Last updated May. 11, 2023 by Favour Chinaza
17 Best Online Forum Platforms (Build Your Own Community)
Forums, message boards, and online communities have all become crucial components of the internet. But how do you choose the best online forum to build your own community?
Online community forums serve as meeting places where people may connect, share information, and offer assistance while overcoming physical limitations such as geographical distance.
In the more than 40 years that the internet has been around, online forum platforms have not lost their value.
Even though social media has grown a lot in the past ten years, it has stayed a safe place for people who want to connect with like-minded people more globally and anonymously.
When more work, conversation, and socializing are done online, this sense of connection is more important than ever.
Creating a forum website is a great way to engage with your target audience and nurture communication with different communities.
An online forum usually focuses on a specific subject, from technology and politics to hobbies and recent trends.
Many business owners use forum platforms to market their products and services to a broader audience.
Online communities are great for businesses because they let customers talk to each other in a smaller groups than they could on social media.
This makes customers more interested in and loyal to the brand.
Businesses are building forums more and more often these days because online communities have proven to be a very valuable asset.
Up to 25% more money can be made by getting more community involvement.
Good Read: 7+ Best Help Desk Software Platforms
How Can You Create A Forum?
But how do you start an online forum? That’s where chat software comes in.
Chat software can be especially helpful because it lets your customers talk to each other in a bigger group than they could on social networks.
For example, one of your customers has a problem with your product or service and posts about it on their site.
This post is much easier to find on your company’s site than on Twitter or Facebook, where millions of people talk about a million different things.
Even better is if another group user has already dealt with the same problem and can answer the question before your service reps see it.
What is an Online Discussion Forum?
An online discussion forum is basically an internet chat room where people can talk to each other. In this case, those people are your customers.
They are different from chat rooms because everyone can see the whole exchange. In chat rooms, only two people can see what is being said.
This lets people come and go as they please, ask questions of the larger community, and ask other customers for advice about the goods.
Also, buyers don’t want to feel like they’re the only ones who use a product. The discussion area makes them feel like they belong.
In fact, reviews from other users give them the confidence to buy other goods the sellers make.
Online discussion forums keep customers coming back to websites for a long time.
Why Consider a Forum Platform for Your Website or Business?
Engaging with clients online is essential for your e-commerce company. Companies, regardless of size, may interact and communicate with their customers’ thanks to social media.
However, social media sites can be noisy and distracting areas where you must compete for your client’s attention.
Customer engagement is as critical as customer service. Develop trust and long-term partnerships.
This should not be confused with the relevance of social media channels.
Social networking is a terrific way to communicate with your customers, and you should also utilize it as well.
While users can tweet, pin, or tag brands to their hearts’ content, engaging with your customers through a forum allows for a deeper and more interactive conversation.
A forum can be used to build relationships, learn more about the consumer mindset, and meet those needs.
What are the Best Community and Forum Software?
Just like customer relationship management software, forums can be used to bring your audience together and connect them or as a source of feedback and support among users.
Whatever purpose you intend for these platforms, one of the most rewarding outcomes is a strengthened sense of connection between users and your product or service.
1. phpBB – Best For Multiple free Extensions
phpBB has been in this industry for a very long time and has the most experience when it comes to community forums.
This popular forum builder is an open-source project based on PHP. It allows users to create forums with many customization options and an extensive administrational panel.
The platform comes with an intuitive interface coupled with robust documentation and an administration panel, all of which have been simplified for even non-techy users to use with ease.
Also, you get all essential basic features such as multi-language support, security, notifications, and user moderation.
phpBB’s shining point is its message board which allows users to post as public or private as much as they want.
You can also create as many message boards as you want without incurring any further charges.
This platform gives you control of forum rules and how they are enforced, the option to view active topics at the top of your forum, the ability to add password protection to your community forums, etc.
Also, you can add more options and functionalities to your forum community by using various plugins and extensions—both free and paid options are available.
- There is a very responsive design and user-friendly design
- The forum has cross-browser compatibility across many browsers
- It has an extensive management panel
- There are Integrated SEO tools that make it easy for users
- It has strong messaging capabilities that do not easily lag
- There is detailed documentation of activities
- It has Video tutorialfor behinners
- It has an excellent collection of plugins
- There is private messaging
- Presence of anti-spam measures
- There are many customization options for administrators and users
- It has free forum software
- It has poor SEO features
- It has obsolete Themes
2. Wix – (Best For Guest, Members, and Owner Profile Features)
Wix Forum is a forum platform designed for non-technical users with no prior coding skills.
The program allows you to build extraordinary communities from the ground up or from one of their pre-made templates. Furthermore, these templates can be readily customized using their drag-and-drop editor.
Wix Forum supports social networking and third-party integrations for enhanced functionality and a better user experience.
This software focuses on member interaction and developing meaningful relationships in the community forum.
Each user has a personal profile page, similar to other social media sites, where they can see and follow other people’s posts.
Wix Forum allows customers who want their forum to be a part of their website to merge the two effortlessly. Begin using Wix forums for free.
- Built-in advanced SEO tools
- Customizable interface
- Social features
- Mobile-friendly platform
- Members and profile pages
- Reliable and secure web hosting
- The Wix site is scalable
- Mobile Friendly
- Another benefit of using Wix for forum sites is that it is affordable.
- Wix is Flexible
- Easy to Use
- Dependence on the Wix platform
- Wix community forum may not be the best choice for large or rapidly growing communities
- Wix community forum may not have all the features and functionality that some forum owners require
- No native mobile app
- Limited customization options
- Combo: $16/month
- Unlimited: $22/month
- Pro: $27/month
- VIP: $45/month
3. bbPress – Best For Open Source Creation)
An interesting fact to know about bbPress is that Automatic created it. The same group currently runs WordPress.org and .com, which is why it’s the most recommended community forum plugin.
The plugin is an open-source forum plugin that gives users the ability to create a community for their website.
When Automatic was developing bbPress, they emphasized the ease of installation, speed, and meeting up with the latest web standard.
Although bbPress is a great tool for creating community forums with just a few clicks, it’s only ideal for small and medium-sized communities. For large communities? Not really.
- Seamless integration with WordPress websites.
- Lightweight and fast.
- Easy to set up and use.
- Provides built-in spam protection.
- Offers a range of plugins and themes to customize the forum.
- Easy moderation tools for managing forum content.
- Limited features compared to other forum software.
- No built-in monetization options.
- The plugin requires basic knowledge of WordPress and its ecosystem.
- Limited support options compared to the premium forum software.
- Limited user management features.
- Not suitable for large, complex forums.
- Starts at $99 per year (plus development and hosting costs)
4. HubSpot Community—Better Suited for Startups
HubSpot is a CRM platform that offers a complete stack of marketing, sales, and customer service software to help you grow your business.
In addition to hosting your website on the platform, you can set up forums to build a stronger online community. You can easily set up a forum on your hosted website or blog.
- It provides a Comprehensive Free Plan with numerous features you can use.
- Hubsport’s Flexible Pricing allows you to acquire it without breaking the bank.
- According to most users, the CRM discussion forum is simple to use.
- It is also simple to construct and requires fewer tutorials.
- The platform’s Customer Support is really swift, responsive, and smooth.
- Complicated Pricing Tiers
- No Customer Support on Free Plan
- HubSpot CRM pricing ranges from $45/month if billed annually plan to about $4,200/month when billed annually.
- It’s the best CRM software and is suitable for most businesses.
5. WordPress – Best for Numerous Paid and Free plugins)
WordPress is a popular content management system (CMS). Many developers have created community forum plugins for WordPress that allow you to create a fully functional forum in just a few clicks.
WordPress’s online community and forum tools are in the form of different plugins which you can integrate into the CMS to create and run a forum alongside your website.
There are tons of community and forum plugins on WordPress. Some are paid, others free, and while you only get basic functions with some, you can get more advanced functionalities with others.
wpForo Forum and bbPress are two of the greatest solutions for creating a forum with WordPress. All of these plugins include all of the essential online forum functionality.
Using a multi-purpose platform to power your online community may appear to be unproductive.
However, if you want to set up a regular website and a forum side by side, a CMS like WordPress is one of the best options.
- Allows you to set up both conventional websites and online discussion sites by giving you access to the web’s greatest library of themes and plugins.
- A large range of forum plugins is available for a more customized experience.
- Because WordPress is not a standard forum-building software, getting one up and running requires some technical knowledge.
If you already use WordPress, using the platform to create your own forum makes sense.
Furthermore, knowing how to use WordPress can lead to numerous opportunities in the future.
6. Joomla! – (Best for Increased Project Controls)
Joomla!, like WordPress, is an amazing CMS platform that allows users to construct and manage a community forum alongside their website.
However, unlike WordPress, Joomla! requires more management and attention to detail.
To make a forum with Joomla!, you’ll need plugins like EasyDiscuss or Kunena, which were designed exclusively for Joomla! platform.
The forum software is included in the bundles when you pay for their open-source management system.
With forum software, you can create powerful responsive website communities.
- Thousands of third-party extensions
- Free and paid templates
- Custom layouts
- SEO tools
- Open source
- Access control levels
- Provides additional control over your website right out of the box, especially when used in conjunction with Joomla web hosting.
- Allows you to select from various plugins when setting up your online forum.
- It has great built-in security and SEO capabilities.
Getting started with Joomla! is a little more difficult than with the other systems on this list.
When compared to WordPress, your options for forum plugins are more limited.
7. Discourse – (Best For Seamless Third-party Integrations)
Another open-source forum software we’ll be discussing in the review is Discourse.
The software can be easily installed or integrated into your existing website and CMS without disrupting any pre-existing installations.
Discourse offers a modern approach to creating community forums. The software comes with a more sophisticated look that is a step ahead of the traditional forum structure.
Also, there’re tons of integrations and features available on the platform. For example, all forums created using Discourse have been optimized for mobile devices.
In addition to mobile optimization, community members can use emojis, receive badge awards and dynamic notifications, etc.
Also, the software has a built-in moderation system created as a form of security for your community against abuse and spam.
Another innovative feature that Discourse possesses is a unique user ranking system that awards active members with some level of moderation roles.
This feature encourages a self-moderated community, and users are actively promoting user engagement.
- Performance analytical tools
- Rich messaging tools
- Business plugins
- Social media integrations
- Advanced moderation settings
- Mobile device optimization
- Discourse has a well-designed admin panel for users
- It has excellent spam management
- It has an automatic backup of dataCDN support is present
- Discourse has a good multimedia support
- The forum platform has good SEO features
- There is the presence of a built-in translator
- Discourse forum has free open-source forum software for moderators
- The discourse forum’s mailing list mode UI needs improvement
- They are known for the mismanagement of brands
- Standard Plan: Starts at $100/month (plus the cost of accommodation). FREE 14-day trial
- Business Plan: Starts at $300/month (plus the cost of accommodation). FREE 14-day trial
- Enterprise Plans: Contact Discourse here for pricing
- FREE Plan/14-day trial: (This is what you get with the free plan)
- 3M+ monthly page views, 200GB+ storage,
- Mobile app,
- Unlimited member,
- Priority support,
- Enterprise authentication,
- Enterprise plugins,
- Custom migration,
- 1.5M+ monthly emails, SSL,
- Global CDN and Unlimited staff users.
8. Vanilla Forums – (Best For Many Free Add-Ons and Paid Extensions)
Vanilla Forums has many powerful features, including an intuitive panel where you can control the operations of your community, manage users, and view members’ statistics.
You can also access a powerful editor that supports Markdown, BBCode, and HTML.
The platform gives you full control over setting members’ permissions and community regulations.
You can also create, view, and submit voting polls to get innovative suggestions from your members.
The question-and-answer features help you connect with your members better and keep your community lively.
Among the list of features that Vanilla has to offer, the most important ones include gamification practices, automatic content curation, and a wide range of marketing integrations.
You can say Vanilla is trying to achieve more than support for online communities but a means of effectively increasing user engagement. As a result, there is a free version of the software and a premium one.
Vanilla allows you to provide community support to your members with their help desk feature.
You can even create a ticketing system where members can submit their complaints.
You also have access to their extensive knowledge base, where users can learn anything related to community forums. Talk to sales now to get a quote on all their plans
- It has an autosave function
- There is a wide range of plugins and themes
- Vanilla allows data sharing and social integration
- It has a friendly interface for mobile devices
- It is a quick, simple, and easy-to-use setup process
- Social integration
- Functional admin control panel
- Intuitive user interface
- Free, open-source script
- Basic plugins and themes on offer
- There is no way to know the price of the premium plan without contacting the CC
- Limited themes and plugins
- $689 – $10,000/month for businesses for different plans
vBulletin is well-known forum software that has powered over 100,000 websites and forum communities, including big names like EA Sports, Sony Pictures, NASA, etc.
The company has been in business for over two decades now and has been praised as one of the best premium forum software multiple times.
It combines responsive web design, built-in SEO capabilities, power management, security, AI-powered engagement feature, and more impressive lists of features into one giant forum solution.
With vBulletin, you can have an unlimited hierarchy of forums and private forums.
Also, the forum software comes with a lot of interesting and special features such as members’ birthdays (displayed on the Forum home page, a friends list, the ability to view who’s online, private messaging, etc.
vBulletin may not be the fastest forum out there, but it has a clean design and interface and provides quality support services for its many users.
The platform was created so that everybody can use the software, no matter the level of technical knowledge.
vBulleting offers two types of hosting:
- Cloud hosting (vBulletin Cloud, for non-techy users) and
- Proprietary hosting (vBulletin 5 Connect, for professionals).
Both are easy to set up and contain the same features. Learn more
- Task scheduler
- Integrated SEO tools
- Powerful multimedia capabilities
- Highly customizable themes
- Mobile device optimization
- It has a nice collection of themes and plugins
- It has an excellent admin panel
- There is a streamlined and responsive mobile design
- It has good spam prevention
- has good SEO features
- There is a feature called the integrated vB Messenger chat app
- It has an intuitive user interface
- It has expensive add-ons
- The forum’s future updates are not free
- The pricing is too expensive.
- vBulletin 5 Connect $249, vBulletin Cloud $15/month ad $175 yearly
- vBulletin 5 Connect + Mobile Suite Bundle is $399.00 yearly for the new version and $359 for the upgrade version
Invision Community, originally known as IPBoard, is highly recommended by many as one of the best forum software for enterprises.
You may establish generic or branded communities and discussion boards for fans, customers, or workers with Invision. In addition, Invision is an excellent choice for establishing internal forums for employees due to its flexibility.
The platform did an excellent job in bringing rich content creation tools, a comprehensive admin panel, and a fully customizable interface fusing them into one software with easy setup and management features.
The software gives users complete control over their forum, and you can customize everything, including your members’ activity feed.
Members on your forum also enjoy a little bit of flexibility when interacting within your community. They can create and manage private forums, calendars, galleries, and clubs and even get appointed a forum manager.
Invision takes a step above other forum platforms with its multi-purpose feature, which supports ticket systems, content management systems, e-commerce sites, blogs, and file-sharing networks.
- Invision forum has comprehensive content applications
- There are advanced security settings
- It has powerful trading tools
- Access to Premium club memberships
- There is achievement rewards to encourage users
- Easily engage users with attractive features
- Great user interface
- Engage your social media following with attractive forum posts
- Lack of SEO features
- It needs more gamification options
- Price can spike with increasing forum data needs
Pricing varies based on forum size/data needs but costs $45/month for 65 online visitors.
Codoforum is a new entry into the pool of community forum software. This software is built with PHP using the latest coding models and complies with the new PSR standards.
Besides the clean user interface and modern design, Codoforum is well-optimized for mobile devices and desktop view, provides notifications for users, tons of integration, and SSO.
Since it’s relatively new and free to use, Codoforum is not yet up to par with most of the great forum software, but it can be a great choice to test forums if you are not yet sure about whether you need a community for your website.
- Daily and weekly digest (send the recent updates to your users via email)
- Fresh, minimalistic user interface
- Support for all mobile devices
- WYSIWYG editor
- Support for existing website integration
- User mentions and tagging
- Notifications and subscriptions
- Provides in-depth official documentation
- Its tagging system allows users to separate topics into multiple categories
- Enables users to set notification levels from replies to mentions
- You need to get a paid plan to access security patches and upgrades
- The free version includes a “Powered by” watermark
Another impressive open-source forum software that caught my attention during the research for the review is MyBB.
This software is widely used by many and has powered thousands of online communities and forums.
MyBB offers its users tons of plugins and customizable themes.
The platform is a “community” of its own, and many users have contributed towards upgrading the software, including translations available for the content of the software.
Presently, there are over 30 languages available on the platform, making it ideal for users who want to create a global community.
Taking a cue from its name, MyBB allows users to personalize the forum created using the platform.
The software’s interface, templates, and themes are fully customizable using the platform’s built-in editor tool. In addition, community members also get some customization capabilities, like adjusting the way they view discussions.
In addition to the basic features you get, you can add more options and functionalities by using plugins available on the platform, such as gamification features, CDN capabilities, bulk email support, anti-spam tools, etc.
Although the number of extensions supported by the platform is low compared to the most forum software, it’s definitely among the strongest contenders in the race for the best of the best in the field of online community and forum software.
- Database management integration
- Multi-language support
- Complete design customization
- A broad range of plugins
- Email blasts
- The forum platform is compatible with Nginx and Apache servers
- It has a built-in translator
- It has a feature called MyBB merge system for easier migration
- There is a huge selection of plugins
- Access to an excellent and beautiful collection of themes
- It has a well-designed admin interface
- The forum’s spam filtering system needs improvement
inSided is a comprehensive community platform for community and client success professionals seeking to increase client success.
InSided platform combines excellent application support with an extensive knowledge base on a community platform.
They help users increase their forum participation, improve promotion, and allow you to collect effective customer feedback.
One of the areas that inSided excels above most other forum platforms is its seamless integrations with third-party software like Mixpanel, Salesforce, Gainsight, Zendesk, etc.
This allows you to have access to all your technology stacks on one platform.
At inSided, they believe the community should be at the center of every customer service and success strategy.
That’s why they offer a customizable community platform that matches the look of your brand to integrate into your Customer Success technology stack seamlessly.
inSided will provide you with a solid experience in customer and community success, strategy and consultation, integration, and automatic feature updates without the need for development resources. Start exploring inSided now
- Great flexibility thanks to many features
- Easy to use even without previous experience
- New features are regularly released
- Price slightly above the industry average
- Lack of customization options
- Reporting and analytics are not in-depth as in some other solutions
Pricing and Plans
- inSided price is available only at request.
Flarum was developed by the same team of developers that created FluxBB and esoTalk (two of the fastest forum platforms in the world), which is why it’s not a surprise that the platform comes with lots of impressive features and boasts tons of positive performance reviews.
The platform is still in its beta version and has an easy-to-navigate, optimized design layout. In addition, it is fast, responsive, offers swipe functions, and smooth animations for desktop and mobile devices.
Even though Flarum is a recently developed software and still in its beta form, it’s a very popular and widely used platform and is even considered one of the best forum software.
And this is because the software was created to be simple, modern, and fast—the three components most powerful forum software strive to achieve.
However, Flarum’s shining point is its two-panel interface feature which gives users a flexible environment where community members can easily interact and participate in different discussions and topics without having to open too many tabs.
Flarum offers features that include user mentions, notifications organized into discussions, live chat, and a floating message composer.
- Easy forum setup
- User-friendly design tools
- Two-pane interface
- Advanced permission setting
- Comprehensive APIs
- Allows users to enable an interactive live chat feature by integrating with Pusher.
- Because the majority of the features are accessible via extensions, users can easily enable or disable them based on their requirements.
- Composer requires an Apache or Nginx web server, PHP 7.3+, MySQL 5.6+, and SSH access to run.
Although Flarum is still in beta testing, it already includes features common in other well-known forum software solutions.
Its various extensions collaborate with a wide range of communities.
Furthermore, the straightforward interface is appropriate for beginners.
15. Simple Machines Forum
As it’s popularly known in short, SMF is a powerful open-source forum solution created specifically for users who need to create and manage a large community forum.
With a simple and intuitive interface design, this platform offers you a more professional and less-flashy look for your online community—the best for growing customer engagement.
You get tons of powerful features alongside the ability to extend functionalities with customizable extensions and plugins.
This offers users a more optimal performance and scalability. In addition, Due to its structured code documentation, SMF priced itself as having one of the most flexible systems and modules.
Their advanced package manager tool helps users create and effect large-scale modifications to their community without having to spend hours trying to edit endless lines of code—a huge plus for the less-techy users.
All you need is a few clicks, and it’s done. It’s as simple as that. Sign up for free.
- Easy customizations thanks to a new template system
- Advanced user management and permissions
- SEO ready
- Easy-to-use package manager
- Reporting and analytics
- Member tracking and tracing
- Streamlined forum management
- It has an excellent and responsive community support
- Access to User statistics
- There are anti-spam, IP address blocking, and CAPTCHA security features
- It has a functional ACL
- There is a good and wide range of cool templates to select from
- There is an Excellent plugin system
- The forum has Average SEO characteristics that need improvement
16. XenForo Forum
XenForo offers a self-hosted forum solution better suited for brands and businesses.
The platform interface comes with elegant themes, all of which you can customize to match your brand’s look and feel.
Customization capabilities include implementing your brand colors, creating your typeface style, and changing the forum layout—all of which you can do without having prior coding knowledge.
XenForo offers a lot when it comes to extending the software’s capabilities and features, with over 2,000 plugins available for users looking to add more features to their accounts.
What makes XenForo stand out among other forum software is the use of gamification to promote user engagement. This includes recognition tools, activity milestones, reward schemes, and social media sharing.
Other premium services that XenForo offers alongside its forum service include advanced resource management, improved SEO tools, and a media gallery.
- It has a wide range of accessories
- Presence of customizable templates
- XenForo has robust content tools
- There are user participation rewards
- It has a built-in SEO
- Completely SEO-optimized online forum
- Easy-to-use forum moderation tools
- XenForo mobile app
- The on-premise installation has to be performed by experienced staff
- Requires several PHP extensions and the current version of PHP and MySQL
- Removing the XenForo copyright notice costs $300 extra
- $160/year, which includes support and updates for 12 months.
- You can purchase an additional 12 months extension at the price of $55.
- You can purchase Xenforo Enhanced SearcH, Media Gallery, Installation service, Resource Manager, and Branding Removal at different prices here.
FluxBB is well-known for its simplicity. You only get the essential forum features you need to create and run your online community successfully—you don’t get overwhelmed with unnecessary features.
This software is praised for being a high-quality lightweight alternative to many advanced forum software features.
Being lightweight doesn’t mean FluxBB is lacking in features. On the contrary, the software contains all the essential tools for creating a community forum, including moderation settings, message boards, etc.
You also have access to a decent amount of themes and plugins.
FluxBB offers a fantastic experience if you want a simple and effective platform.
- Topic ranking
- Forum and topic subscription
- Move, split & merge topics
- Forum pruning
- Support for RSS feed
- Disable/enable user registration
- User permissions
- It includes advanced profile customization options and a user-ranking system
- It offers top-notch performance out of the box
- Its plugin and theme options are limited
Other Community Forum Platforms Worth Mentioning
PlushForums is a recently developed community forum software purported to provide “the most polished, user-friendly forum software.”
This isn’t far from the truth; CMSCritic awarded PlushForums an award as the “Best Forum Solution.”
The software is rather heavy on pricing, but they offer a lot for even their lowest plan—there are unlimited page views across all the plans.
The only difference between their plans is the limit to the number of users you can have online simultaneously.
- Real-time updates and notifications
- Plush Forums comes with automatic update features that allow users to interact and communicate in discussions in real-time.
- Also, you will receive a notification each time someone tags your name using @mentions in a conversion, allowing you to reply faster.
- Sizable storage allocation: Plush Forums offers an impressive amount of storage allowance of up to a massive 600 GB storage space for forum members to share files in discussion rooms.
- Cloud-hosted service: Being a cloud-based forum platform, Plush Forums takes away the hassle of going through software downloads and installations before using their services.
- Members enjoy this same experience as it removes the limitations of checking for system compatibilities before joining a group or community forum.
- Mobile-friendly: It’s known that most online searches and internet activities are done from a mobile device.
- Requires your payment details before activating the trial period: You’ll have to submit card details before signing up for their free trial.
- Most users may find this annoying as there could be difficulties in canceling the auto-subscription before the trial period lapses.
However, you can always communicate your difficulties to their customer support service, and they’ll gladly help you.
Pricing and Plans
- The Standard Plan. The cheapest tier in the standard plan is priced at $49/month for a 15GB storage space and can simultaneously accommodate up to 100 members online.
- The second-tier cost $75/month with an upgrade of storage space to 20GB and 250 members online simultaneously.
- The third tier, which costs $120/month, comes with 35GB of storage space and allows 500 members to go online simultaneously.
- For the fourth tier, you’ll be charged $200/month for an increase in storage space to 70GB and 1,000 members online at the same time.
- The next tier is priced at $375/month and raises the capacities even higher, with 125GB worth of storage space and 2,000 members online simultaneously.
- The Enterprise Plan: The enterprise plan costs a whopping $799/month, and you get invoiced billings, white-label solutions, regular customer success calls, priority support, SSL and DDoS protection, a dedicated account manager, and 99.99% uptime.
Fortunately, Plush Forums software was created to be completely mobile-optimized without requiring you to download any app.
You can easily access their services on their website through any mobile web browser of your choice.
This allows community members to participate in discussions on the go without connecting through their PCs.
NodeBB is a relatively new addition to the forum software family.
Its popularity stems from its adaptability and user-friendly interface design, which allows forum moderators to access all moderation tools from a single page.
It also excels at integration, allowing users to combine systems ranging from social media to project management tools. Users can also use plugins to extend the default functionality.
Drupal is another CMS on our list that provides good forum functionality and features.
You will be able to develop and run forums easily, but more importantly, you will be able to expedite user and forum moderating.
You may improve the visual experience of your forum members by adding functionalities to your forum and website with Drupal themes and plugins. Unlike WordPress and Joomla!, Drupal includes forum functionality.
wpForo Forum is another powerful community forum plugin powered by WordPress. This plugin allows the easy creation of a forum alongside your WordPress website installation.
Like most WordPress forum plugins, wpForo offers three types of Forum layouts that you can change at any time without disrupting the structure of your forum.
Also, the plugin allows you to edit and modify the theme of your forum, including adding menu items and sidebar widgets and changing the color to match the look and feel of your website.
wpForo has a unique user management system that allows users to create a user rating system and set custom login and registration URLs.
wpForo is both a free-to-use and premium plugin. The premium version gives you more functionalities, including user customization, and allows users to create surveys, manage advertisements, private message features, and embed multimedia content.
Asgaros Forum is a lightweight WordPress forum plugin that offers advanced functionalities without sacrificing simplicity and ease of use.
The forum you create with Asgaros allows your customers to
- create a user profile by registering on the forum,
- creating new threads,
- replying to other users’ threads, and
- receiving notifications when someone responds to their thread or a thread they’ve participated in.
Regarding functionality, Asgaros offers its users just the basics, including a content management system for administrators, user management functions, permission management, statistics, and a member list.
- It has analytics for your forum to let you evaluate how well it is functioning.
- Clean and simple forum plugin suitable for both beginners and pros.
- It has basic yet robust content creation and management solutions, and users and permissions are provided.
- It has many Plugins that work with many sites.
- There are no extensions to provide extra functionality.
- Asgaros allows adding and customizing your forum themes using the FTP client.
Another WordPress plugin that can come in handy for WordPress website owners when creating a community forum is Discussion.
What attracted me to this plugin the most is its host of features that meet your every demand to create and run a forum successfully.
You can create a password-protected forum, post new topics, and create separate pages for each topic.
As the administrator of your forum, you have control over users’ roles and actions, which means you get to assign roles to new users or existing ones as you deem fit for the successful running of the community.
Discussion Forum has a free version, but the Pro version comes with lots of additional features, like the ability to
- add categories and tags,
- customize user profiles,
- upload images,
- set topics as solved or open,
- WYSISYG editor, and
- manual approval by the administrator.
What Features Should a Forum Software/Platform Have?
Most forum software provides the fundamental functionality required to develop, administer, and build an online community.
You may easily set up your own discussion rooms, post, comment, and respond to comments from your users.
The forums also have a user role system, which allows you to assign moderators and administrators with varied capabilities and constraints.
If you want users to upload a short video, you can start a Youtube channel and allow them to upload videos or embed YouTube videos.
Modern-looking themes (templates), an easy user interface, a chat area, and choices for semi-moderated discussion sessions and personal messages are just a few of the features that keep visitors coming back for more.
To determine which internet forum software is the greatest fit for you, look for features that go beyond the fundamental functionality, such as:
● Admin / Moderate Control Panel
Forums often feature a small number of administrators but many moderators. The administrator is in charge of the overall operation, while the moderators assist the administrator in keeping the forum clean and operational.
A separate dashboard for moderators and admins is an important consideration.
● Rich Text Editor
The text interface is the most important aspect of online forums, but other forums thrive on text and visual material. A robust text editor with the ability to add graphics and HTML support is an excellent approach to attracting new users to the forum.
● Mobile Optimization
Most Internet users choose to utilize their mobile phones over their computers. As a result, it is advised that your discussion forum have a mobile-responsive forum designed for both SEO and user experience.
● Spam Filter
Spammers tend to target online forums; therefore, a comprehensive spam filter integration solution is essential for seamless forum management.
Spamming may deter your clients from accessing the discussion forum, and they may no longer believe the information they receive.
● User Classification System
A user ranking system is one of the finest strategies to boost user participation in the forum. Users must be able to unlock new levels based on their forum interactions.
● Profile Customization
Allowing members to personalize their profiles with an avatar, signature, and other lovely individual aspects is a terrific approach to establishing a distinct and enjoyable community.
Some customers appreciate the ability to customize their profiles with features unique to other discussion forums that only offer basic profile features.
How To Create an Online Forum
Step One: Pick a location to host your forum. It could be a page at the URL’s end, such as www.example.com/forum.
It can also be a subdomain at the beginning of the URL, such as forum.example.com.
Your location depends on getting the best web hosting service providers and how you’ve planned and built your site.
Step Two: Choose software to create your forum website. Once you’ve decided on a web address, the following step is to select a content management system.
This software creates pages for your forum and allows you to design and organize its material.
The appropriate software makes all the difference, so choose one that complements the theme and functionalities of your existing website. In addition, there are good web hosting providers to choose from for your web hosting.
Step Three: Organize your forum’s structure. Before you start generating pages, think about how you’ll organize your topics.
Customers should be able to locate what they’re looking for easily, and your forum’s navigation features should support the needs of its visitors.
Begin by identifying the themes for which you wish to build discussions.
These can be for individual products and services or general themes such as consumer ideas and workarounds. You should also include a search box so users may skip categories and go straight to a certain page.
Organizing your forum in this manner will assist users in navigating your site and finding material relevant to their interests.
Step Four: Design your forum’s theme. The theme of your forum should fit the rest of your website. It should use the same colors, logos, and style as your other content so customers don’t get confused when they visit a new page.
Some content management systems come with styles that work well with most website designs. In the example below, users can choose the theme of their forum from several choices.
Step Five: Create user rules for your forum website. Visitors should feel like they can take part in the talks on your forum.
To do this, all users will have to follow a set of rules that help keep conversations healthy and useful. These rules ensure that conversations stay on topic and everyone feels safe talking.
Step Six: Start conversations with interesting discussion topics.
Before you make your online forum public, you should come up with some general discussion topics that will get people talking.
This will make new users feel welcome, especially if your group is starting out. After all, it’s much easier for people to reply to a post than to make their own.
Step seven: Publish your forum on your website. Set your pages to live and link the homepage of your topic to your main site. Users should be able to find your forum quickly when they go to your brand’s homepage.
Step Eight: Advertise to your audience. Start by getting in touch with your most loyal members and selling to them.
These people really care about your business and will be excited to join your forum. In addition, getting them to talk will make other guests more likely to join in.
You can reach out to them with social media ads or by emailing them.
You can also use search engines to promote your group. Just think of all the ways you already sell your business and start a campaign for your forum.
Step Nine: Increase engagement with badges. Providing rewards is a great way to get people to do things. In addition, badges will motivate your community members.
When people use your forum a lot, you can reward them with badges that other people can see.
Your most active users can be your “regular contributors,” and being a part of your group will make them feel like they belong.
Step Ten: Moderate user participation and respond to customer inquiries.
Using the forum as a steady source of feedback from customers. Customer service reps should be in charge of your site and answer customer questions.
They should ensure that users follow the forum’s rules and answer any questions customers have about your goods and services. This will not only help keep your forum busy, but it will also make getting help a pleasure.
Step Eleven: Collect user feedback. As your community forum grows, finding out what people think about it is important. Ask them how they like the experience and what you could do to make it better.
This will keep people interested and happy with the material and layout of your forum.
You can do this by making a thread straight on your forum. Then, you can link to a survey in that post.
On the other hand, you could send an NPS or customer satisfaction survey to everyone in your community, just like you do when you want to hear what people think about your service group.
Why Include a Discussion Forum in Your Website?
1. Discussion Forum Lets your Audience be your Research Team
You might not have the funds or resources to employ a research team to analyze your target population’s demographic.
On the other hand, understanding your audience and what they want from a business is becoming increasingly important in digital marketing.
You may not have time to chat with every one of your users individually, and I doubt any busy website owner does, but by putting a forum on your website, your users will do this work for you.
Developing an interactive forum enables your users to talk naturally and honestly without needing to be paid for online assessments.
This allows you to read, evaluate, and respond to your audience’s true beliefs without having to ask them.
A forum will provide you with important client information as well as marketing analytics.
Integrating a discussion forum will INCREASE user engagement and expand your online community.
Listening to and connecting with this community will not only give you unique information about your target audience but will also assist you in generating more traffic and new users.
2. Online Forums Foster Relationships
While reviews are necessary for businesses that provide products and services, the average review does not reveal much about your target audience.
Humans engage when communication is two-way; a lecture, while engaging, lacks the intimacy of a conversation.
Forums offer an interactive atmosphere where content can be spontaneous and often more honest.
Just take a look at a regular YouTube comment chain to see the avalanche of emotions that flow when people respond. Of course, the reviews are helpful, but the debates are eye-opening.
Clients can meet and establish a sense of community by participating in forums.
You can cultivate relationships while weakening talks as a community supervisor to acquire customer insights and data.
3. Chatting Options Available to Users
A blog is an excellent content marketing technique, and any online business owner should prioritize learning how to create and maintain a blog.
Blogging, like product reviews, can, however, be one-sided. Especially when there aren’t many ways for users and readers to engage with one another in the comment section.
Some profiles are even anonymous, with uninteresting avatars.
When you show your audience a forum, you may watch your members interact with one another and join in on the conversation.
This allows you to monitor your business from the inside out and verify that your clients are happy with the service you provide. It may also allow users to contact you directly if they wish to be known.
Users can ask you questions and even make comments, while you can hold discussions, acquire expertise, and learn how to better sell to your clientele.
4. Online Community Forum Guarantee Better Service Quality
Things can fall between the gaps even if you are meticulous. For example, you could be having issues with delivery, customer service, or quality control.
Your recruits may not be as well-versed in operations as you are.
While these flaws may not be discussed in reviews, they are more likely to be discussed with their peers in a forum.
Furthermore, responding to comments in a specific order may give you a deeper understanding of what your users are saying.
Maintain a welcoming, open, and, most importantly, honest environment on your forum, and respond to any complaints.
Your forum is a fantastic place for apologizing, interacting, and resolving any problems.
You must establish basic community norms for your forum and make it a safe place for people to communicate.
Make your rules as stringent as possible without deterring users, yet not so loose that they can be broken. Beware of spammers, trolls, and irrelevant stuff.
5. You Get Direct Access to User-generated Content
While forums are a great way to communicate with your audience and streamline customer care operations, they allow users to express themselves creatively.
If given the opportunity, your audience can help build your content, social media strategy, or actual things by expressing themselves on your forum.
Their suggestions for improving the conversation topic can be quite valuable. Create an online community around your business that your customers like connecting with.
6. Go Beyond the Merchant-customer Connection.
Not only does forum content give you access to your customers’ worlds, but it also helps you solve problems.
Your forum could be the ideal place for your clients to encounter the human side of your company from the inside out, directing your marketing strategy.
One of the most crucial factors that attract buyers to a company is its authenticity.
Customers share their experiences with you to teach you how to improve your products, services, and business. They may advance from customers to fans.
Create a genuine relationship with your customers by telling them about yourself and your interests.
Connecting with and building connections with customers is critical in a corporate climate where thousands of brands fight for the attention of billions of users.
Consider starting a regular “question and answer” thread to teach your users more about the brand and its personnel, or share a more personal blog item and encourage your users to discuss it in the forum.
Making it about them will pique their attention more than before.
Ways to Build Your Community Using a Forum Software
Top brands know the importance of having a good business-customer relationship to the growth of the business.
And what better way to communicate with your customers than a community forum?
Customers who interact with their brands and see themselves as important community members are likelier to promote the brand through mouth marketing.
Here’s how you can build a strong community using your forum software.
● Spread the Word
Having a community is useless. If no one knows it exists, talk less about joining it. Instead, inform people about your new forum by promoting it through social media posts or newsletters with a link to join.
You can also promote your community through your brand ambassadors or loyal customers by asking them to become active members of the forum and also promote it.
● Listen and Check your Community Regularly
Don’t abandon your customers in your community; instead, spend the time to post in the forum and respond to posts from the public.
When you don’t connect with your clients regularly, they may begin to feel ignored, which you don’t want to happen.
Make an appearance on occasion and tells your customers that you value their feedback and care about their experience with your product.
Also, checking in on your community regularly will allow you to monitor and handle the community in the event of a service escalation before it becomes out of control.
● Promote Meaningful Speech
The purpose of a forum is to create a safe place where the public, including your fans, employees, prospects, and customers, can interact, socialize, ask questions, and even create suggestions about improving your services.
Creating a practical philosophy and community guidelines that promote kindness and patience in responses can cause your community to grow sporadically.
How Does an Online Community Forum Make Money?
Online community forums make money through display advertisements on their homepage or within their threads.
Advertisers pay to show their adverts to forum users, and the forum owner takes a cut of the proceeds.
Forums allow members to make donations to help with the site’s upkeep and development. Users can donate out of gratitude to the community or to support a cause they believe in.
Forums also use affiliate marketing programs to advertise items or services. When users click on affiliate links and make a purchase, the forum owner receives a commission.
This is an opportunity to incorporate high-paying affiliate programs into your community.
It’s important to note that not all online community forums are for profit, and some may function as non-profit organizations or rely on volunteer efforts to keep the site going.
Some forums may have sponsors that provide financial assistance in exchange for forum prominence.
Sponsors may appear in advertisements, have their logos on the site, or promote their products or services in the forum.
Some forums provide paid memberships with additional privileges such as access to special content, early access to new features, etc.
Members pay a fee to access these advantages, and the forum owner earns money from the fees.
How to Choose the Best Forum Software To Create Your Own Discussion Website
Is the forum software fit for purpose?
Your needs determine the finest forum software for your online community.
While this may seem apparent, it’s worth considering, given the number of various forums available.
While some forum software caters to entertainment sites that require a forum for fan discussions, others are better suited for employee or customer interactions.
You may also locate forum software to utilize to establish forums for staff and consumers. Zendesk, for example, supports both internal and external forums.
Have you considered licensing, implementation, and maintenance costs?
Cost is an important consideration in every purchasing choice. However, software consumers are frequently misled about the exact cost of their program.
To select the greatest choice of forum software, examine the total cost, not just the licensing fees.
For example, the greatest free forum software is available with no licensing fees, but this does not imply that it is free.
Deploying and hosting open-source software may necessitate outside assistance, which can incur additional costs.
This implies you should think about how much it will cost to implement and maintain the forum software you chose.
Otherwise, you won’t be able to compare the solutions you’re considering on an apples-to-apples basis.
How Fast can you get your forum up and running?
When you buy software for your company, you’re racing against the clock to prove the product’s worth. The scenario is the same with the forum software.
The faster you can get your forum up and running and your staff or customers involved, the better your shopping experience will be.
This is why it is vital to understand the nuances of deployment, maintenance, and modification before making a long-term commitment.
As you go through the forum software research process, ask questions about what’s needed to accomplish the capabilities you’ll be searching for in your discussion board.
What is the Best Forum Platform for You?
When it comes to forum software, there are numerous factors to consider.
Do you prefer a simple forum layout or one with defined categories? Do you wish to host your own forum or use the software’s hosting solution?
A basic forum hosted on your server is undoubtedly the most cost-effective option.
However, forum software that provides its hosting has server configurations specific to the software. Furthermore, the software is most likely pre-installed when you purchase it.
You should also consider the type of community you want to create and how you want people to interact with one another.
Some forum software provides standard forum functionality such as threads and the option to divide your topic into categories or subforums.
Other options on this list go above and beyond, allowing you to provide multiple post types, user profiles, private messaging, a point/reward system, and more.
Finally, if you wish to go for a different design, certain forum software has a variety of predefined themes to choose from. Others necessitate learning CSS or the software’s template system.
Consider each of these factors when you cut down your list of possibilities. Then, they can properly point you.
Good Read: HubSpot vs. Salesforce: Which CRM is Best?
Online community forums provide you with the rare opportunity to have a two-way interaction with our clients. Take full advantage of this and let your users know about it. After all, it is much easier to have a sense of loyalty towards a person than a company without a face.
In successful digital marketing, getting a feel for your audience is always a good idea. Adding a discussion forum to your website is the perfect way to get to know your customers, speak to them first-hand, and ensure customer service is up to standard.
But remember, unlike reviews and forums, they work both ways, so be willing to share, discuss, and connect with your users on a pleasant level. Create an honest environment in your forums with which your customers can connect, and your relationships between users and merchants will grow.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is forum software?
You can use the forum software to create text-based threads where individuals can ask questions, debate problems, give answers, and post comments. In addition, organizations can use the discussion forum software to organize discussions, rate users, and collect user feedback.
Q: Why is the forum software important?
Forum software is critical because it gives businesses unique opportunities to deliver self-service options to their customers. Furthermore, having a forum where consumers may share their concerns, opinions, and ideas might help with product roadmap decision-making. It is not, however, solely for customers. For example, many companies use community forum software to create discussion boards where employees may ask and answer questions about internal goods.
Q: How do you customize forum software?
The two most significant parts of forum software modification are structure and design. On the other hand, many forum software solutions allow you to personalize with permissions settings, gamification, and even bespoke emojis. Of course, the platform’s characteristics will influence how you tailor forum software.
Q: How Much does forum software cost?
The monthly licensing rate for hosted forum software ranges from $15 to $500+, with most software licenses between $15 and $150. Unfortunately, even the best free forum software can cost thousands of dollars to install, so it’s far from “free.”
Q: How do I make a private online forum?
The best solution is to use forum software. You have a variety of options depending on your level of experience and understanding. You can make a unique forum by reviewing the contents and fundamental characteristics of the features you desire from this page.
Q: Is there a forum app?
Forums are online platforms that have sprung up due to online communities’ increased desire and benefits. As technology improves, online software and apps have taken on new dimensions. As a result, numerous forum sites have implemented software upgrades and desktop access to their boards.
Q: What Distinguishes Forums From Social Media?
While social media platforms are significantly more popular, they do not promote high-quality debates like forums do. Instead, they emphasize bite-sized content, brief movies, memes, and so on, whereas forums can hold lengthy and comprehensive discussions spanning numerous pages.
Q: How Do You Choose a Software Platform?
Nowadays, anyone may set up an internet discussion board. Simply choose one of the numerous accessible forum scripts, install it on your web server, and you’re ready to go. Another alternative is to use software-as-a-service, in which the service provider handles all hosting and other technical issues for a monthly charge.