HomePHP Page 7 - Talking The Talk (A phpBB Primer)
The User Experience - PHP
Looking for a full-featured message board to add interactivity to your site, or to communicate with your customers or users? Look no further than phpBB, a robust, open-source PHP implementation that is both easy to use and simple to administer. This introductory tutorial discusses the process of installing, configuring and using phpBB, explaining how to create discussion forums, add users, assign moderators and administrators, and post and search for messages.
With the system configured, all that's left is to turn it live and let users begin registering. These registered users have a number of different functions available to them. They can read messages in the various forums, post new messages or reply to existing threads, search for messages meeting specific criteria, send private messages to other users, and make changes to their profile.
The starting point for all this activity is the application's main page; this page contains the forum index, which contains a list of forums, broken down into various categories (these are the same categories and forums you configured a while back).
The forum list is followed by a short user summary, which contains statistics on the number of users registered and the number of users online.
Selecting a forum will produce a list of all threads in the forum, together with information on the number of threads, number of posts, number of views and author of latest post.
Users can post a message by selecting the "New Topic" command, which will pop up a form like this:
Depending on how the board has been configured, users may be able to use HTML code and smileys in their posts, or attach files or images to their messages.
It is interesting to note that users with administrative rights have the option to post announcements (posts which appear at the top of every forum) and "sticky" messages (posts which are always present on the first page of each forum). In the scenario above, administrators would use this option to post announcements of server upgrades or downtime notices.
Selecting a particular thread will drill one level deeper into the forum, producing a list of the starting post and all replies to it.
Adding a message to a thread is easily accomplished via the "Post Reply" button at the end of every page, which pops up a message entry form similar to the one above. Messages posted using this form are added to the forum, and appear at the end of the message list. Each message is accompanied with the name of the user who posted it, together with a rank and the user's number of posts and date of registration. It's possible to find out more about the user by clicking the "Profile" link next to the corresponding post,
or send the user a private message (that is, a message which does not appear in the forum but is only visible to the user) with the "Private Message" link.
Private messages appear in the recipient's inbox; additionally, if the recipient is logged in at the time, and the system is configured to allow it, a private message may also appear as a small pop-up window in the recipient's browser.
It's also possible for users to "watch" particular threads,
so that they are automatically notified of replies to those threads. This feature was particularly useful for the hosting company in the scenario above, as it allowed both users and technical support staff to keep track of hot-button issues and respond to them rapidly.
Finally, all users have a fairly powerful search engine at their disposal, which can be used to search for posts by keyword or author. Searches may be restricted to specific forums or categories, and may be sorted by time, author, title, forum or topic. Wildcards and Boolean expressions may be used to create complex search queries, and the results may be displayed as either topics or posts. Here's what a typical search and results page might look like: