Although the software introduced in this article makes the process easier, setting up and administrating a form is going to take some time and effort. However, it is often worth it for a number of reasons to include the following:
- With forums, the users are generating niche-related content for free, and this content will eventually increase website search rankings.
- Having a forum gives a website more authority both in the eyes of the users and with search engines.
- If you are offering a product or service, forums are a great way to answer user questions. Sometimes other users will answer them for you, and both the questions and answers will remain available for those with the same problem in the future.
- The content on the forum is a great way to learn about a niche and collect feedback on what people are interested in.
- Announcements on news and features can be posted on the forum. In addition, forums offer ways to directly message users (this can be used as a form of direct marketing).
They come at a cost
On the downside, forums need to be monitored to protect against spam and other forms of abuse. In addition, forums require a number of regular visitors to really interest most people, and attracting enough people is difficult.
Installing forums on websites
For those who decide to create forums, the following is some of the top software to make the process much easier.
This is good for those who want a well-designed and spam-free forum. IP.Board allows for unlimited forums and sub-forums with fine-grained forum permissions. Community forums created with IP.Board are fully customizable and have multi-language support, excellent discussion capabilities, a unique rewards system that encourages user engagement, an unbeatable spam protection and added security measures.
It has a full-featured admin panel that allows full control over your site, an extensive collection of good-quality themes and mods, and a lot of other useful features as well.
IP.Board is available as a licensed product or as a hosted service.
MyBB is an easy to use forum software that allows the administrator complete control over the discussion boards. It is highly customizable and offers an extensive array of advanced plugins to meet your every need.
If you think that myBB is the right software for you, you can get a complete list of all the available themes and modifications by checking out the following links -( http://mods.mybb.com/themes) and (http://mods.mybb.com/mods), respectively.
In case you are using another forum software and would like to switch to the myBB platform, you can easily do so with the MyBB merge system.
While myBB gets favorable reviews from a lot of users, a few people still find the admin interface to be a bit too cluttered for their tastes.
phpBB is currently one of the most widely used forum platforms online. It features an extensive admin panel that allows you to customize your site to suit your needs and a modularized user control panel that gives users complete control over their accounts. It offers a detailed documentation, numerous Flash tutorials, a massive database of user-generated modifications for easy customization and a whole lot of other features. It also offers an extensive support section to help users in installing and running their forums.
Considering the robust features included in the package, you may be surprised to know that phpBB comes completely free of charge. Despite its robust features, however, some people have problems downloading the program for one reason or another. Mixed reviews have also been posted with regards to their support system.
Simple Machines Forum
According to its developers, SMF is an elegant, effective and powerful forum creation tool, which comes in a completely free package. SMF is written in PHP and uses the MySQL database. By using SMF, you can put up a community forum literally within minutes and customize it to suit your needs by using any of the available modifications if offers.
vBulletin is an advanced forum creation software which includes blog and CMS capabilities allowing forum users to create and share content across your forums, blogs and article sites. With its drag and drop interface, customizable page templates and in-line site editing capability, you can realistically launch a full pledged community forum within the hour (in about 15 minutes, according to the site). It also features built-in SEO capabilities, superior moderation control and site security, and content discovery tools for fostering deeper user engagement. It, likewise, facilitates easy integration with your Facebook account and a more optimized mobile experience.
While this software comes with extremely robust features, it also comes with quite a hefty price tag. In addition, you need to purchase the add-ons if you want to customize the look, feel and functionality of your site. A free trial is available.
XenForo comes with an admin and user-friendly interface, multi-language support, built-in SEO and a multitude of available themes, add-ons and modifications. It is also compatible with most mobile devices, provides superior security and spam protection, and can easily be integrated with Facebook and Twitter accounts.
A XenForo license is relatively cheap as compared to a vBulletin license, but you also need to pay for any extras you wish to implement on your site (software installation, branding removal, enhanced search). However, if you wish to take this software for a test drive, you can create a free trial account for three days.