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How to Create a Free Forum Website

How to Create a Free Forum Website

Online forums make it easy for us to kick-start discussions, find like-minded people and also promote our business. Forums can be run as an attachment to a larger website, or exist on their own. If you’re about how to build a forum website, here are three ways to accomplish this task.

Many believe that forums are dying because of social networking. Indeed, in the past, forums and message boards used to be our social media. But today, with all our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts we simply forget about forum discussions. Yet they still have great worth.

Believe it or not, but forums are still one of the most popular places to ask and answer questions about brands and products. Businesses use them as bespoke and more targeted, well-organized social media that they have full control over. Isn’t it great?

5 Ways to Build a Forum Website

Creating or adding a forum to the existing website has several benefits at a time. You do not only organize the online community and encourage for active user participation, but also boost your website popularity and grow user base in the long run. What’s more, forums provide additional info about your project and all the related nuances most users are interested in.

The process of forum creation is not that complicated, but it involves several must-have steps. The complexity of the procedure also depends upon the type and size of forum you are going to launch as well as the web building tool you choose for this every purpose.

There are multiple services you can use to start and manage a forum. Website builders are the most feature-laden and powerful systems that make it possible to launch this kind of project, but you can also give preference to open-source platforms. Many of them are specially built with forum creation in mind and, thus, work great for this every goal.

WixWix – is one of the most popular contemporary DIY website builders, which allows creating a forum via the integration of a special forum app. The system comes with multiple web building tools and customization options to give your project high end look. Wix


WordPressWordPress – is the world-popular Content Management System, which makes it possible to build a forum website by means of bbPress plugin integration. This is a specialized forum software, which was developed by WordPress experts with user convenience in mind. WordPress


uCozuCoz – is one of the most feature-laden cloud website builders, which lets you create a functional and easy-to-use forum by means of connecting and activating a corresponding forum module. The website builder allows for quick and simple forum customization and further management. uCoz


Facebook GroupFacebook Group – is a group of co-thinkers created in the Facebook social network, who share the same ideas and wish to get in touch with other users, who have the same interests and objectives. The groups are available to all users, who have Facebook accounts and wish to join the community discussions. Facebook Group


phpBBphpBB – is a free open-source forum building software, which can be used to unite a group of people, who share the same goals and interests. The software comes with an extensive database of extensions that make it possible to launch and customize any forum type you need. uCoz


Whatever forum creation solution you will go for, you will still have to learn the basics of its application. Each system comes with its pros and cons, which requires deliberate approach to the selection process. Let’s have a look at the characteristics of each platform now to facilitate your choice.

1: Wix – The Best Forum Builder

Wix Forum Main

Even if you’ve recently started working in the web building niche, you’ve certainly heard about Wix. This is a website builder, which has universal nature and recognition. It was founded in 2006 and has over 125 millions of registered users worldwide. The service allows launching websites of different types. Forums are not an exception.

The service has won popularity with proficient web designers and newbies due to its ease of use, immersive web building experience it ensures, convenience, affordability, flexibility and diversity of design customization tools it offers. Several millions of websites have been built with this service already and many more are still under the development.

Wix Advantages

  • WYSIWYG Editor. Due to this editing option, user experience doesn’t matter a lot, when it comes to forum creation.
  • Wix Forum. This free widget is available in the Wix App market, allows creating an online community around a website and provides an extensive range of features (ease of use, quick installation, commenting option, subscription to other users, post addition, editing and scheduling, photo and video integration, post removal option etc.).
  • WIX ADI. Artificial Design Intelligence is a handy tool that simplifies the forum building process by automatically generating a ready made website based on the information provided.
  • Niche Templates. Wix offers a set of quality niche specific mobile-optimized templates that will be a perfect match for your forum.
  • App Market. This is the place, where you can find multiple widgets to be further integrated into your forum (ChatRoom, Comments, LiveChat, Smart Chat, Form Builder, ShoutOut Mailout etc.).

Wix is rich in features that will help you complete the entire forum creation process with ease and convenience.

See the complete list of features in my in-depth Wix Review.

How to Build a Forum with Wix

In 2017, after 10 years since it’s launch Wix has enabled a forum building update. I’d wondered why there was no such option before. But now this website builder is considered to be versatile.

Here’s a short guide of how to create a free forum with Wix:

  • Step 1: Register with Wix and create a website.
  • How to Create a Free Forum Website

  • Step 2: Select Forum App from the Wix App Market. You can find it in Social App Section (it’s free).
  • Wix Forum Main View

  • Step 3: Now you received a default forum template. As you see, Wix forum differs from standard forum view. With the block category structure and logo pictures, It looks at least modern and attractive.
  • Step 4: Set up your forum. Wix has a lot of forum settings but they’re a compactly packed into 6 menu options.
  • Wix Forum Settings

  • Step 5: Select a forum posts view. You can choose between ‘Cards’ view or ‘Classic’ view.
  • Wix Forum

  • Step 6: Publish your website and your forum is live.

As you see, the forum creation process is easy and quick. It doesn’t matter what web design experience you have – the tutorial will provide you with simple and understandable forum design tips.

If you choose a free Wix plan, you are able to create a website on Wix subdomain only (your site URL will look like user.wix[.]com/sitename). Plus your website will contain an ad-banner. I think, you’ll agree that such URL and ads looks unpleasant. No fix that you should subscribe to one of the paid plans that start from $8.50/mo.

Actually, a forum is a handy tool to come up to any personal or business tasks you have. If you are a company owner, forum connection will help you:

  • boost your website (and company) reputation;
  • drive the attention of users and potential business partners;
  • grow client base;
  • bring profit;
  • enhance customer trust;
  • add to the overall search engine ranking etc.

2: WordPress + bbPress – Free Online Forum Platform

Wordpress

WordPress – is a contemporary full-featured Content Management System, which has gained worldwide popularity due to its extensive integration options and professional design customization approach. The platform currently empowers millions of websites across the globe and it rightfully deserves to be considered the niche leader. To get the most out of using WordPress, you are expected to possess coding skills and you also need time to master the service.

When it comes to forum development with WordPress, bbPress is the most suitable option. phpBB – is the best free forum plugin, which was specially created by WordPress web design pros with user convenience in mind. The plugin makes it possible to integrate a full-featured discussion forum into the WordPress-powered website. The plugin is focused on flexibility, simplicity, speed, quality and deep WordPress integration. This eventually triggers worthy result you count on.

bbPress

WordPress + bbPress Advantages

  • Free Use. Both WordPress and bbPress are easy-to-use for everyone. The CMS does not require any fees to be downloaded, installed and explored. The same is about the plugin.
  • Simple Set Up. You don’t have to be a coding pro to connect and set up the plugin. The process is simple, quick and intuitive. So is further plugin moderation. If there is anything you don;t understand or if you have any doubts regarding the use of the plugin (or the CMS), extensive user community support is always at hand.
  • Complete Integration. The plugin is fully integrated into the CMS and you will get direct access to the central account as well as to the unified admin area to be able to adjust the required settings. Generally, bbPress plugin implies one-click installation, which is fast and simple. The system also offers detailed step-by-step instructions to guide you through the entire process with ease.

All in all, WordPress abounds in design customization and integration features that help you launch and successfully manage all kinds of forums, irrespective of their size, niche and complexity.

How to Build a Forum with WordPress

If you are right about to start a forum with WordPress, mind the following guidelines to help you get started with ease:

  • Step 1: Get web hosting. One of the most reasonable solutions is Bluehost as this is the top host, which is officially recommended by WordPress. Bluehost offers simple one-click installation, affordable pricing, fast page load speed, flexibility, security, intuitive control panel, availability of add-ons, anti-spam protection and lots of other advantages.
  • Step 2: Install WordPress. This is easy, quick and hassle-free. Bluehost comes with guidelines that helps facilitate the process of CMS installation.
  • Step 3: Create a website with the CMS and customize its design based on your niche requirements.
  • Step 4: Download bbPress plugin and integrate it into your website to launch the forum.
  • Step 5: Customize and set up the forum. Pick the required design, create categories, subcategories, branches and topics.
  • Step 6: Adjust SEO settings to make your forum accessible on the web. This can also be done by means of connecting SEO plugins. There are lots of them on the web and you just need to pick those that work best for your project.
  • Step 7: Publish the website to make your forum live and enjoy the result.

Building a forum with WordPress is not difficult at all, if you know how to approach the process with maximum efficacy. What you should be aware of is a bit of coding knowledge as well as the major actions needed to complete the task with little or no hassle at all. Mind the steps listed below not to overlook the major forum creation stages.

3: uCoz – Forum and Community Website Builder

uCoz

Creating a complex forum is no longer a difficult task. There are many DIY softwares out there that let you set up a decent forum overnight. One of these is uCoz website builder. uCoz is targeting both the end user and professionals, as it offers both DIY and advanced editing solutions.

Whether you are a proficient web developer with years of niche expertise or a beginner, who is willing to start a personal or a business forum, uCoz will help you succeed with that.

uCoz Advantages

  • Forum Module. The module is free and easy to connect to the existing website. It lets you build forums with any number of sections based on the functionality required. Each forum you create comes with a set of properties like state (active or closed), rules, icons, password settings, user management options etc. You can add and edit posts here, create buttons and icons, add any number of RSS feed entries and threads per page, upload multiple files at a time etc.
  • Advanced Security Level. The system ensures stunning protection of its servers from DDoS attacks, which boosts your forum safety level.
  • SSL Certificate Connection. You can connect a SSL Certificate to your domain name to enhance your website safety.
  • Opportunity to Connect a Forum to an Existing Website. The system allows launching a separate forum website by using the forum subdomain (like forum.site.com) irrespective of a website builder or CMS a website was built with. This is very convenient, if you need a forum and don’t wish to change the platform it was launched at.

Although uCoz isn’t a specialized forum website builder, it offers a very powerful Forum Module. It can be used separately and along with other Modules (Blog, Photo Albums, Online Games, Web Polls, Guestbook, FAQs and others). The good news is that you can use it free as long as you need. You can even add your own domain name without having to upgrade your account. So, it’s absolutely risk-free. Below is a brief step-by-step-guide on how to create a forum using uCoz:

Read my complete uCoz Review for more details.

How to Create a Free Forum With uCoz

Setting up a forum with uCoz is very easy, but we still like to give a good thorough step-by-step walk through:

  1. Register and confirm your registration. Registration is free and doesn’t require entering any billing info.
  2. Select a domain name. Here I must note that with uCoz you have three options: 1) use a subdomain (https://sitename.ucoz[.]com/); 2) attach a previously purchased domain; this option is available for free users, too; 3) purchase a new domain through https://domains.ucoz[.]com/.
  3. Create uCoz Forum

  4. Select a template. Again, you’ll have three options. Firstly, you can go with a standard template. Secondly, you can create your own design. Thirdly, you can opt for a paid one from the official store. I would recommend that you start off with one of the free, standard templates. You can switch it anytime. The most recent free templates are all responsive, and marked as Mobile-Friendly by Google for the mobile search results.
  5. List of Designs uCoz

  6. Enable Forum Module. There are 22 modules, including Mini Chat, Polls, Publisher, Blog, Site News, Tests, Ad Board, Forum and more. If you need to build a forum, it’s obvious that your core module will be Forum. However, nothing stops you from activating additional modules to extend your site’s functionality. Thus, you can add a blog, poll, ad board and even an Eshop to your forum if you so wish. The modules can be turned on and off any time.
  7. Forum Module Select

  8. Customize your forum, post content and go live. Now it’s time to customize your forum, specifically, you can:
    • choose icons for your forum;
    • set number of threads/posts per page;
    • set maximum message length;
    • set maximum uploaded file size and more.

Once you have finished adjusting the functionality, you can fine-tune your site’s look. To properly edit templates you must have a basic knowledge of CSS and HTML.

uCoz Forum View

The Forum module is closely connected with the Users module which is installed automatically for each website. Adjust its settings to control who can leave entries, moderate messages, upload files, create polls, remove threads etc.

Once you have published the website, you can continue using it free. Pay attention to the fact that all free accounts have to display ads. In order to get rid of the advert, upgrade your website. Ad-free uCoz websites start at $5.99/mo.

Building a forum with uCoz is more complicated than launching it with Wix. The platform requires a certain degree of coding skills, but this doesn’t mean that newbies cannot master it, if needed.

If you do everything right and invest a bit of your effort and time, the website builder will let you create full-featured forums for personal or business use. uCoz works well for launching niche forums (auto, music, female etc.), those of gaming communities and well as local neighbourhood or city forums.

4: Facebook Group – Yet Another Way to Get a Forum

Facebook Group

A Facebook Group can be considered a kind of the alternative to contemporary forums. This is a community made up of registered Facebook members, which are united by the same idea or share the same interests and objectives. One of the undeniable advantages of any Facebook group is that all the participants already have their accounts and most of them visit the social network on a regular basis. This means that regular group updates will clearly be displayed in the feed, thus increasing the visibility of all the news, events, posts and other things you publish in the group.

However, you should also know that the potential of any Facebook group is quite limited. And one of the reasons, again, is the need to sign up for the social network to view the updates. This definitely requires extra effort, desire and time. If a person does not have an account, it won’t be possible to join the group, watch/share the recently added posts, add/view comments etc.

Forum or Facebook Group: Pros and Cons

When it comes to creating a community website, a forum has always been the first thing that comes to mind. As time goes by, though, we start observing the increasing popularity of Facebook groups. Just like forums, they mostly unite people, who share the same interests and they are also centered around a certain idea. Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of forums and Facebook Groups.

Pros of Forums

  • Availability of multiple branches and threads for more extensive and detailed topic coverage;
  • Ease-of-search of the required information and previous discussions;
  • Advanced options like private messaging, status set up, text formatting and more;
  • Availability of member profiles with detailed user info;
  • Signatures under each post for flexible and smooth promotion purposes;
  • Automated access without the need to approve each member (some forums, though, may still have severe moderation);
  • Enhanced topics and posts categorization;
  • Unite users, who are genuinely interested in certain content.

Pros of Facebook Groups

  • Most users have existing (not fake) accounts, which increases the likelihood of genuine interest in group participation;
  • Users frequently visit their accounts and, thus, are more likely to visit a group and participate in discussions more often;
  • Quicker post responses;
  • Availability of Facebook apps for various devices;
  • Instant notifications about group updates

Now that you are aware of the advantages of forums and Facebook groups, it it high time to focus on their drawbacks.

Cons of Forums

  • Higher possibility of facing technical problems;
  • The necessity to encourage more users for better SEO results and active participation in topic discussions;
  • It is more difficult to start a forum and there are many technical nuances to think about here;
  • The need to undertake enhanced anti-spam measures as there are many users, who purposely create fake accounts for fraudulent actions.

Cons of Facebook Groups

  • Facebook now provides so much info that its updates may be easily lost among other news of the group. This is a disadvantage both for the group owners and its members;
  • The need to register and fill out a real personal profile;
  • Strict necessity to comply with Facebook policy and terms of use.

So, what’s better – a forum or a Facebook group? It’s up to you to decide that, of course, as it is you, who knows your real intentions and online community needs. Both options are popular and you can even use them at a time.

However, forums are still the leaders in this comparison. They are more convenient both for users and owners. They cover a broad spectrum of topics within the same field of interest. Forums have been around for a longer time than Facebook groups. Obviously, more people have got used to them and, thus, give preference to this option more often.

5: phpBB – Open-Source Forum Building Software

phpBB

phpBB – is, probably, the most widespread and popular forum building software, which is constantly developing to provide the best user experience. That’s the surefire reason to include it into the list of the best forum building tools. However, you should also keep in mind that the software is also the most complicated way to create a forum.

Open-source programs are not easy to master and use. They definitely require preliminary web design expertise and it takes much more time to get a decent result here. To start building a forum with the open-source software, you’ll need to choose the one first as well as to get a domain name and hosting.

If you are a web design pro or a coding enthusiast, you might like the idea to use open-source software as a forum building tool. However, this is not the best solution anyway as these programs are not quite secure from the point of view of website safety. They also require much time to be mastered well by newbies. If you have made up your mind to launch a forum (even a big one), using open-source software doesn’t make any sense.

phpBB Advantages

  • Popularity. The software is currently the most widespread forum building solution, which is used to let users join the community of co-thinkers. The platform requires specific skills and web design knowledge to be used to the advantage.
  • Rich Database of Extensions. The system offers an extensive database of extensions and styles that were specially created by users for better forum building experience. The databases encompass a variety of image and style packages needed to quickly create and customize your forum.
  • Cost. phpBB is an absolutely free software you can test and then use at no cost at all. If there is anything you don’t understand about the platform, there is an informative Community Forum, where all the members (both users and staff) are ready to assist you with all kinds of system-related issues.

How to Create a Free Forum With phpBB

  • Step 1: Get web hosting. phpBB officially recommends using Bluehost as one of the most trusted and professional hosts available in the contemporary niche.
  • Step 2: Download and Install the software. If you have enough FTP knowledge to cope with phpBB installation on your own, start with decompressing the phpBB archive to a local directory in your system. Then upload all the files from the archive to the web directory on your server/hosting, change the required permissions, direct your browser to the location with the phpBB3 files, adding install/app.php or simply install/ and finally complete the installation process. To do that, you should fill out all the information the system requests. Do not forget to check the way the software works after the installation.
  • Step 3: Register with the system and log into your newly-created account as an administrator. Access the Administration Control Paneland then click the “Forums” category you will see there.
  • Step 4: Provide the name of your new forum in the text field and then click the “Create New Forum” button.
  • Step 5: Configure the settings available in the corresponding fields of your new forum, namely its name, type etc.
  • Step 6: Click the “Submit”button you will see at the bottom of the page after you are done with settings configurations.
  • Step 7: Modify new forum permissions with regard to your needs to define the list of users, who will have access to it.
  • Step 8: Visit the index page to confirm your new forum creation.

As seen from the list of steps provided above, the process of building a forum with phpBB is not that simple as compared to other options. It definitely takes time, effort and knowledge to get used to the system and start a forum with it

How to Create a Successful Forum

To make your forum website a success, you should initially understand that users, who join online communities, have versatile interests and goals. This is a widespread misconception that only music enthusiasts or people, who have hobbies, join online communities to find their co-thinkers there. That’s not true. Interests differ and so do forums.

Whatever business you run, there will always be users willing to become forum members at your website to stay informed about current news and updates. A forum is a perfect place for finding answers to lots of burning questions and staying in touch with like-minded people through the open-channel 24/7 communication. These are the must-have points your forum should include to become a success:

  • Custom Logo. Having launched a forum and made sure it works well, you should obligatory add your company logo to it. If you plan to use a forum for your individual purposes, think about creating your own logo and incorporate it to the forum. This will reveal the professionalism and credibility of your online community, contributing to its reputation.
  • Additions. The prevailing amount of forums come with standard functions and features, so, the best way to give your forum personalized look is to make the additions. By adding such hacks as a journal or a store, for example, you encourage users to come back to the website again and again to enjoy these options.
  • Unique Styles. Default forum styles may look quite boring as opposed to unique ones. Don’t overlook a possibility to create a forum style of your own. If you can’t, make use of the integrated style management feature to do that. This may take some time, but the result will be surely worth that.
  • Unusual Offers. Keeping the existing members interested in visiting your forum is much more difficult than attracting them for the first time. With this purpose, it makes sense to organize contests and make up unusual offers that will encourage users to visit your forum. Such contests may be organized every month, for example, and you can even award the winners with encouraging prizes. This is one of the tricks that really work.
  • Rules. There are no forums without rules and yours should not be an exception as well. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the list of rules should be too long. Instead, it should contain the most essential points each forum member should be aware of. The set of rules reveals your professional approach to business in general. Rules may differ with regard to the specialization of your forum, so, take your time to think about them in advance.
  • Watch Out for Malignant Members. Running a forum is frequently even more complicated than launching it. This is because you have to watch out for different kinds of online frauds and malignant members, who visit your forum to gain their own purposes. If you fail to detect such elements at once, your forum reputation may be at risk. So, take active part in all forum discussions to identify the spammers and the trolls the sooner-the better and to stay aware of your forum content.

Top 5 Things That Will Make Your Forum Popular

There is no single set of success recommendations and tips for all the forums. Online communities differ from each other, which triggers the necessity to incorporate versatile features. However, you can still make use of the most widespread instructions that will help make your forum popular. Here are some of them:

  1. Content. Your forum is all about the content it involves. “Users may visit it once or twice just for the interest, but if they don’t find something they really need there, they will hardly come back again. With so many forums available out there nowadays, finding the most suitable one is no longer a problem and your number one task tis to add only relevant and unique content that will differ from that posted by your competitors.
  2. Members. Success and popularity of most forums depend a lot upon their members. I mean, on those of them, who actively participate in forum discussions and add content that might be interesting and useful for other members. This is the essence and the basics of any successful online community. When your forum is still new, it will hardly have many members at once. That’s obvious. You can go two ways here. You can encourage your friends to post actively in it or hire someone that will do that until a forum gains popularity. There is nothing more effective than real people posting real threads in forum discussions on a regular basis.
  3. Create a Forum Video Guide. Modern forums often come with advanced features that may seem too complicated for the online community members. Search and messaging options, notifications, posting, signatures, private communication… These is the incomplete list of what members may face at your forum. Creating a forum video guide is the best way to provide your forum members with information they currently need.
  4. Participate in Forum Discussions Yourself. There is nothing more encouraging for the forum members than staying in touch with its owner. The best way to do that is to participate in everyday forum discussions on your own or even make online forum video calls and conferences. If possible, don’t overlook an opportunity to organize real meetings with your forum members from time to time. Nothing can be more efficient for users than real-time conversations with the owner, who is sincerely interested in the development of the online community.
  5. Offer Your Regular Visitors Special Ranks. As time goes by, there will be users, who will remain enthusiastic about your forum and will become its regular visitors. They will participate in everyday discussions, thus initiating forum communication and keeping it alive. If there are such members at your forum already, it definitely makes sense to offer them special ranks to encourage active forum participation in future. This is how you can reward their dedication and recognize them within the entire online community.

Conclusion

Forum development is a time-taking, challenging and quite complicated process that requires specific skills, knowledge and budget/effort investment. The complexity of the forum creation process will depend upon the goals you set, objectives you wish to avail, your skills and degree of web design awareness as well as specific project nuances. The choice of the forum building software also matters a lot.

WixWix is the all-in-one website builder, which makes it possible to launch forums by means of integrating a customizable forum widget. The platform provides an extensive selection of web design tools and grants access to forum management options that let you launch a professional full-featured forum. No coding or web design skills are needed to do that. Wix.com


WordPressWordPress – is a contemporary CMS, which has gained worldwide popularity due to its integration options and powerful customization tools. To start a forum with WordPress, you’ll have to connect the bbPress plugin. This is a forum software that lets you effectively start and manage all kinds of feature-laden online communities. WordPress.org


uCozuCoz – is a popular DIY website builder that delivers exceptions forum building experience via forum module integration. There are multiple tools to choose from to customize the project and give it the required look. uCoz.com


Facebook GroupFacebook Group – is a group launched in the Facebook social network that united people, who share the same ideas, thoughts, interests and wish to discuss the topics, communicated with co-thinkers and just stay aware of the recent niche updates. Such groups are available only to those users, who have Facebook accounts and adopt the decision to join them. Facebook Group


phpBBphpBB – is the most popular open-source forum building software, which is quite difficult to master and use. The software is absolutely free, but it takes time and skills to start and then manage forums with it. phpBB.com


Thus, if you are a newbie, then it definitely makes sense to use Wix as this is currently the simplest and the most full-featured website builder, which comes with powerful forum building tools. The system is so easy-to-use for everyone that you don’t have to possess coding or web design skills to get used to it. It’s up to you to pick the required plan based on the functionality of your future forum as well as on the goals you set in advance.

Are you an advanced user, who has the intention to launch and manage a feature-laden forum for the extensive user community? Then using WordPress, uCoz or phpBB will be a smart idea. It’s up to you to choose the option that will work best for your project. However, if you don’t plan to create and then update more than 1-2 topics for discussion, creating a Facebook group may also be a nice way out for you and your online community members.

Anyway, forums are still part of the social media sphere and should be used as a way to create strong communities and bringing existing communities together. Despite constantly growing social networks, forums aren’t just a spare tyre. It seems every site builder has a forum. Forums aren’t dead.

Howard

About the Author

I'm Howard Steele, the founder and editor-in-chief of this website. With over 10 years of web building I know how complicated and tiresome this task can be for a non-IT person. Can’t decide which service to choose? Feel free to ask me for advice. Just describe your website needs, and I’ll gladly help you.

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