How to Start a Technical Forum

Starting a forum is a daunting task: at times it can be stressful, but at other times it can be rewarding. Getting things started can be fairly difficult, since you have to worry about forming an active member base. However, it can be done, and once you get it off the ground, you can settle into enjoying and managing your new community.


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    Decide whether you really have enough time to start a new forum or not. Running a forum comes with a lot of responsibilities, which include:
    • Getting enough active members to keep the forum going on its own.
    • Making or finding someone to make a good, clean layout.
    • Advertising your forum and providing material to draw prospective members in.
    • Finding moderators to help you manage your community and enforce your rules.
    • Doing some moderator work yourself.
    • Most likely paying money to host this forum.
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    Ask yourself what your technical forum will have to offer over the others. If they can find one that's already active and has many topics, what would make them come to yours? Try to find strengths where other forums are weak.
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    Make a domain for your forum. You should find a host that supports PHP or MySQL, so you can run your forum on it. A domain will also be useful for hosting a main website that prospective users can explore.
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    Create a forum. You can use sites such as phpBB, Invision Power, vBulletin, or SMF. It would probably be helpful to learn some coding so you can easily customize your forum without too much headache.
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    Follow the instructions from the provider you choose to install it on your website. The instructions may be included with things you download from their site, or located on their website itself.
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    Make a custom layout for your forum to dress it up. A custom layout will make your forum stand out and give your forum its own personal touch.
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    Create different boards that your topics will go in. Keep in mind that too many boards can emphasize how empty your forum is and seem daunting to a new user, so only make the necessary boards at first. When your forum activity picks up, you can expand and create more boards as needed.
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    Set up the rules for your forum in a place where it's easily accessible. Some people designate a topic for this in every board, and some people just make a general TOS for the entire forum, while others do both.
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    Fill out your boards with topics. Create five different topics, for example, in each forum. Make sure they're intriguing and compel the reader to join and give their opinion on the topic. Invite and encourage discussion.
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    Ask your friends to come and contribute to the forum as well. Make sure they're posting actual content, not just, "Hey dude, posting on your forum like you asked, LOL!" Who knows? They might become long-time contributing members.
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    Consider whether you want to make a secondary account to post on. Some people resort to making multiple identities to make their board seem more active than it is. The pro is that it makes your forum seem active, and invite new members. The con is that you'd essentially be lying, you may be found out, and it may be exhausting to keep up the act.
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    Fix up your main website, and focus it on technical things as well as your forum. On your main website, you could host your own blog where you discuss technical news and tutorials. This gives your forum fuel for discussion as well as a way for people to discover your website via search engines.
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    Begin to promote the forum when you have about 15 topics or more going in your boards. You can try using the following ways to promote your website:
    • Craigslist- You can post an ad inviting people to post articles on your blog in exchange for a link back to their blog. This does three things: get your website out there, draw attention to your site and forum, and generate content for other people to read and discuss.
    • Forum signatures- If you're a member of any forums, you may want to stick a link or banner in your signature for people to click. It may not generate as much traffic, but it does help get some people involved.
    • Word of mouth- Tell your friends to come join you on the forum. If they're not too interested or don't have much to say, you can ask them to post tech help questions for people, such as yourself, to answer. Ask them to tell their friends and so on.
    • Host a contest- This usually works best if the prize is something with cash value. The terms of the contest can range from posting (which may hurt in that it promotes spam) to recruiting (which may not help activity).
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    Manage your forum. Now is the time to find moderators as you settle in and prepare to manage your community. Start to develop connections with your members and do what's necessary to keep the peace.


  • Have your layouts made specifically for your forum. You'll guarantee that your forum doesn't look like a clone, and it's one way to show you're serious about keeping it up.
  • Avoid layouts that are extremely complicated, cluttered, or a pain to look at. Use colors that match well with each other, and make sure your text is easy to read. Forums and websites with ugly layouts and text that can't be read without highlighting may drive prospective members away.
  • Have an easy-to-remember name that is also unique.
  • If you're having trouble coming up with boards for your forum, you could try these: Welcome, Computer Talk, Game Talk, Small Electronics, Tech News, and General.
  • Post technology-related blogs on your website. You can post things like news, tutorials, and reviews on your blog. Then, you can link it to a follow-up discussion on the forums.


  • Running a community is hard work and requires a thick skin at times. Once you get a sizable following, you won't be able to make everyone happy, and at least some people will have problem with what you do/don't do.
  • It may take money if you want to create a website with your own domain name, minimal advertisement intrusion, and a server that can handle the size of the community you want.
  • Your site may be subject to attacks from hackers and scripters, so try to learn about forum security so you can protect the information of your forum members.
  • Many communities are full of drama, drama, drama. Be prepared to deal with at least some drama every once in a while.

Things You'll Need

  • A Website.
  • Forum software.
  • Access to layout creation tools or someone who can create a layout.

Article Info

Categories: Internet Forums and Message Boards