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Review: IB Forums


Want to add community to your site for free? In this article Sebastian reviews IB Forums, the hottest new bulletin board system to hit the (free) market.

Author Info:
By: Sebastian Baciu
Rating: 5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars / 10
August 13, 2002
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · Review: IB Forums
  2. · From The Average Users End
  3. · Help Files
  4. · From The Administrators End
  5. · Conclusion

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Review: IB Forums - From The Average Users End
(Page 2 of 5 )

Speed
When users first visit a Bulletin Board powered by IBForums (IBF) one of the first things they notice is the speed. IBF is very fast and it averages fewer queries per page than most other boards. The only thing that may detract from the speed on IBF is the skin. It has many images, which may frustrate users with a slower connection. However, because IBF can be totally skinned, an Administrator can easily add a lightweight skin for users with slower connections.

Usability
IBF is very easy to use. The Start Topic/Reply buttons are almost always in view and the member center is extremely easy to navigate. When posting a new topic, there are a number of different formatting options to select from and they are all clearly explained and easy to use. However, some of the formatting features do not work on old browsers (because of JavaScript Support). If a user has experience with other Bulletin Board systems then they should have no problem with IBF, especially if they are used to a vBulletin, IkonBoard or PHPBB type setup.

Presentation
IBF can be presented any way the site running it chooses. Every aspect of the board is "skinnable" (we will go into more detail later). However, many sites choose to stick with the default skin (at least for a certain period of time) and therefore the default skin has to look good and be easy to use. When a user visits a board powered by IBF, they see the board index page:

The IBF Index Page

Because this is usually a new user's first impression, it has to look good and be self-explanatory. IBF accomplishes this fairly well. A user who has experience with Bulletin Boards will have no trouble registering and posting, but a user who has never used a Bulletin Board before may be a little overwhelmed, however they should be able to register and post within 5-10 minutes.

The search, help buttons and register links (these are used most often by new users) are also clearly visible, which greatly helps new users find their "feel" for the forum. Navigating through the forums, topics and posts is also fairly easy because of the navigation "bar" always telling you your exact location. In addition to this, it is composed of links making it even easier to get back to the forum or board index. In short, new users with no Bulletin Board experience should be completely comfortable with IBF in no longer than 30 40 minutes.

The Member Center
The member center is one of the most important parts of any board. It has to provide the user with a place where they can access (and change) all the information they provided without going through much trouble. It also has to provide the user with a place where they can change the board to fit their needs. Here is a screenshot of the IBF member center:

The IBF Member Center

As you can see, all features are provided as part of an easy to use menu down the left side of the page. The member center lets you edit your profile, signature, send and receive private messages, change your board skin, topic tracker options and so on...

The member center is not really lacking any features and should have everything any user needs to effectively communicate with other users. One feature that is currently not included is the ability to change your member name. This feature could be quite useful at times because the only other way to change your member name is to have the administrator do it for you.

Posting
Posting is the most important feature of a Bulletin Board system and obviously in order to have a good Bulletin Board, you have to have a good posting interface. Here is a screenshot of the IBF posting interface:

The IBF Posting Interface

As you can see, there are many posting options, including options for formatting the post. The user can easily add bold, italic and underlined text to their posts. In addition to this, the user can opt to post in different colors, sizes and fonts. IBF also makes it easy for users to add links to their posts and it will automatically parse URLs. For greater convenience, all links to other sites inside posts open in a new window, making navigation much easier.

Unfortunately though, some of the formatting features do not work in older browsers, however the users can still use IBF code (the basis of the formatting) in their posts. IBF comes pre-configured with a large amount of "emoticons" which the administrator can add or remove if they wish. Users can also opt to preview their post before it is submitted. This way they can check spelling, URLs, images, etc.
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