Many people burning with a passion, whether it is for musics, arts, sports or other field, like to share it with a community of like-minded people able to follow the conversation and give thoughts and suggestions. Nowadays big social sites have a major role in this kind of interaction. However if you want to create something that is truly yours and unique, a web forum is what you should look for. But how to start?
In this short guide there are five easy steps to create your own forum and have it up and running in minutes.
1. The first step is choosing a domain name for your forum and register it. It could be anything related to the forum topic or a made up name, it is your choice. I usually prefer 2 keywords names ending with “forum” (basically word + forum) or “community”, because I like the fact that people know immediately that they can become members of something when they spend a visit on my site.
2. The second step is choosing an hosting provider. If you are a beginner I would start from a cheap, but reliable, hosting provider. You do not truly need an expensive infrastructure to start with. You can scale when your community grows up. Point the nameservers of your domain to those the hosting provider gave you at the moment of registration and wait until this change propagates and completes (it can take up to 24 hours, but usually it is a matter of minutes).
3. Choose a forum software. Many forum software are free to use (at least in the basic version) and are very very often already included in your hosting admin panel (often cpanel) for easy installation. Whether it is Fantastico, Softaculus, Installatron or other script library you will find various options for your forum software … phpBB, SMF, MyBB, AEF, Vanilla, PunBB, XMB, FluxBB, Phorum, bbPress, ElkArte, FUDforum, miniBB, my little forum, Carbon Forum, Beehive, TangoBB …
For the sake of explanation, I will choose SMF here, a platform that can be operated even by novice programmers and require minimal server resources. So the only thing you need to do is finding the SMF icon in your cpanel, click it, and follow the directions given.
4. As long as everything was successfully completed, you should now have a forum. You can go to your domain and start familiarize yourself with the forum platform and settings to get the most from your website. You can find the SMF Online Manual here.
5. Choose a theme/skin for your community. You can pay for a professional made theme, but you can also find excellent themes for free. I like clean, modern responsive templates that work well on all devices. I used the Startaza theme here, that has some features I like, i.e. the right sidebar and the top ad spot that can be configured in the theme settings of the admin area of the SMF installation. Demo. Download.
Enjoy your new community!