Since the internet’s early days, forum platforms have been an important part of any online community. That’s why, despite social media’s constant evolution over the years, forums remain safe spaces for people seeking to connect with individuals anonymously on a more global scale.
It’s also because of this very reason that businesses often utilize the idea of making website forums, especially since online communities have proven to be a valuable asset time and time again.
Not only that, but it also paves the way for your business to maintain engagement with your target audience while nurturing meaningful communication across different communities.
Most often, online forums usually focus on a particular subject ranging from technology, hobbies, politics to current trends. Business owners generally find this helpful in terms of advertising their services and products to a wider audience, as well as a means of inter-user support and feedback.
Regardless of what your business aims to achieve with forum software platforms, the most gratifying result you can get from this is a strengthened and long-lasting connection between your users and your services.
For this reason, here are some of the best forum builders and software available for you to kickstart the future of your thriving online builder community.
phpBB is among the oldest yet the most popular free forum software solutions you can choose from. Launched in 2000, phpBB is constantly renovated and updated to keep up with the industry’s latest trends, such as anti-spam capabilities and mobile-first indexing compliance.
More than that, it’s also considered a free and flexible forum software that you can use to make boards where users are able to post their messages. Once the forum is set up, you have the choice to make as many internal message boards as you like.
However, since PhpBB is self-hosted and open-source, you don’t need to pay to use it; instead, you will have to invest in a solid website hosting platform. By choosing a high-quality host, this forum builder can effectively handle thousands of users and messages.
What’s great about phpBB is its straightforward and user-friendly interface alongside a firm documentation and administration panel. Such features make it easily accessible and convenient even to those who don’t have enough technical knowledge to begin with.
It contains the necessary features you’d typically look for in forum software, such as security, user moderation, notifications, and multi-language support. You can also choose from the hundreds of free and available extensions there if you want to add any forum-related feature or function you think is best.
Furthermore, it also has a response-efficient design, enabling you to offer only the best experience to your customers across different devices.
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2. vBulletin 5
Having been around for over two decades now, vBulletin is widely referred to as one of the best premium forum builders. Not only does this platform offer exceptional SEO tools, administration, and security, but it also comes with an AI-powered engagement feature that helps foster community growth.
The idea of the vBulletin 5 forum software is generally materialized with the consideration of large communities. Aside from utilizing natural language processing and machine learning to enhance participation, this software also allows users to make private groups and forums.
Moreover, you can also create a blog within the platform, especially if you aim to provide added value to your members, all while strengthening the forum’s own SEO performance.
It’s also fairly accessible, given that it offers both cloud hosting (vBulletin Cloud) and self-hosting (vBulletin 5 Connect) options, making it readily available and convenient for users who have varying amounts of technical knowledge. Additionally, both versions can also be set up within only 15 minutes and offer the same features.
From the name itself, MyBB allows users to create the platform by themselves. Apart from being free and open-source forum software, it’s also completely customizable — offering a theme editor and ready-made templates to make it convenient for users to achieve the design they have in mind.
This forum solution offers every basic feature of a good forum software, including extra plugins such as gamification features, anti-spam tools, CDN capabilities, and email blast support. These additional features are useful when you want to take a step further in your boards.
While MyBB’s list of extensions is not on par compared with what the other solutions offer in this list, its modern style and accessibility still make it a worthy contender in the title of the best form builder.
Also commonly referred to as SMF, the Simple Machines Forum is free and open-source software that is designed particularly for large online communities. Its interface remains simple and user-friendly, steering clear of exaggerated decorations; instead, it goes for a sober and clear approach that gives the forum a more professional and cleaner look.
This free forum platform provides a wide variety of readily-customizable plugins and features alongside organized code documentation to ensure optimal scalability and performance.
Because of this, SMF’s system and module can be considered among the most flexible than the others in the space.
Also, its advanced package manager gives users enough leeway to carry out large-scale modifications efficiently. With just a few clicks, you can already apply various changes to huge user databases, unlike before, where modifications typically need long lines and hours of coding.
With Vanilla, you have both premium and open-source versions to choose from. The premium is a powerful cloud-based solution that typically costs about $689 per month and is mainly intended for enterprise-level customers.
On the other hand, Vanilla’s free version already provides sufficient features for you to build a regular community forum. Here, the platform comes with a built-in knowledge base feature that allows businesses to make centralized content about their services and products.
This helps customers easily locate the tools and resources they need with just minimal clicks and is also a great avenue for self-service and customer support.
Vanilla’s most renowned features include a wide range of automatic content curation, marketing integrations, as well as gamification practices. These features not only help elevate user engagement but also aids in empowering the effectiveness of your business at the same time.
Extremely lightweight and fast, this forum building software’s main goal is to be the most graphic-intensive and compact platform there is. Unlike other discussion board software, this one is optimized to be a more efficient and faster forum design template.
Furthermore, it’s also written in PHP language, which is widely used and needs hypertext pre-processing tools at the same time. PunBB operates on a cloud-based database for forum data storage that is made possible using SQP Lite, MYSQL, and more. What’s also great about this is that there’s always an on-call and experienced support team ready to assist you should you have any concerns along the way.
Many consider Invision Power as one of the best forum software solutions for enterprises and businesses. This is mainly because of how it combines a completely customizable interface alongside rich content creation tools with an admin panel that also makes it relatively easy for forum management and set up.
Invision Power allows its users to customize each aspect of the forum, even the activity feed, on a regular basis. Such flexibility is also the same for end-users since they can both make and manage their respective online communities in the forum. Also popularly known as clubs, these areas typically have assigned managers while also having control over calendars, galleries, and private forums.
Moreover, this solution can be utilized beyond forum platforms in order to create mobile-responsible and fully functional ticket systems, file-sharing networks, blogs, content management systems, eCommerce sites, and more.
Forum is one of the oldest forum software creations still available today, with makers branding it as the original MySQL and PSP software. With Phorum, you have the ability to create message boards that are primarily designed to cater to different websites’ needs, all without having to sacrifice features or performance.
Forum is a versatile solution that can run a single forum with over a thousand posts per day with the capability of giving you enough freedom to do what you want with your message boards. It’s also easily customizable since it includes user profile experience customization, external authentication, message personalization, and more modifications that the platform can readily accommodate.
Because of its HTML-coded templates, it’s also easy and simple to change the website’s front end, especially for those who are experts in coding. If you want to check it out, Phorum is available for a free trial. You can also opt for the software’s paid version if you want to use it without any advertisements.
More often than not, you really don’t need a platform with too many features that it becomes overwhelming. In this regard, FluxBB understands this and focuses on offering a performance-oriented alternative that’s not only functional but also lightweight compared to other forum builders.
Even so, this doesn’t mean the FluxBB entirely compromised on its features. It still provides all the necessary tools you need to create a community forum like message boards, alongside many moderation options as well.
Despite not having flashy features, FluxBB proves to be a powerful solution for preventing all types of clickjacking attacks, as well as some features concerning direct action links to notification emails, forum building streamlining, and default styles improvement. It also recently ramped up security and anti-spam features, alongside smarter membership access.
FluxBB makes for a fantastic platform, especially if you’re aiming for an effective yet simple solution.