How to Build a Forum Website

Forum websites are exciting websites that are driven through active user engagement. While they are a lot like building traditional websites, there are certain features and facets that make forum websites a unique kind of beast to deal with. In this post, we’ll take a look at the kind of things that you’ll need to pay attention to to build a bustling forum website.

What is a Forum Website?

A forum website, or internet forum, is basically a place where users can come and have conversations under an assumed name. While many websites will have pages that have comments sections where users can discuss the page and have relevant conversations, forum websites basically take the premise one step further and make the comments section the main point of the content. Users on forum sites can often participate in conversations that are already going on, but may also begin new conversations within certain main pages of the website. The forum website is user driven and conversationally driven. 

Some forum sites are generic–like Reddit–while other forum sites are organized around specific things, like forums about gardening, video games, blogging, wellness, and meditation. Also, forum sites can take many different forms. In a very loose sense, social media sites are a lot like forum sites, because users can post things and have conversations. But when most people think of forum sites they will be thinking about forum sites that have message boards, threads, and conversations between users.

Forum Website Essentials

Good Hosting

Your website will need a place to live and will need to tolerate submissions from users in the form of comments and even new pages at times. This means that you will need more than your garden-variety kind of hosting in order to get things up to speed. Forum sites need to move quick, because no one wants to wait for comments to load. And if it takes more than just a couple of seconds for a user’s comment to get posted on the site, they might get bored and navigate away. 

If you go to most forum sties on the internet that are successful and have active audiences, you’ll see that they keep the website a bare-bones user experience and maximize the load speeds across the site.

Use our hosting comparison tool to find the right kind of hosting for your forum website.

The Right CMS

If you decide to build your website with Wix, there is a forum site theme that you can use from out of the box. It allows you to get things up and running in a hurry. If you’re going with WordPress as your CMS there are going to be some plugins that you’ll want to look into. bbPress is the well-known and popular plugin for building a forum website with WordPress, and it’s probably the best one to go with for a basic forum site. It won’t give you some of the advanced functionality that other picks will, but it is generally more than enough to get you running. 

If you want a more blank-slate social networking plugin to turn into a forum site that has your own flair and personal flavor, BuddyPress is going to be the plugin that you look into. BuddyPress basically turns WordPress into a full-service social networking site builder. 

If you want to stick to a more traditional forum site right out of the plugin box, then Vanilla Forums and phpBB are going to be great choices. Both of them are more complex and complicated than bbPress is, but they are great long term plugins if you know that you’re going to want advanced functionality down the road.

Simple User Interface

On top of the different plugins and CMS structures that you can use to build your forum site, you should keep the user interface simple. Most of the most popular forum sites will keep simple colors and comment structures so that the conversation flows naturally among members of the site. The simple user interface also helps to prioritize the users and makes sure that load times remain lightning fast so that people enjoy the experience.

Marketing – Getting an Audience

There is a sliding scale of forum sites that moves from hyper-specific to the super-general. If you go with a site that is very specific, the good news is that you have limited the amount of competition that you are facing. There are not that many forum sites specifically dedicated to talk about lemon growing or the merits of sans serif font styles. However, when you go with a very specific forum site, you are limiting the number of people that are interested in that thing. You will have an easier time attracting members, but you will have a smaller pool. On the other hand, very general forum sites are very competitive. There are tons of specific and general sites that you will have to compete with. You will have a harder time attracting members, but you will have a larger pool.

Moderating – Keeping an Audience

There are two sides to building a forum website. First, you really want to attract new users and increase the user experience. But then you also want to keep the existing users that you have and make sure that your site stays relevant and of high quality. 

When you are running a forum website, you are allowing users to post whatever they want onto your site. You are allowing them to make comments and topics from scratch. This can be a breeding ground for spam, marketing attempts, hateful comments, and off-topic comments of all kinds. 

While you can automate the moderating to some extent, using pre-set filters in the comment submissions, there is only so much that the AI can do. Some of the moderating will have to be taken care of by human beings. And while you might be able to hire moderators or even designate volunteer user moderators as your site grows, in the beginning, the moderation falls on your shoulders initially. You’ll need to be policing the comments section from time to time to make sure that nothing outlandish or illegal is happening on your forum site.