Administering a board is not as easy as we may think. Being an Administrator brings a lot of responsibilities. You have to take care of your board as you take care of a pet. You have a constant work to do, as animating it, giving it a nice look, having it indexed on the Web, etc. And most of all, being patient.
As an Editboard veteran and as a board analyst on a French directory board, I make this topic to share tips to make your board more attractive to visitors.
SUBJECT OF YOUR BOARD
First of all, when we create a board, we must have already a general idea of the subject you want to talk about. You must also have a nice knowledge of the subject you want to talk about. For example, it's useless to make a graphic art board if you can't even distinguish a .jpeg pic from a .gif pic and that you have never worked with even the old MS Paint. Yep, I know it's exaggerated, but I put this example to show you that you must know the subject you want to talk about.
ORGANIZATION OF YOUR SECTIONS
Having just one section is far from being ideal, because all topics will be scrambled together and then, this will look messy.
The first section a visitor must see is the one where you post the board's general rules. This is very important because your members will know what is allowed and what is not allowed.
You can integrate the update annoucement topics in the rules section, but you can also make a separated section for them. Announcing updates on your board (design change, new sections, changes in the board staff, etc.) is always nice.
After the rules and the news, it's always nicer to have a section where the members can introduce themselves. It makes the board ambiance warmer for members.
Another section which is recommended is a "Technical support/Suggestions" section, where members can post questions or report problems related to your board and where they can express feedbacks about what can be improved on your board.
After these sections, now you can make sections about the board's main subject. Here is my advice : You must ensure that each section's subject is well defined and that there is no confusion between two sections. To avoid having an excessively long index page, I suggest you to make, if possible, sub-forums in forums and change the index packing (see this tutorial
for more details). When the index page is too long, the visitor gets bored before he gets to the bottom of the page.
And finally, at the bottom of the index page, you can put a "Partners" or "Advertising" section where members can post their links for personal websites, boards, blogs, etc. You can also put a Garbage where you can move unwanted topics to clean up your sections.
I have also other points to talk about.
When you create categories and forums, I recommend you to avoid making an index in a "1 category, 1 forum" style, like in this example
Having this kind of index makes the titles displayed twice. I suggest you to gather forums who have a common point in a same category. For example, in a board about animals, you gather "cats", "dogs", etc. in a same category (named "pets" or "domestic animals" for example).
This way, you'll save categories and forums, so you will be able to create new ones under your members's requests, because the number of categories and forums is limited to 127.
About forum descriptions, I don't recommend you to put many gifs and pics in your descriptions, because too many pics and gifs makes the index page heavy and it will take time to load. There are still many people who still have a low-speed modem connection (56kbits/s)
About forum titles, I recommend you to avoid titles which are excessively long (2 lines or more), because they affect the topic pages' width. So, if your titles are very long, the topic pages will be very wide and then, people who have a low resolution will have to scroll to go from left to right.
ORTHOGRAPH AND CONTENT
Not all forumers are aware about this, but the orthograph influences a lot on the board's attractiveness. A board where the administrators, moderators and members use a nice orthograph with only a few minor mistakes will look much more serious than a board where everything is written in l3375P34K or SMS language which are illegible for many people.
You must also be careful about flood (useless mass posting only to boost the postcount) and troll (message or poster aimed to engage in controversy at an excessive level, which is very annoying for everyone).
Creating a "Flood" section, where flood is allowed, and a "Garbage" section where unwanted topics are moved, are suggested to help you out in the post management.
THE BOARD'S DESIGN
For many kinds of board, its design has a lot of influence on the board's future. The design must be in harmony with the subject.
For example, if your board talks about metal music, you must use dark neutral colors, not flashy colors. Another example : If your board is a graphic art board or a computer support forum, futuristic styles and cold colors are generally used. Another one : If your subject is nature-related, you must use colors which reminds the nature.
Generally, it's recommended to use only two colors, so it will be easier to harmonize only two colors and it will lower the risks of messing up your design.
Another point which is important is the legibility of texts and links. The general rule is to use light colors for texts on dark background, and use dark colors for texts on light backgrounds. A lack of contrast may cause headaches to some people. On medium-colored backgrounds, people tend to have more easiness to read light-coloured texts than dark-coloured texts (personally, it's my case)
Now, let's get to the point about icons and buttons.
Because there are still people who use a low resolution (800*600), your forum main logo's width must not exceed 760 pixels. It's the same thing for the navigation bar for logged in people if you activate the portal and the calendar and you add extra links.
On many boards, I saw huge folder icons (150*150 for examples) and huge whosonline icons (500*500 for example) who really deform the index page. I also saw non-matching sizes in folders icons. For example, a tiny icon for "New post" and a huge icon for "No new"... -_- please avoid this barbarism!
Personally, in the index pages, the folder icons should not exceed 60*60 px, and the whosonline should not exceed 120*120 px. For more coherence, the folder icons should have the same size and shape (take the folder icons of this board as an example).
It's the same thing for topic status icons (annoucement, sticky, locked topic, etc.), buttons, etc.
And now, about personalization, it always depends on the board's subject. For generalist boards with not precise subject, it doesn't matter much if you leave elements of the basic subsilver style, but it's always nicer to add a personal touch to the design. Otherwise, the design becomes very important if you want to create a more specialized board, especially if it's a RPG game board or a graphic art board. In RPGs, people are more motivated to play if they feel in the game ambiance related of the story. In graphic art boards, a design entirely made by the administrator is the key of its success, because the board's design must reflect the admin's talent in graphic art.
The board's portal must give a good idea about your forum's subject, so don't be affraid to personalize it! For example, if you administer a RPG board, you can talk about the story and the context of your game, and other elements related to the game (for exemple, the four Hogwarts houses' score, in a Harry potter RPG).
A portal which is too basic is not very useful for the board, so if you don't personalize it, I recommend you to not activate it.
I finish this post with a few last points to talk about.
If you want to put scripts on your board, I remind you that more you put scripts, more your board will take time to load, especially for people with low-speed connecion.