[su_label type=”success”]Bump[/su_label]A key feature that is slowly disappearing nowadays is having a forum for your community given the community is big enough to support it. In this article/guide (it’s a mix I guess) I will explain the importance of having a forum for your community and which one might be suited for you and your community along with mandatory plugins.
Why should I have a forum?
The forum functions as a vital organ for your community. It will be the main hub for when you, your staff team and the players are not playing on the server. Outside of the your game/voice server(s), the forum is a place for bonding with your community. It’s the platform where you post (in-depth) announcements, receive feedback from the community, handle reports, open staff applications, organise events and of course discuss whatever you want to discuss.
The great thing about having the forum, is that you got all the information in one place. Besides that, it’s a great tool for getting to know your community.
Did I also mention having a forum is great for when you are bored at work/school?
But we already have a Discord!
Discord is great (despite not having a stereo codec like Teamspeak), and it’s (almost) a must-have nowadays due to the voice and chat combo. Depending on the size of your community, a forum might not be viable yet. If you have a small group then just stick to your Discord for now since that is more convenient in your situation. If your community is growing or already have a fair chunk of a player base it might be wise to switch to your own forums. Don’t worry, your Discord will be fine!
To increase the use of your forums I would suggest limiting the chat channels on your Discord to just announcements. This way your users are kinda forced to use your forums. Keep in mind that the voice channels remain unchanged.
One of the strengths of Discord is that it’s easy to sign up and join servers. This also needs to apply to your forums. Nowadays users don’t want to go through a whole registration form with unreadable Captcha’s and fields that have to be filled in bla bla bla. We will discuss this later on in the required plugins
Which forum platform should I use?
On to the more technical stuff (not really). I will divide the platforms in two sections, one being free and the other being payed. I will not go in-depth with all the platforms, but will be giving (my personal) pros and cons, no more than 2 for each.
For the record: These recommendations are based on my own experience. If your favorite platform isn’t listed feel free to let us know in the comments why you think it should be included on the list
|✔ Lots of plugins and themes||✖ Needs plugins to be modern|
|✔ Advanced permission system||✖ Permission system can be overwhelming|
|✔ Active community||✖ Needs anti spam plug-in|
|✔ Portal option (transform your forum into a website)|
|✔ Lots of plug-ins and themes||✖ Feels outdated|
|✔ Logical admin panel||✖ Needs customizing|
Be sure to keep an eye on this one since it might be the next big (free) thing. Currently, it is only available for servers with access to the console, so I recommend to wait for the next update where they will include an installer.
|✔ Robust and stable||✖ Relies on 3rd party plug-ins to stand out|
|✔ Lots of add-ons available aimed at gaming communities||✖ Overhyped|
|✔ Robust and stable||✖ High price|
|✔ Secure and fast|
|✔ Free core (cms)||✖ Not a lot of themes available|
|✔ Stable and secure||✖ Installing takes (too) long|
|✔ Lots of built in features||✖ High price|
|✔ Stable & Lightweight||✖ Rely on (premium) add-ons|
The most important thing is that the users have the best experience when using your forum. This means easy and fast registration, slow loading times, ability to style their posts, quick posts, logical arrangement, post prefixes and a spam free board (bots).
Here are some plugin (categories) you have to take a look at to provide a quick and efficient navigation experience for you and your users:
This lets your users register/login via Steam, Discord or Social media platforms. With just 1 click they can register themselves. Besides that if you decide to go with a “Steam only” registration policy, this will also get you their steam IDs which might come in handy with automated donation systems or scoreboards.
Some platforms have this as a default features like IP board and Flarum. Having prefixes in your posts is a great way to navigate and keeps your style intact (as long as you don’t add random images). A must in my opinion.
Have a sidebar
By having a sidebar you make your forums way more organised and make it easier for users to see the latest posts/topics.
Almost all platforms come with some kind of announcement system. Make sure you reserve a spot on a visible location (mostly on top) and style it the same as the board.
Form templates come in really handy when it comes to ban/unban requests and staff applications.
First of all, use a style that matches your community. Secondly, don’t use a template that’s too dark. Don’t be afraid to use an existing template and modify it a bit to your liking. It’s better to use one that’s working then a ugly template sticked together with ducktape.