- Starting too big.
I see many forums which are new and have a small number of members, but they have complicated sites with too many forums. Always start small, start simple, get a core group of members first, and build from there.
- Sites that are too complicated.
Newbies get confused. Make your design nice but simple.
- Too many hacks.
Only add hacks that would be useful to your particular community.
- Overconfidence and poor security.
CF was hacked into recently because I was overconfident and thought I had it secured - I overlooked a bbcode that allowed input variables - I knew it was not secure, but I didn't think anyone would know about it - I found out that hackers were copying cookies and logging into my staff accounts - this apparently went on for months. Thank God the hackers involved were not malicious, and I was told of this breach, which is now fixed. But overconfidence and pride can lead to serious consequences - always be overcautious when it comes to security.
- Too much graphics.
If you do have lots of graphics at least offer a text-based style as well.
- No plan for growth.
A lot of forum admins start a forum, but when it gets bigger, the forum closes down because:
- Not enough staff to moderate
- The server is not powerful enough so too slow
- The community splits into factions and splits
- Always assume your site will grow, and have a plan - how do you plan to pay for upgrades?
- Poor selection of staff, and poor staff management.
Members are the blood of a forum. The moderators is like the heart of a forum that controls the circulation of the blood. Without good moderators, a forum WILL fail. When it comes to moderators, a forum admin needs to:
- Figure out how many mods a forum needs - don't have too many if your forum is too small, but you need enough so that mods do not burn out.
- Choose mods from members who are dedicated
- Offer a way for members to apply
- Be strict in accepting staff - it is HARDER to fire a mod than to hire one.
- Always have a live interview process
- Always have a training process
- Always have a probationary period - For example, at CF, we have a live interview with senior staff, then training for 30 days, and a probationary period of 60 days - during the first 90 days, you may be asked to step down as a mod if you are found to be unsuitable.
- Poor people skills.
Forum admins are not just administering a forum - they are administering PEOPLE too - so they need good people skills - they need to observer good netiquette, be polite, and treat their staff and members well.
- Poor promotional skills.
What frustrates me is when forum admins go to other forums and spam for more members - to me that breaches basic netiquette. The only way a forum would grow is through:
Good search engine positioning - CF is ranked number one for the terms "christian forum" and "christian forums" on ALL search engines.
Word of mouth - if you're good, people will find out.
- Finding a niche vs doing what you enjoy.
On the one hand, forum admins keep opening forums about similar topics and saturate the online world with the same types of communities. On the other hand, forum admins need to run forums relating to topics they enjoy - it's a fine balance. For example, instead of another RPG forum, why not make an RPG forum that appeals to a subgroup - this way, you can capture a niche market.