So you want to start a message board. Good for you! Every crazy-ass topic on the planet has a bunch of people who would love nothing more than to spout their opinions in a centralized location.
I’m not here to talk about content. Oh, no. If you want to build a forum about having sex with goats on fire, go for it. I just want to give you a few simple rules to make your message board better.
Rule number one (and I CANNOT stress this enough): DO NOT use colors that can be viewed from space. You want people to READ your message board, not run screaming from their keyboards howling “My eyes! My eyes!” Most message board software has some very lovely pre-made templates – please, for the love of all that is holy, use one. DO NOT decide you know better and make your board orange text on a lime green background. NO ONE can read it. Anyone with one-fourth of a brain will take one look at that and run screaming, assume you’re an idiot, and have nothing to say about your topic. So yeah, DON’T DO IT.
Rule number two: Decide your board culture. Are you going to be a balls-to-the-wall, in-your-face, we-only-ban-people-who-advertise-on-our-site admin? Or are you going to be a cute-and-fuzzy-bunny, no-hurt-feelings kind of admin? You need to know this up front, and you need to be consistent. Wide open, wild and crazy boards can be fun, but you’ve got to have damn thick skin to run them. Cute and fuzzy bunny, IMHO, is boring as shit. Save that for the Disney boards. Find a happy medium, come up with reasonable rules, and STICK TO THEM.
Rule number three: Ruling by committee is a fucking waste of time. Have as many admins/helpers as you want, but it’s YOUR fucking board. If you want to make a change, MAKE IT. Don’t spend 7,000 hours asking everyone else what they think and then pick the least offensive, yet most annoying choice. Your board, your rules. Yeah, you can ask for opinions, but ultimately you rule the roost. RULE IT.
Rule number four: The ban hammer is your friend. Obviously you have to have a legitimate reason for banning someone (I hate your profile pic generally doesn’t qualify), but when you get a spammer, moron, or out-and-out TOS violator, ban the fuck out of them. One hard and fast rule: no takebacks. You ban someone, that’s it. There’s no sympathy, no crying, no second chances. Use the ban hammer with caution, but use it. And, once used, don’t revoke it. Think of yourself as the Thor of the Internet.
Rule number five: Don’t tank your site on a regular basis. Honestly, if you want the site, pay for it. Pay for hosting, pay for your URL, update your software, etc. If you need help, ask. If your members like your site enough, they’ll kick in a few bucks, if that’s what it takes. (And for the love of all that is holy, find a way to acknowledge/thank them publicly. A bit of online love goes a long way). If not, well…I think you got your answer right there. At any rate, “forgetting” to pay for your webhost and causing a site outage is fucking inexcusable. You’re supposed to be the adult here, ACT LIKE IT.
So, there you go. Basic rules of website ownership. Follow those, and you’re 90% ahead of your competition.