I'm feeling opinionated (and I researched this earlier in the week and had the forum lose the post ) ...
I wandered through the examples looking at themes and wondering what I liked about each one. When I visit this forum, I'm looking for information not buddies. So I'd like the information to be readily accessible.
Having tabs at the top for categories seems good. I liked the idea of tabs at The Admin Zone (http://www.theadminzone.com/forums/
) and SitePoint (http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/)
. However, these sites encompass the whole of their purpose. Omni Group has the separate web site for many of the things shown on those tabs. So I'd probably make the tabs the top-level forum headings. Or I'd make them links to stored information.
For ease of use and a bit of advertising, I think it would be good to have the products there. And include a link to the Omni web site as well.
Another thing I liked about The Admin Zone was the trimmed down option list band. This forum's band lists Control Panel, FAQ, Members List, Calendar, New Posts, Search, Quick Links, and Log Out. But the The Admin Zone band lists only Register, Today's Posts, and Search. Seeing the member's list and calendar isn't important. And many of the other things are available through QuickLinks if someone needs them. So I suggest merely QuickLinks (calling it Extras, Options, or Go, ..), FAQ, New Posts, Search, and Logout.
Anything you can do to shrink the space used would be good. It's easy to read this on a big display, but try to think about those of us reading on laptops. We're looking for information and quickly finding answers. I'd fit the Omni logo, the tab connections, and the login/welcome part all in the top 1.5 inches of the frame. That was something else I liked about the other two forums.
But the icons for new posts versus no-new posts should be distinctive. That was another thing I liked about The Admin Zone. Subtle icons help experienced and frequent users. Obvious icons help casual users. I realize that Omni apps are elegantly wonderful. However, if people come to the forums looking for answers, they shouldn't have to learn the forum software as well. Help them find what they need. Make it elegantly obvious.