How to Create Forum Website for Free - 2021

The popularity of a forum website is growing rapidly. Therefore, every other person is wondering how to create a forum website. It is easy and we have created an ultimate guide for you to understand everything that you need to know to create a forum...

How to Create Forum Website for Free - 2021


The popularity of a forum website is growing rapidly. Therefore, every other person is wondering how to create a forum website. It is easy and we have created an ultimate guide for you to understand everything that you need to know to create a forum website. First, you have to understand the forum website. So, let's dive straight into it. 

What is a forum website?

A forum website is a website that provides an opportunity to hold discussions with the users. These discussions can be initiated by users as well. Hence, the user creates content while initiating or participating in the conversation. In this way, it is entirely different from simple websites because it is like a community. Indeed, it is better than a simple website. Let's see how!

forum website

Why forum website is better than a simple website?

Forum websites are better than normal websites due to the following reasons:-  

User-Generated Content

You have to continuously create content for the consumption of users on normal websites. However, users generate content on the forum website. In this way, content creation increase manifolds and therefore you can get more benefit from your website. Hence, a forum website is better than any simple website. 

Returning Users

Users are more likely to come back to the website when they initiate discussion or participate in the discussion. Therefore, they visit the website multiple times. In this way, the traffic to the website increase exponentially. Moreover, the website ranking improves dramatically due to the low bounce rate and long stay of users on the website. 

Auto Feedback of your Audience

Forum website is far better than the other website because it directly connects you with the audience. Therefore, you can get direct and reliable feedback from your audience. Yes! They can comment on your articles on a normal website but they cannot initiate the discussion that you have not asked for! This feature is only available on the forum website.  

Learning Center for users

Forums are learning centers for your audience. You cannot spread awareness about your products and services alone. Therefore, you need a community of users that can teach and help each other in doing things. This functionality is available in forums only. The users ask questions and other users answer before you! What more do you wish for?

Generation of New Ideas

Forums are communities. Therefore, the other people in your niche are attracted to your forum and share their unique experiences and ideas. Hence, forums become the breeding grounds for your ideas that can provide various benefits to you. All you need to do is listen to others and participate. Hence, a forum website is better!  

Close Communication with Users

You cannot stay in close communication with users on the simple website as they are not made for this purpose. Although users can comment on your articles, they cannot actively participate or initiate the discussion. Hence, you need a forum website to remain in close communication with users. Indeed, your success requires you to stay in close communication with users. So, a forum website is better than a normal website.

How to create a forum website?

There are two major ways to create a forum website. These two ways are making a forum website with the help of WordPress and VBulletin. Both methods have their unique features. Let's introduce you to each option. 

Create forum website with WordPress

It is a leading free open source content management system that allows you to create forums with the help of various themes. These themes work with the help of plugins. These plugins provide various functionalities to create the perfect customized solution for your website.

Create forum website with VBulletin

It is paid forum software that helps you to create a perfect forum website. VBulletin comes with all the features that you need in your forum. Furthermore, it is super easy to create a forum with the help of VBulletin. Therefore, you can create a top-quality forum with the help of VBulletin in simple easy steps.   

What do you need to start creating a forum website?

There are three main prerequisites to start creating your forum website. The first required ingredient is a domain; the second is a server and the last is your million dollar idea. Let’s understand each of the three ingredients.  

Get your Domain

The domain is the address of your website. You have to buy it before making your forum website. However, if you do not have your server then you may get one domain for free when you buy a server.

So, don’t buy in advance if you have to buy your server as well. You can buy a domain from any reliable website. However, we recommend buying it from the same place where you buy your server.

Lastly, you have to know that deciding on a domain is not an easy task. You have to put the thought into it. Always consider the following before getting a domain.

  • Your preference must be a .com domain
  • Choose a domain that can be turned into a brand
  • Choose a short domain name as it is easy to remember
  • Do not use numbers and hyphens in the domain name
  • Try to use a keyword in your domain name
  • Add the word forum if you are creating a forum

Get Your Hosting

The second ingredient that you must have is a server. A server is a machine or a space in the machine that serves your website to visitors. A server is the host and website visitors are clients. Every website in the world is stored in the servers and the visitors access those servers to view the website. Therefore, you have to get your server. You can get it from any web hosting service provider. However, you must remember the following while choosing the best server.

  • Check the average uptime of the server
  • Check the load time of websites to evaluate the speed
  • Check what people are saying about the support
  • Consider the pricing and renewal fees
  • Check the bandwidth and storage options
  • Check the security options and SSL availability for the website
  • Check the refund option in advance in case things go wrong

Our Recommended Hosting

We always recommend A2hosting or Cloudways. Please don't go with other free or cheaper ones as it will be utter slow or your sites can be easily hacked.

The idea

The last and most important ingredient to creating your forum website is your idea. The idea is the foundation of everything. You can have a million-dollar idea or an idea that is destined to be failed. Therefore, it is necessary to evaluate your idea before executing it. Here are the key considerations to evaluate your idea.

  • Is your idea unique or you are creating a me-too product
  • Is your idea profitable?
  • When will be the breakeven of your forum?
  • What is the cost of your idea?
  • Are you willing to do it?
  • Are you capable of doing it?
  • Are you willing to learn and improve?

Now, when your prerequisites are ready, let’s understand how you can create your forum.

How to create a forum website through WordPress?

You have two options while creating a forum with the help of WordPress. You can create a forum within your existing website or blog or you can create a standalone forum. Let's show you how you can create a forum both ways.        

How to create a Stand-Alone Forum with WordPress?

The stand-alone forum website has a lot of websites. It is ideal when you want to focus on the forum instead of distracting to rank your website and create content for blogs. Here is the seven-step process to create your stand-alone forum website with the help of WordPress.

Choose a WordPress theme

The first step is to choose a WordPress theme that you love. There are tons of themes that are available to create a forum website. All you need to do is find the one that you love. We recommend “Disputo- WordPress bbPress Forum Theme". However, there are a lot of other options as well. These theme options include Lynk, Social, Kleo, Neve, Gwangi, BuddyBoss, and ForumPress. All of these themes are amazing and you have to choose what you like the most. 

Install the Theme

The second step is to install the theme. You can do it in two ways. If your Webhosting provider has provided the required theme then you can simply go to the theme and click on the install option. However, in case you do not find the required theme then you have to download your required theme from the place of choice and upload it on your server with the upload button. Once uploaded, you have to click the install button and it will be installed automatically.

Create Subforums and Categories

The third step is to create a sub-forum and categories. After the forum is installed, you will see create sub-forum and categories option on the first page. All you have to do is click on it and name the sub-forum. It is like breaking down your forum into different parts to make an organized forum. Once, the sub-forums are done, click on creating categories and start naming them. It is that easy!  

Complete the Settings

The fourth step is to complete the settings. First, you must describe the user level of the members. These user levels can be defined as administrators, moderators, valued members, special members, and newbies, etc. After it, you click on the permissions and set the permission for each user level. Once, the user levels are completed, take a look at your forum website and see what functionality you need in addition to provided functions.  

Add Plugins

The fifth step is to look for the functionalities that you spotted in the previous step. You can find access to these functionalities by installing various plugins. If you find it difficult to understand that what plugins you need then look at what other forums are using. You will get a good idea of your requirements. Once, you know the required plugins. Simply go into settings and click on the add plugin. Search for the plugin in the search box and click install. That’s it!

Add Topics

The sixth step is to add topics to the forum. This will help you to create content for the new users that will come. Furthermore, it will help new users to participate in the topics that are in the discussion. Therefore, you must add topics at the start. However, it is better to encourage your users to start their topics. In this way, you will get the benefit of user-generated content. 

Start the Conversation

The last step is super easy! All you have to do is start the conversation with the first post and encourage users to participate by replying to your post. The ideal first post is to create a post that works as a guide to other users regarding, posting, participating, and initiating the conversation. Never think that your users know what you know and always assist them in learning to participate.

Congratulations! Your stand-alone forum website is ready. Now, let's see how you can create an integrated forum on your website.

How to create an Integrated Forum with WordPress?  

An integrated forum works along with your main blog website or any other website. In this method, you already have a website and user base so you add a forum to your website to take benefit of the forum. You can do it in the following seven steps process.

Install the bbPress plugin

The first step is to install the bbPress plugin. You can do it by clicking on the add plugin button in the left navigation bar in the admin panel. Once, clicked, search by writing the name of the plugin and clicking on it.

Create a New Forum

The second step is to click on the create forum and give it a name. The name of the forum can be the name of your website with the addition of the word forum. It helps users to understand that the forum belongs to the website and it is the extension of the website. Therefore, they participate and discuss things that are on the website.

Add Categories

The third step is to create categories. However, always remember that the categories on the integrated forums will be a little different than the standalone forum. The categories in the integrated forums shall not be the copy-paste of your website categories. If you do so, what is the point of creating a forum? Therefore, add categories that complement and support your main website and do not add categories that duplicate your website.

Add topics to your Integrated Forum

The fourth step is to add topics to your integrated forum. The biggest mistake integrated forum creators make is that they add topics as if they are adding titles of articles. No! Never do it! The topics can be like the categories of your main websites. They shall not limit the discussion rather they shall provide the option to initiate different discussions within the topics. 

Integrate your forum into your website

The fifth step is to integrate your forum into your main website. You can do so by clicking on the settings and then general settings in the WordPress dashboard. Here you will see all the settings that you need to set. If you find it difficult, choose the default options and you are good to go.

Complete the Settings

The sixth step is to complete the settings of your integrated forum. It means that you have to open the membership for visitors and set the widgets. You can open membership by checking the box in general settings and you can set the widgets by clicking on the appearance tab in the WordPress dashboard.

Start the Conversation

The last step is somewhat similar to the standalone forum but there is a little difference. In a standalone forum, you start the conversation by guiding others regarding the creation of topics and posts. However, in the integrated forums, you must prepare your users in advance by creating articles on your main website that provide complete guidance regarding participation in the forum. Therefore, you start a conversation on the advanced level in the integrated forums.

Congratulations, now you have created an integrated forum as well with the help of WordPress. However, what if you do not get your dream forum options in WordPress? Indeed, you have to go for another platform. Therefore, we recommend vBulletin! It is the best forum creator. So, let’s understand how you can create a forum with vBulletin.

How to create a forum website through vBulletin?

vBulletin is a paid software that helps you to create perfect forum websites. WordPress was released in 2003 but the vBulletin was released in 2001. That is right! vBulletin has almost two decades of experience in forums. Therefore, vBulletin is one of the best options to create a forum website. Let's see how you can create the perfect forum website with vBulletin. 

Decide the Package

The first step is to decide the package according to your requirements. You can buy a simple package for $249 or you can choose the option to include a mobile suit as well. The mobile suit may increase the cost by $150. Moreover, if you do not have to host then you can choose the option of vBulletin Cloud. Once, you decide on the package, click on the buy now option and pay for the package.    

Download and Install vBulletin

The second step is to download the vBulletin package from the website and install it on your server. To do this, simply click on the download button on the official website. Once, it is downloaded, go to the control panel of your domain server and click on the option of upload in the software settings. Once uploaded, click on the install button and complete the process by clicking on the default options. 

Setup Your Forum

After installation is completed, it is time to set up your forum. Remember, the interface of vBulletin is different than WordPress. However, there is nothing to worry about because it is super simple. All you need to do is add the forum name, descriptions, and subforums under the forum tab. You can access all these options by clicking on the create forum tab.  

Customize Your Forum and Complete Settings

The fourth step is to customize your forum website and complete settings. In this step, you have to open memberships for visitors, Furthermore, you have to create levels of memberships and set the permissions for a different level of users. You can do so by choosing the membership option in the settings. Lastly, you have to add any plugins or extensions. It is simple, just search the extension from the add extension options in the setting and click on the install button. It will be installed in minutes.

Create Categories and Topics to Start Discussion

The last step is to create categories. It is super simple. Just click on the add categories option and add the name of the category along with the details of the category. Once, the categories are ready, start the discussion by adding topics and posting the first post. It is super simple, all you need to do is click on the create post; add the details of the post, and click publish.

Congratulations! Your forum website is ready to go with the help of vBulletin. If you are still in confusion regarding choosing WordPress or vBulletin, here are the pros and cons of vBulletin that will help you to decide the best choice as per your requirements.   

Pros and Cons of vBulletin

Pros of VBulletin

Complete Forum Functionality

vBulletin offers complete forum website functionality. It also offers various extensions that you can install with one click. These extensions work like plugins of WordPress.

Easy to Install

vBulletin is super easy to install and configure. They are in the forum market before WordPress. Furthermore, it completely focuses on forums. So, they have created the easiest to install procedure to create a forum website.  

Customization Available

vBulletin offers the ultimate forum customization. You can add sub-forums, categories, permissions, user levels, chat rooms, and various other options with the help of this software.  

Scheduled Publishing

One of the best pros of vBulletin is scheduled posting. It helps you to automate the content creation process simply. Furthermore, it keeps the audience engage and ensures that users keep generating content by replying to your scheduled posts.

Protection

Nowadays, forums are the target of hacking and spamming. Therefore, extra protection is the basic requirement of a forum website. VBulletin keeps introducing new features to ensure protection. Therefore, it is one of the pros of VBulletin.  

Article Publishing through Publishing Suit

The last pro of vBulletin is its unique publishing suite that helps you to create articles that are SEO Optimized. Furthermore, it helps you to schedule post your article to keep your audience engaged.  

Cons of vBulletin

The first con of the vBulletin is that it is paid software. Therefore, it increases the initial cost of your forum website. Hence, your other requirements like content creation and marketing may take a hit in terms of budget.

Coding Knowledge

The second con of the vBulletin is that it requires a little coding knowledge to fully enjoy all the features of the vBulletin. Therefore, if you are a completely non-technical person then you might face some limitations.

Now, you have learned to create your forum website. Therefore, as a bonus, here are the best time-tested tips to make your forum website successful. Remember! Do not underestimate these tips. They are the crux of decades of experience.

Tips to make your forum website successful

Creating a forum website is easy but making it successful is challenging. Therefore, we have created the following best tips that are based on decades of experience.  

Promote your forum website on Quora and Reddit

The first tip is to promote your website on Quora, Pinterest, and Reddit. To promote your forum website on Quora, search for a question related to your forum and make a detailed post on your forum in reply to that question. Now, go to Quora and provide a summarized answer to that question and give a link to your forum post for a detailed version. You can apply the same method on Reddit as well.

Run Giveaways and Contests

The second tip is to start giveaways and contests on your forum website. It helps you to retain users for the long run. Once, the users start staying on the forum, it will decrease the bounce rate of your website and increase the forum ranking on Google.

Create Good Discussion Topics

The third tip is to create good discussion topics on the forum website. You can create topics that encourage your readers to participate in the discussion. It can be done by asking open-ended questions or close-ended discussions. Open-ended questions are the ones where readers can answer anything. Meanwhile, the close-ended questions are the ones where readers choose the answer. You can add polls to your posts for close-ended questions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a forum website is ideal for you as it helps you to build a close relationship with your audience. Furthermore, it helps you to take advantage of user-generated content (UGC). Above all, it is super easy to create a forum website as discussed above.

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