Don’t forget the little things

by Martin Reed on 7 March 2007 in Snippets

On Monday I wrote about the importance of being unique through the design of your site / forum / blog. There are however, some even simpler steps you can take to make your community a little different to all the others out there.

Let’s take the forum software phpBB firstly as an example. I won’t discuss theme customisation again here, but there are still many ways you can make simple customisations to the software to put your own stamp on it.

Let’s take the member agreement first – this typically appears before a user can register. An example of the standard text can be seen on my free web hosting site. Pretty uninteresting and very standard. Think of ways you can customise this – perhaps you could incorporate your site rules here as well as the standard disclaimer? Perhaps you could add information to thank a user for proceeding to register. I customised the registration page of the Just Chat message boards to include items such as these. This content can be edited in the language files of phpBB.

Sticking with the language files of phpBB, you can also customise the content of the emails sent to your members. The ‘thank you for registering’ emails, ‘new post notification’ emails etc can all be customised. The ones that come as standard are uninspiring and just plain boring. By editing the content of your system generated emails you are once again differentiating yourself from your competition and showing your users that you care about your community.

I have used the possibility to customise the language files in phpBB as just a couple of example of how you can make relatively simple alterations to your site to make it more professional and different to all the other sites sharing the same software. If you take the time to really experiment with the software you are using, be it forum software, blog software or anything else you will find ways to make it more user-friendly through customisation.

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Tom March 10, 2007 at 3:04 am

Nice article. Customizing the scripts on your site is something many people overlook or simply do not have the time or knowledge to do. It definately pays off to set yourself apart from the rest of the herd, however. This article demonstrates some of the easier ways that people can do that on their own without any advanced technical or programming knowledge.

It’s about time somebody started a blog like this. I have been meaning to start a blog about running internet-based communities myself, but as an owner/webmaster/developer, I haven’t really got the time to blog. I look forward to reading more of CommunitySpark future.

Smiley April 9, 2007 at 12:55 am

I’ve been wondering how to edit the registration page. The TOS in general. I’m going to have a look at the language files. Thanks for the helpful post!

Martin Reed April 9, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Hi Smiley – all the text customisations can be done through the language file. Good luck!

Alberghi October 1, 2007 at 11:18 pm

PhpBB is really good forum.. but it’s not complete you need to add mods and hack wich can be a risk sometime!

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 3, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Alberghi – I think all ‘out-of-the-box’ software needs some degree of customisation, and phpBB is no different.