Completely changing the direction of a website

Last week I made the decision to change Electric Bandits from a blog to a forum. I had been updating it as a blog for around 9 months however I just didn't have the time to update it as much as I would have liked.

The site covers topics I'm really interested in – gaming, computing, mobiles, gadgets etc, and my hope is that the site will grow quickly before the end of the year.

The first thing I had to do was backup the blog files and database. I then uploaded the forum and reinstalled the blog as a subdomain so that I can copy some blog posts over. Quite a lot of the traffic to the site was to a few blog posts therefore I copied them over to the forum and put a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. I only did this with 7 or 8 posts though.

The next thing I did was get a cheap theme. I chose the Sophist theme from ForumMonkeys. I emailed them about it and they responded very quickly so I made the purchase.

The theme suits the topic of the site in my opinion however quickly after installing the theme I noticed a few problems with the templates. First thing I noticed was that the forumhome template wasn't designed to accomodate forum rooms without parent categories so if you create a forum room with no parent category the home page looked completely messed up. I contacted ForumMonkeys about it but after 3 days they hadn't got back to me so I emailed again. At this point I got a reply saying that the guy was on holiday but that I should post the problem in their forums.

So I did just that. Shortly afterwards I realised that the theme messes up with most VBulletin plugins too. For those who don't know, VBulletin plugins are uploadable xml files which add extra functionality to your forum. They are incredibly handy and replaced the long hacking of code which old versions required. I noticed that some of the most popular plugins messed up the design. I then noticed that the notices feature, a key feature which was added in version 3.6 (it is now version 3.7) is completely missing from the template.

After looking through the templates more it's clear that this template has not been designed from the core templates of V 3.7, instead it was developed for a much earlier version of VB and has been updated with every new feature. This is a quick way of updating a theme for new VB releases however it means that unless the designer is very thorough, many new parts of code will be missed. This is what has happened with the missing notices problem.

I have emailed them for a refund but I'm not holding my breath for this to be sorted soon. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing you can't plan for. When buying a theme you can't see the backend functionality so you don't know what's been left in and what's been left out.

This is just a minor hiccup though. The main focus now will be getting people to sign up to the forum and start talking. Starting a forum is the hardest part however getting people to register can be achieved via a few ways :

  • Through organic traffic
  • Through fake sign ups ie. conversations with yourself to give the impression the forum is busy
  • Via a paid forum posting service
  • By writing original reviews and articles

I've ran many forums over the years but this is the first time in 2 or 3 years where I am starting a brand new forum. It will be hard work but I'm looking forward to getting it going :)

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