Step 1: Brand your site
Let's start by making your site truly yours.
Open your site's control panel by selecting "Dashboard" from the small menu in the bottom left. Then choose "Branding" from the side menu.
Follow the instructions to upload your logo images. If you don't have the images to hand, skip this section and come back to it later. If you don't have a logo, use the "Generate a logo" option and one will be created for you.
Then enter your site name, homepage title, description, email address and other details. The email settings are particularly important, so don't skip them. Hit the "Save" button at the bottom of the page to record your changes.
Now chose "Customization" from the side menu. Update the various colours to match your brand, then hit "Save". You can style Plush in a variety of different ways. If you need some inspiration, have a look at our styling ideas. These themes are also available as presets.
Step 2: Create your Categories
Every discussion on your site is assigned a Category by the person who starts it. This way, discussions are organised by subject, helping your users find what they're looking for.
You can also create sub-Categories, and even sub-sub-Categories, to help people find more specific topics of interest.
The first Category has been created for you, but you'll probably want to change its name and description. Just click the "Edit" button, make your changes, then hit "Save".
To create a new Category, just hit "Add Category" and repeat the process. Drag and drop to sort and layer them.
Step 3: Choose how users register
Select "Registration" from the Dashboard menu and you'll see four main options:
• Closed completely disables user registration. You can still add users manually by selecting "Users", which is just below "Registration" in the side menu. You'll see an "Add User" button.
• Basic means registration is open to everyone and new users can start posting immediately.
• Approval means registration is open, but users must state why they want to join. Applications are approved by an Administrator, via the "Applicants" menu that will appear in your Dashboard.
• Invitation is perfect for both public and private forums. Users are emailed unique invitation codes that they need when they sign up. You can control who can send invites, how often and how soon they expire.
Finally, choose whether you need users to confirm their email address before they're able to post.
Step 4: Set up your domain
You'll want to put your forum on your own domain name. This can be a little tricky, but everyone who runs their own site has been through this process at some point.
Start by opening your domain registrar's control panel. You need to create a DNS "CNAME" record that points your chosen domain (eg. forum.yoursite.com) to the address we provided when you signed up. If you're in an organisation, your IT team will probably have to do this for you.
It may take a few minutes for the new domain to become active. But once the process is complete, your forum will be your own property.
Step 5: Configure your site
If you're using an open registration method, we recommend securing your site with Google's free reCAPTCHA service. This makes it impossible for automated spam bots to sign up. Select "Security" from the side menu and follow the instructions.
You can also enable SSL on the same page, which provides enhanced security and performance for your site.
Your forum is designed to work well out of the box, but there are also many options available to you. Take five minutes to familiarise yourself with each section of the Dashboard.
Step 6: Throw open the doors
If you're running a public forum, go to "Roles & Permissions" and hit the "Switch to Public" button. If you're running an invite-only site, go to "Bulk Invite" and follow the instructions to kick start your community.
You're all set. Good luck with your new site!