Running your own discussion forum can help build a community feel around your business and will allow you to create a support and a feedback connection between you and your customers. We will explain more about discussion forums and show you some of the most popular forum software used along with ways to benefit from your own forum.
Forum software is available from many different companies who all have a different approach to the way their software works and what features the software offers to administrators and users. The core principle behind most discussion forum software is the same so if your customers have used on before then they should be able to learn to use another quicker. Forums are often divided into topics in which conversations can be created such as a topic for each product or service a company offers or topics for customers only and potential customers or pre-sales support. The actual discussion in a forum is a threaded conversation in which somebody will post a message and all replies are then attached to that thread and displayed under the original post.
Most forum software will provide a registration form so users can register and reserve their user name on the forum. This will allow the forum owner to control access to various topics and features of the forum software and allows the forum members to establish their own reputation amongst the community within that forum. Other features shared by most forum software are: Search: The ability to search the forum for discussions, user names or content within a discussion and easily access the archive of discussion on that forum from the past to present.
Administrate and Moderation: The ability for website administrators and their trusted associates to moderate the forums. This can include approving posts for public display, removing or banning abusive users, moving a discussion to a more suitable topic and other administrative tasks.
There are many different companies offering forum software. Some companies are offering free forum software while other companies are making their software available only to paying customers. We have created a list of free and paid forum software companies for you to look at. All of them are suitable to different purposes and we will let you decide on the best one for you. All software mentioned here will run on most standard web hosting accounts with PHP script support and MySQL database.
Commercial forum software is recommended for webmasters who have minimal technical knowledge and want a professional community forum running quickly. This forum software requires payment for licensing. Each application has professional support from the developing company as well as support from the community of users. You may be required to pay a separate license fee for each website you run the software on.
IP.Board - IP.Board is one of the most popular solutions for creating an engaging discussion forum on the web. You can change the look of your forum and add extra features such as community blogging and real time chat rooms for your users. A hosted version is available for webmasters who want to pay a small monthly fee and focus on running their online community without the worry of managing the files and web server. Highly recommended.
UBB.threads - Established in 1997 this PHP powered forum software has been around for many years and has many great features. Discounts are offered for bulk (multiple) licenses.
These free forum applications can be installed on as many websites as you wish for free and are completely free to use and modify for personal and commercial use. Support is provided by the the user community and knowledge of setting up MySQL databases and transferring files to a web server is required for most of the free forum software listed here.
phpBB - Very popular forum software that is easy to use and packed with features. phpBB has an extensive offering of add-on options and template designs developed by the phpBB user community and many are completely free. Well supported forum system undergoing updates over many years.
Simple Machines - A powerful forum system with a lot of add-ons available. Also a lot of style layout designs available.
PunBB - PunBB was created to be a light weight forum system and it delivers on that promise. If you want a simple forum system without the complicated features offered by other systems then this is a great option. Well designed, user friendly and runs nicely on most web hosting accounts.
Phorum - Robust and flexible forum software that is free to download and use.
Do you need help with forum software or any other web development issues? Ask your questions and get answers at the web development support site.