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.
Best Services To Create a Forum Website:
Wix – The Best Free Forum Website Builder
Wix – is the best forum builder, which has won user attention due to its powerful integrated functionality, abundance of mobile-ready templates, intuitive web design approach and versatility of design customization tools. The DIY platform makes it possible to create a quality forum by integrating a special app.
Wix Forum is a free widget available in the Wix App market, which allows creating an online community around a website and provides an extensive range of features. The app ensures ease of installation and use, commenting possibility, post adding, scheduling and customization, photo and video integration, multilanguage support and other features. Wix additionally grants access to third-party extensions available in its App Market you can further integrate into your forum. The most popular of them include ChatRoom, Comments, LiveChat, Smart Chat, Form Builder, ShoutOut Mailout and more.
How to Build a Forum with Wix
Starting a forum with Wix won’t take much effort and time as the process is almost automated and quite intuitive. Here are the major steps to complete the procedure with maximum efficacy and no code editing at all:
- Step 1: Register with Wix and create a website.
- Step 2: Reach the App Market and find a forum widget there. It should be available in the Social App Section (it’s free).
- Step 3: The system will offer a default forum template you can customize as you like. The theme already comes with a pre-designed block category structure and logo pictures that give it a modern and appealing look.
- Step 4: Set up your forum. Wix has a lot of forum settings but they’re compactly packed into 6 menu options. It’s up to you to customize forum categories, layout, design and display.
- Step 5: Select a forum posts view. You can choose between ‘Cards’ view or ‘Classic’ view.
- Step 6: Publish your website to make your online community accessible by the target audience.
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. This won’t work well for a quality and trusted forum website. A far better solution is to subscribe to one of wix premium subscriptions. The website builder currently has two groups of them – Standard and Business/eCommerce. The cost of paid plans starts at $13/mo.
WordPress + bbPress – Free Online Forum Platform
WordPress – is a powerful contemporary free CMS, which allows starting a forum via bbPress plugin integration. To get the most out of using WordPress, however, you are expected to possess coding skills and you also need time to master the service.
When it comes to phpBB integration, you should know that this 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.
What’s important, 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.
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: Before you actually decide to install the plugin, you’ll have to take care of hosting. This is where Bluehost will be the best solution as the top system officially recommended by WordPress. Bluehost offers simple one-click installation, fast page load speed, flexibility, security, intuitive control panel, affordable pricing, availability of add-ons, anti-spam protection and lots of other advantages.
- Step 2: Download and install WordPress. The process won’t take much effort and time mainly because Bluehost comes with guidelines that help facilitate the process of CMS installation.
- Step 3: Create a website with WordPress and customize its design with regard to the available toosel, plugins and your own requirements.
- Step 4: Download bbPress plugin and integrate it into your website to launch the forum. Plugin integration takes a few minutes only and can be completed with one click and no special coding skills required.
- Step 5: Set up and customize the forum. Choose the design, create and manage 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 WordPress SEO plugins. There are lots of them out there. Just pick those that work best for your project.
- Step 7: Publish the website to make your forum live.
WordPress is a free CMS you can download and install at no cost at all. The same is about the bbPress plugin. If you still need to get access to other plugins, you can find them online. These extensions can be both free and paid. So, the financial cost of your project will depend upon the number and price of add-ons chosen. As mentioned above, you will also have to invest into hosting and domain name. In case you decide to go for Bluehost, you won’t have to spend a budget as the cheapest subscription costs $2.95/mo only.
uCoz – Forum and Community Website Builder
uCoz – is a forum and community website builder, which is one of the oldest web design platforms in the modern niche. The system allows starting a forum with no special programming awareness or preliminary background. uCoz targets both the end user and professionals, as it offers both DIY and advanced editing solutions.
The website builder is module-based, which lets you give the required functionality to your website by means of module integration. This also concerns the forum module, which 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 with the platform 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.
How to Create a Free Forum With uCoz
Setting up a forum with uCoz is quote easy, yet follow this thorough step-by-step walk through to make it a success:
- Step 1: Register with the system. The sign up process is free, simple and quick. Actually, there are three options to choose from here. You can fill out the registration form, providing your login and password credentials, sign up via social media accounts or use your uID account, if you have the one. To proceed to forum creation, don’t forget to confirm the registration. The entire procedure is free and it doesn’t require any billing info.
- Step 2: Choose a domain name. uCoz offers three options here as well. You can use the system subdomain (https://sitename.ucoz[.]com/), connect a previously purchased domain or purchase a new domain at ttps://domains.ucoz[.]com/.
- Step 3: Pick 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 theme available in 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.
- Step 4: Enable Forum Module. Access the module section to pick and integrate a Forum Module. Likewise, 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.
- Step 5: Customize your forum. With this purpose, you can select forum icons, set maximum message length and file size you can upload as well as the number of posts/threads per page. 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.
- Step 6: Add Posts. It’s high time now to add and manage posts to your forum threads. Have you done that? Then you are ready to go live with the project.
Once you have published the website, you can continue using it for 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, although, the cheapest subscription costs $2.99/mo.
Facebook Group – Yet Another Way to Get a Forum
A Facebook Group – is an alternative solution for forum development. This is a community made up of registered Facebook members, who 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;
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.
phpBB – Open-Source Forum Building Software
phpBB – is an open-source forum building software, which is, probably, one of the most widespread and popular forum development tools. At the same time, the platform is also one of the most complicated solutions as open-source programs are not quite easy to master and use for ordinary users. Their application definitely requires preliminary web design expertise and it takes much more time to get a quality result here.
The software 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.
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 modern niche.
- Step 2: Download and Install the software. If you have enough FTP knowledge to cope with phpBB installation independently, 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, adjust 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 requires. Do not forget to check the way the software works after the installation.
- Step 3: Sign up for the program and log into your account as an administrator. Access the Administration Control Panel and then click the “Forums” category available there.
- Step 4: Enter 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: Update 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.
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 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:
- Content. Your forum is all about the content it involves. “Users may visit it once or twice just for their 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 is to add only relevant and unique content that will differ from that posted by your competitors.
- 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.
- 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… This 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The Bottom Line
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.
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 bring 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.