One of the most versatile elements of phpBB is the ability for community owners to modify the entire look of their forum to suit their specific theme or topic. This doesn’t just mean the inclusion of a custom logo or a few graphical elements here or there, it means the entire application can be modified to look exactly the way you want. From images to colours and even the positioning of the core application features such as forum, topic and board displays. This is one of the reasons that phpBB has grown into such a popular online forum application over more than a decade of availability and development.
When it comes to creating your own template for use on your phpBB discussion forum you will require a decent knowledge of online scripting languages including HTML, CSS and PHP. This is the only downfall to the application that can make it difficult for new webmasters, or those with limited development experience, to really customise their forums to create an experience that both themselves and their community will enjoy.
All is not lost if you lack the skills and experience required to create a template of your own. Many designers and developers who use and support phpBB have created thousands of freely available pre-made themes that you can download and install straight onto your community. The pre-made themes vary greatly depending on the author which means that some may only make small changes to the existing application such as the colour scheme whilst others are full blown templates that allow for a complete overhaul of the default application. This variety is a great bonus for those looking to download a pre-made template as it means there will almost always be one to suit your community vision or overall topic.
You can find many of these pre-made templates at the official phpBB styles database which also provides the facility to preview them in a live environment, allowing you to see exactly how they may look once installed onto your own forum. Aside from the official database, many 3rd party developers also release their templates on their own websites or online communities, so a quick search via a search engine will result in multiple locations to find a great theme suitable for your community.
Installing A Template On phpBB
Once you’ve found a template that suits the theme all thats left to do it is install and activate it. phpBB has a built in styles module that makes it easy to install, modify and manage your templates with little time and skill. The following walk through will provide you with the steps needed to install your new template.
1. Upon downloading a phpBB template you will find it is a compressed (.zip) file on your computer. You will first need to extract the template files from this compressed file which can be done on most computers by simply right clicking the file and choosing the “extract” option.
2. Once your template has been extracted you will need to upload the files to your forum. The easiest way to do this is to install an FTP client on your computer such as FileZilla (Free). Your template files will need to be uploaded into the following phpBB directory: /phpbb3/styles/
3. Now that your template has been uploaded, log into your phpBB administration area and navigate to the “Styles” tab.
4. Inside of the “Styles” section you will find a link labeled as “Style Management”, you will need to click on this in order to access the management and installation options of phpBB templates.
5. Once inside of the Styles Management area you will see a list of all templates that have been uploaded into your styles directory. Locate the name of the template you just uploaded and click on the “Install” link. This will run a quick process that updates your forum to display the new template.
By following the above 5 steps you can quickly and easily install a new template onto your phpBB forum. An alternate to using an FTP application in step 2 is to simply login to your web hosting cPanel account, access the file manager and manually upload the required template files into the phpBB styles directory.