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englishforum.ch screenshotA place for English-speakers in Switzerland

As far back as 2002 I had the idea that Zurich (and Switzerland) needed a decent forum/portal platform where foreigners could exchange ideas, questions, etc. There was nothing around which provided a decent forum. There were some sites which provided information to foreigners, some which provide clubs for them to meet up, and some which provided email-based mailing lists. So after spending a year saying "Someone should really..." I registered englishforum.ch in May 2003. In May 2004 I installed some forum software (phpbb) and set up a basic structure, but did not put the site online. Finally in May 2005, a full three years after my initial idea, I switched over to vBulletin and put the site online.

Starting a forum like this is not an easy thing to do. It depends on a networking effect - you have to be the place where everybody comes to exchange information, but people won't participate unless they see everyone else participating. I sent an email out to all my friends and pretty much everyone I knew. I asked for help in "seeding" the forum with a bunch of people willing to chat and contribute. Many of these people came to look and didn't post anything, some posted nothing but spam for their own businesses and were never seen again, and about 3 or 4 people stayed and helped seed the forum with some interesting messages. At the time of writing activity on the forum has been slow, but building up slowly. The ranking in Google has risen to a very decent PageRank 5, and traffic is low. As more content is written, more people are finding their way in through Google. If you think it's a great idea and can help promote it - please do!

By May 2006 activity had increased significantly. Over 3500 messages had been posted from over 300 members. Traffic was rising sharply.

Future plans

Things are a little unclear in this regard, since I wasn't sure about my motivation for starting this particular project in the first place. I set it up because I felt that it would be a nice thing for everyone to have, but there wasn't really a business plan behind it. So for the moment I'd like to see it grow without taking up too much of my time, and then we'll see where it goes. If it grows then maybe it will justify more work on my part, if not - it was a nice idea.

Technical details

Site type: Dynamic - uses PHP/mysql
Design: Uses the standard template. Information on graphics
Software used: vBulletin
Hardware used: Hosted on an Asus RS120-E3, housed in a professional data centre


Traffic figures as of October 2005 (average daily figures):

30-40 visits, 200 pages, 1,500 hits

Traffic figures as of May 2006 (average daily figures):

200 visits, 2000 pages, 1,8000 hits

Also interesting to note: over 30% of all visitors stay longer than 2 minutes indicating that the content is obviously interesting enough to hold their attention. This is a very high proportion compared to other sites, but not altogether unexpected since it is an interactive forum.



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