If you want to build and maintain a vibrant online community, you need to get everyone involved. The best way to achieve this is by creating a forum website unique to your brand.
Forum websites allow your audience to discuss niche topics, exchange ideas and get solutions to unique problems.
The biggest advantage to owning a forum website is the informal market survey. Your target market speaks their mind directly on your forum and you can use this information to improve your products and services.
Creating and designing a forum website is easy with the best website builders. If you want to get it right the first time and learn how to create a forum website, this guide is for you.
- Forum websites are online platforms where people can discuss interesting topics, share ideas, and engage with other members directly
- Knowledge sharing, SEO, and improved customer support are some of the benefits you get from having a forum website
- Create a visually appealing design and customize your settings to fit user preferences
- You can create content, invite members, and collaborate with other forum owners to grow your forum website
- Managing a forum website involves monitoring user activity, enforcing rules, and handling disputes
What Do You Mean by Forum Website?
A forum website is a digital space where people can ask niche questions, engage in discussions, share ideas and answer questions. With forum websites, you usually get different categories and sub-categories for multiple interest topics. Users can create posts and participate in discussions.
The biggest forum website community available today is Reddit. Contrary to popular opinion, Reddit is not just some web platform where crypto nerds go to play. There are thousands of topics discussed on the platform every day and the site welcomes more than 50 million users every day.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Forum Website?
Adding a forum website to your business space can go a long way in boosting traffic and increasing sales. If you run a service-based business where users need personalized answers, your forum website will come in handy. Here are some of the benefits you get with a forum website;
Building an Online Community
Forum websites allow users to build online communities around common topics that resonate with their audience. Since you can ask, answer, and provide unique perspectives on topics, you are motivated to stay on the platform as opposed to a regular website.
- Reddit – Reddit is the largest forum website in the world with over 1.7 billion visits per month. Readers with varying interests will always find a community to connect with here. From crypto to weddings, health, and finances.
- Quora – Quora is a question-and-answer forum website where ‘intellectuals’ like to hang out. Often, you will find SaaS executives, personality gurus, spirituality coaches, entrepreneurs, and other nerdy folks on Quora.
- Stack Overflow – Stack Overflow is home to thousands of developers. This is a platform where developers come to share knowledge, ask questions and hopefully fix that pesky bug in their code. Developers looking to build successful tech careers will find a home here.
- Upwork Community Forum – Upwork community forum is a great example of how a service-based business can leverage a forum website. The forum has answers to repeat questions which improves customer service and leads to increased engagement.
If you want to boost traffic and increase engagement, consider adding a forum website to your digital space. The structure of forum websites makes them perfect for driving engagement. The readers get to discuss, ask questions, give answers, and learn – all on your website.
- Users can carry out independent polls where folks vote and engage.
- Your website enjoys user-generated content for free.
- If someone asks a detailed question that has been answered on your forum, Google will direct them straight to you.
Knowledge is perhaps the best part of any forum website. Forums like Stack Overflow and Quora provide more accurate answers to difficult questions as opposed to a random Google search. Forum members with more experience on a particular topic can answer questions from juniors or newbies.
For example, if a new developer is out of his depth on a particular codebase, he can reach out to communities in Stack Overflow for help. Chances are his question has been answered before and he can just replicate the answer/solution – Voila! Forum websites play a big role in knowledge sharing.
Improved Customer Support
Customers want answers and they want it now. For example, delivering and using SaaS products is not always a simple process. Users might need more personalized information and guidance on how to use the product. In cases like this, forum websites can provide useful answers and serve as customer support for any online business.
- Forum websites educate customers by answering repeat questions
- Provides a platform where experts can share their knowledge and help other newer customers.
- Most questions you want to ask already have answers on the forum and customer support has less work to do.
Search Engine Optimization
Forum websites are mostly based on questions and answers. Since these questions are organic, chances are other people have those same questions. If your forum provides the best answers for popular questions in a topic, Google will send more traffic your way. The best strategy is to optimize your forum content for search engines. You can do this by;
- Getting your SEO & Web hosting right. Some web hosting providers prioritize SEO more than others
- Get blockers for spam content and low-quality content
- Increase visibility for content with more comments and discussions
- Make your website easily navigable
Feedback is very important to the long-term success of any business. You need to know what your customers like about your product, what they want to change, and so on. Trustpilot reviews are often not enough. Forum websites will provide detailed feedback consistently.
If your customers are asking about a particular feature or complaining about your UI, you will know first through your forum website and you can adjust accordingly. Before you start that forum website and start enjoying all these benefits, you need to check some boxes.
What Are the Key Steps Involved in Planning a Forum Website?
A forum website can become a valuable part of your business if you do it right. To create a successful forum website, you need to plan carefully and consider important factors. Here are some of the things you need to consider when planning your forum website;
Determine Your Forum’s Topic and Niche
Forum websites thrive on niche discussions and unique topics. Before starting one, define the purpose and objectives of the forum. This will ensure that only interested parties find and engage with your forum. You need your audience to relate to terms, slang, jokes, and trends in that topic or niche.
For example, if you are a finance blogger (discussing investments, crypto, Personal finance, etc.), you need to optimize for one topic when opening a forum. To open a forum on Reddit or Quora and succeed, you need to make sure your focus is solely on a niche topic like crypto.
Choose a Suitable Forum Platform
If you are hosting your forum on another platform instead of building a new website, you need to make sure you pick the right one. You should consider the ease of use, scalability, features, and mobile compatibility. You also need to consider your community size and the security of the platform.
Reddit and Quora are two forum platforms that have all the features you need and more. You can host forums on any niche topic on this platform regardless of your community size or required features. Both these platforms have mobile apps which means you and your community members can keep up with discussions on the go.
Select a Web Hosting Provider
If you plan to build a forum website from scratch, selecting a reliable web hosting provider is the most important step. Unlike regular blogs, you can expect a lot of back-and-forth messages on your forum website. The web hosting provider must make sure your website is online and highly optimal at all times.
Pick a hosting provider with:
- optimal server performance
- 99.99% uptime
- superfast loading time
- 24/7 customer support
Plan the Website Design and Layout
Your forum website should represent your business and promote your brand identity. The website design needs to be clean, functional, and possess a high visual appeal.
- Set up the UI in a way that allows for multiple messages to appear in a clearly spaced structure.
- Avoid complex designs that end up ruining the brand message and user experience.
Set Up User Registration and Moderation Rules
There is a high chance that a low-quality audience will find their way to your forum website. You need to reduce that by setting up a registration process. This process outlines the required information and verification procedure which means not everybody can get in. Most brands only allow users, customer support, and vetted experts to be members of the forum.
After that is done, you also need to establish moderation guidelines and define the rules of engagement to avoid people stepping on each other’s toes in your playground. You, as the owner of the forum, need to ensure a safe, respectful environment for all members
How to Create a Forum Website from Scratch?
Now that you’ve planned your forum website and you are ready to build, what next? You need to pick a suitable domain name and choose the best forum software available. Here are some of the steps involved in setting up your own website.
Registering a Domain Name
Your domain name is the digital address of your forum. You need to make sure you choose one that represents your brand identity and business. Make sure to pick a couple of domains in case your preferred one is already chosen.
When you are done picking, head over to GoDaddy, Namecheap or any other reliable registrar to register your domain name. A domain name can cost you anywhere from $2 to $30 depending on the dot extension.
Installing the Forum Software
There are different types of forum software including WordPress, phpBB, Drupal, and Joomla among others. Choosing the right one will help you meet the needs and preferences of your target community better.
You need to follow the instructions laid out by the forum platform while installing the software. You should also make sure to choose a secure username and strong password to avoid future security breaches.
Configuring the Forum Settings and Preferences
When you are done installing your software, you need to customize your settings and preferences to cater to the needs of your target community. If your target community is based on a particular location, you want to adjust the language, and time zone to fit that location.
You also want to create user profiles that reflect the contribution of members to the forum. You can also allow for pop-up notifications, email newsletters (if possible), and so on. Your forum website has no limit and you can customize it to whatever extent – depending on the enthusiasm of your online community.
Creating Forum Categories and Sub-Forums
Organize your forum website into logical categories and sub-forums to avoid chaos. These categories should have clear titles so community members can easily find their place.
With a software development forum, you can organize the sub-forums into frontend dev, backend dev, mobile app dev, and so on. You can also organize categories into coding languages such as Python, react, HTML/CSS, and so on. If someone needs help in your forum on a particular subject matter, they know where to look.
Setting Up User Groups and Permissions
After you have created categories and sub-forums, you need to take it further and set up user groups with permissions.
For example, you can decide to create user groups for junior, senior, and intermediate developers. This will allow members of a particular group to relate better because they are at the same career level.
You can also create special privileges for the most active contributors on the forum and members with the most likes. You can control access to specific features and keep your online community working hard to be able to unlock those features.
What Are the Best Practices for Designing a Forum Website?
Bounce rate is mostly influenced by the design and UI of the website. If your forum website has a clean, visually appealing design, users will want to come back and engage with your content. Here are some of the best practices to adopt when designing your forum website;
Choosing a Suitable Theme
Forum platform software like WordPress offers a lot of themes. You need to select one that matches your brand identity, forum objective, and community members. You need to consider page layout and structure, color scheme, placement, design, and typography.
- 55% of internet users will not return to a badly designed website
- Make sure your theme is visually appealing
- Your UI needs to be easy to navigate so users can use your forum seamlessly
Customizing the Website’s Appearance
Forum software platforms often provide multiple customization options to help you design your website better. Use these tools to customize your website’s appearance, reflect your forum’s purpose and appeal to your audience.
- Make sure your website design is consistent and visually appealing
- Use colors sparingly (ideally 2 or 3 at most)
- Ensure the user experience is top-level
Adding Necessary Plugins and Extensions
Forum software platforms like WordPress offer a lot of plugins and extensions. With adequate research, you will find some really useful ones that can add unique features and functionality to your forum.
Plugins that help with SEO, social media integration, website security, spam prevention, ad blockers, and the like should feature at the top of your list. They will help you maximize your forum website’s potential.
Creating a Logo and Branding Elements
Your logo is what your online community will remember when they are not interacting with your forum. Make sure you design a clean, clear logo that reflects your unique brand identity. Also, you need to pay close attention to your branding elements.
When branding your forum, make sure the font selection, colors, and layout structure are consistent across the website. Users must know what to expect when they open any page on your forum.
What Are Some Effective Strategies for Launching and Promoting a Forum Website?
After designing and creating your form website, it’s time to launch and promote the platform. Promotion is very important if you hope to build a thriving online community through your forum website. Here are some useful tips you can apply when launching and promoting your forum website;
Creating Content and Generating Discussions
In the early stages, you will attract new users who are not yet familiar with your forum. If there is nothing to keep them engaged on the platform, they will most likely bounce and never return. You need to create high-quality content that will engage your target audience.
After community members have settled into your forum, you can encourage (and even incentivize) user-generated content and discussions. You can do this by prompting members to ask questions in the forum after every piece of content and then get customer support to answer them.
Inviting Members to Join the Forum
Instead of customer support, you can invite experienced professionals to join your forum and answer questions from newbies.
For example, if you run a software development forum, you can invite some top-level developers to join your forum. This will increase brand authority and automatically direct your target traffic to you.
Promoting the Forum on Social Media
This is by far the best way to grow your forum website. Social media offers a pool of potential members for you. You need to find out where your audience is hanging and reach out to them there.
For example, if you run a finance forum, you should be promoting it on LinkedIn or Reddit. If you run a dating forum, you will find your members on Twitter or Instagram. Market research plays an important role in this strategy.
Collaborating With Other Forum Owners and Bloggers
Influencer marketing is a big part of the industry today. However, it is very expensive. Another way you can take advantage of this strategy is through collaboration. You can link up with other forum owners and cross-promote each other’s content. However, the forum with more followers may ask for some sort of payment.
You can also collaborate with other bloggers and employ guest blogging to increase your visibility. You need to build relationships across the board if you want your forum to grow and stay relevant.
Managing and Moderating a Forum for a Safe, Welcoming Community
As a forum website owner, you are responsible for managing and moderating your website. You need to create a safe, inclusive space and ensure users don’t break the rules.
Managing User Accounts and Activities
You can set up a system that reviews and updates user accounts regularly. In the beginning, you can verify email addresses and monitor user activity. As time goes on, you also need to monitor the user roles, permissions for certain features and privileges. Forum platforms provide multiple tools you can use for account management.
Handling Disputes and Conflicts
Where there are people, there is conflict. It is highly likely that users will clash in your forum. You must have a clearly defined dispute resolution system to help resolve conflicts quickly. You can do this by having customer support managers that address cases like this on your forum.
You can also have a private messaging system so users can air their grievances without escalating disputes. Also, you can add a block button for users so they can shut out people they are not comfortable with.
Enforcing Forum Rules and Regulations
Before you launch your forum website, you already need to have a set of rules and regulations that all users must follow. These rules are clearly outlined for new users and it is your responsibility to enforce them when necessary.
There are different ways you can enforce forum rules and regulations. You can warn first-time offenders. You can also place temporary bans for more serious offenses. In extreme cases, you can ban an account/email permanently to ensure that you maintain a safe space.
Monitoring and Updating the Forum Software
Bugs and other technical issues can affect your loading time, and general user experience. By monitoring and updating the forum software regularly, you can keep your website safe from cyberattacks. You need to make sure you go bug-finding and solve technical issues before they become bigger problems.
Creating a forum website has many advantages. You are closer to your audience and customers. You also get to drive traffic, increase engagement, and enjoy greater website authority. Every business with a website should be thinking of creating a forum soon. My advice to smart business owners – don’t wait too long. Now that you know how to create a forum website, dive right in and start today.
Next Steps: What Now?
- Plan your forum website
- Choose a forum software platform
- Register your domain name
- Select from the best website builders
- Test your website with a free web hosting provider
- Pick the right web hosting provider
- Make sure your forum website has a high server speed
- Create high-quality SEO content
- Promote the forum on social media