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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website? 259

First time accepted submitter DustyMurray writes "I am considering adding forums to my website, and am just getting confused by all the options. My first reaction is always DIY. You get better website integration, and it looks and feels 100% how you want it to look and feel. However looking at things like phpBB and Vanilla forums, I will be hard pressed to build a better user experience in a reasonable amount of time. Also these out-of-the-box solutions seem to be shouting 'Easy to integrate with your website.' So, considering this, how easy are these ready build forums really to integrate? I want to be able to insert stuff on certain pages, so it's not either the forums, or my site... It must be a mix. I do not want a second login system on my site. And last but not least, I definitely don't want to have this typical generic look that most forums sport. Can all that be delivered with the out-of-the-box forums that exist today? Which one is the most flexible regarding these wishes?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Add Forums To a Website?

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  • vBulletin (Score:5, Informative)

    by DevTecha ( 2772183 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:14AM (#41949459)
    I would say that vBulletin [vbulletin.com] is your best choice. It has a huge amount of features you're going to love.

    Seriously, building something like vBulletin would take you years with all the front-end and admin panel features. It is also customizable to every site so that it can look the same as your site (but maintains the usability users have adjusted to on other sites). This is also performance thing apart from features - you most likely lack the knowledge to make high performance forum as good as vBulletin guys have.

    I've seen large sites that have connected their website with vBulletin, so it is possible. Not only that, but vBulletin actually has vBulletin Connect that lets you build your website around vBulletin. Some CMS (Content Management Systems) also support vBulletin directly.

    One specific large site I use daily did convert from their proprietary system they had used for more than 10 years. vBulletin was their choice, and while it did take a few months to convert that old system, the forum now works much better and supports way more features that users like. If you are making a new site you can obviously do it correctly the first time and skip the conversion.
    If you are doing this as work for a professional site, I would stay away from phpBB and other free solutions. While it's possible to use them, you don't get any support and they're hard to integrate exactly the way you want to. They also tend to lack on the features that something like vBulletin has.

    vBulletin really is your best choice. It's a little pricy, but for what you get the price is more than justified.
  • Re:vBulletin (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:27AM (#41949541)

    The other benefit of using a pre-done popular forum setup is there's already many mobile apps that integrate with the forum software to make the experience for mobile users even better than using the built in browser.

    Two I can name are ForumRunner and TapaTalk. Both are free to integrate with your forum (IIRC), and offer a free, ad supported mobile app or a paid-for ad free mobile app.

    Very nice

  • Drupal (Score:5, Informative)

    by cultiv8 ( 1660093 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:29AM (#41949549) Homepage
    Drupal core forum [drupal.org] combined with the advanced forum [drupal.org] will meet your requirements. We used this approach for IFC, see it here [smefinanceforum.org].
  • Re:vBulletin (Score:5, Informative)

    by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:51AM (#41949687)

    As a user I would say don't use vBulletin. Sure it has some great features, but I hate using it.

    phpBB has everything you need, a very active "addons" community, and is much nicer for users. Added benefit, it's free - takes about 10 minutes to get installed, and has enough features and options to keep you busy customizing/configuring for a while.

  • Re:vBulletin (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2012 @11:54AM (#41949715)

    you'll also be updating it frequently as it gets hacked regularly

  • Re:vBulletin (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cheech Wizard ( 698728 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:07PM (#41949815) Homepage
    I would suggest that you really think about vBulletin and read about the history. It was great when Jelsoft owned it, but it was bought out by Internet Brands and is now a mess. The last "good" version was 3.8.7. Version 4 was a disaster. Version 5 is being sold and is in beta but it really sucks. vBulletin is no longer a "best choice". It was some years ago but these days it isn't. I've been running vBulletin forums since 2001 but stopped "upgrading" at 3.8.7. To make it worse, the Internet Brands people have terrible technical support and - Well, vBulletin used to be the "gold standard". Today, not by a long shot.
  • Re:vBulletin (Score:4, Informative)

    by wmac1 ( 2478314 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:25PM (#41949935)

    Much more slower than vBulletin, less scalable, uglier, less user friendly and almost non-existing support.

    Almost every phpBB I installed was ridden by spam and got hacked several times. I have given up on phpBB after 10 years of trying.

  • by toygeek ( 473120 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:56PM (#41950123) Homepage Journal

    then vBulletin is your only way to go. SMF, phpBB, Yabb.... I've seen forum owners start with all of them, and when their forum is actually successful, they end up migrating to vBulletin because it just works. The pricing is reasonable, the features are there, and so is the support, which you'll eventually need.

    On the other hand, if you are just opening a small support forum for a product you sell or if you intend specifically to keep it from growing too big, then sure, look at phpBB, its pretty good.

  • Re:vBulletin (Score:5, Informative)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:25PM (#41950335) Homepage Journal

    Uhm.. well I'm guessing it must be a forum about manga/anime, but as someone with more than a passing interest in anime, I still have no idea wtf you're talking about. And after Googling it, it doesn't look like one that I'd watch since I'm not that interested in boxing.. so yeah. Maybe you should choose something that any human could answer, rather than get so specific? Very few people are interested in every single manga/anime out there, considering that a lot of them have very different target audiences.

  • Simple Machines (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cito ( 1725214 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @02:00PM (#41950573)

    SMF - http://www.simplemachines.org/ [simplemachines.org]

    what I use and with the GIGANTIC plugin support it's amazing. I never get spam problems, I have SMF set to use my wordpress logins for authentication, which means my wordpress uses Akismet to block spam therefore SMF uses it also since SMF users are set to be same as my wordpress users. Uses same database for logins.

    Which sounds like what you are looking for, users log in to your website means they are logged in to both wordpress and smf with 1 account automatically.

    SMF forums also have "bulletproof security" plugins similar to Wordpress that monitor sql threats, use 301 redirects and htaccess to shore up any problems it may think can happen.

    course nothing is 100% but I love SMF and it's huge versatility, offers more plugins and themes than other stuff like phpbb/vbulletin. And my opinion is more secure when merged with sites like wordpress using Akismet for accounts.

  • Re:Drupal (Score:4, Informative)

    by cultiv8 ( 1660093 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:23PM (#41951135) Homepage
    forum_access [drupal.org] offers a decent performance improvement for mid-large sized forums, it uses the ACL [drupal.org] module which helps to reduce number of joins with the node_access table, which is where a lot of performance issues come from. Nanawrimo [nanowrimo.org] is a good example of a decently optimized Drupal forum site, they get about 100k nodes/year, not to mention groups.drupal.org or drupal.org, which average about the same.

    The truth is that any site with > 10k authenticated users a month and 100k+ user generated posts is going to need performance tuning.
  • Disqus (Score:4, Informative)

    by bucktug ( 306690 ) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @04:19PM (#41951493)

    http://disqus.com/ [disqus.com]

    Customize it with CSS... call it a day. Forums are just pages with styled links. Your server doesn't suffer the load... the federated login is handled by others...

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