don’t do that.

My point on this post was really about keywords and the domain extension. Back in the day, there was a lot of competition for domains because these “squatters” would buy every single and double keyword combination and then sell them to the highest bidder. For instance went for over $1 million many years ago.

We have actually seen a lot of success with .org, especially with blogs. As an SEO marketer, I think that maintaining your keywords is more important than the “.com” part of it. From what we can see, if you’re looking for rankings in the search engines, we’ve seen .com and .org rank well on Google, and .net and .biz rank well on Yahoo. The .info doesn’t seem to do well, but if you’re using other methods to promote your blog (bookmarking, social networks), then you’ll benefit from CTR more than search engines any way.

Posted by Michael McCollum on May 23rd, 2010 at 2:12 pm:

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Posted by Mike Dillard on July 14th, 2010 at 7:32 am:

Bringing on moderators is crucial to the long term success of your community, once it gets going.

I’ve seen it time and time again that once they get to a certain mass, poof, out come the spammers, and if you don’t keep it in check, many will leave the community because of the spam.

Posted by Nilsa Delee on August 12th, 2010 at 5:20 pm:

Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

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