One of more significant ways to create a "sticky site" (a site which people want to visit over and over again) is to add a message board. What is a message board? It is a means whereby online group conversations can take place. For example, you could post a question, several people could post answers, and other people could expand upon those answers. On an active message board, these conversations can go on for pages.
Okay, so let's say you want to add a message board to your site. You have several options.
- You may want to use a service such as egroups, topica or communityzero because these offer additional features which wrap a sort of community around a message board.
- If your host does not allow you to install your own scripts (and this is true of virtually all free hosts) then you must use a remotely hosted message board.
- If your host supports user written CGI routines, than you can install a script to run on your own web site. This is best way, in my humble opinion, to operate a message board as it gives you total control over everything, including board layout and contents.
We will explore each of these options below.
There are quite a few community-type message boards out there. The advantage of these services is that you get quite a few other things to offer your visitors. These generally include calendars, chat rooms, file sharing, lists of links, note boards and so on.
On downside, these services do not integrate well into your web site. They are very detached and have a far different look and feel. In addition, they do not tend to drive traffic to your site (since they are part part of your site) and thus are not very good at adding "stickiness".
These type of message boards are great when your primary purpose is to host a, well, community and your web site is secondary.
Communityzero http://www.Communityzero.com In my opinion, this is best of community-type message boards on internet. I've found servers to be quick and responsive, and downtime seems to be virtually non-existent. Highly recommended.
Egroups http://www.egroups.com Egroups was purchased by Yahoo several years ago. The service is one of largest (if not largest) of it's type. Egroups has just about every feature you can imagine and it has become very popular. However, their servers are down so often and response time is so poor it's difficult to imagine how they remain in business. Usable but with some issues now and then.
Topica http://www.topica.com Topica is an up-and-coming service and it is very good. It has all of usual features, but servers sometimes seem slow. Recommended.
User Installed Scripts
This is, in my opinion, best way to create a message board as it allows you to have complete control over your board. When you use a script, you do not have any banners or advertisements to entice your hard earned visitors to go elsewhere (unless, of course, you put them there yourself).
The main disadvantages of these scripts are:
- Since it is hosted on your own web site, any activity counts against your bandwidth and disk space limits.
- You must maintain script on your site yourself, which can be a chore.
Discus http://www.discusware.com/discus/ This is script which I use, and I must say that I am very happy with it's performance so far. The script is easy to install because it has been entirely automated. Just answer questions and follow instructions - very simple and straightforward.