In this article, I will list down and review the best website builders for forums as well as mention the key features required to build the best forum platform.
While I don’t use forums as religiously as I did some years ago, I still find them incredibly useful. From places to make friends based on similar interests to useful sites full of information and user-feedback; forums are here to stay.
Looking to make a forum of your own? This is the post for you.
Here, I’m going to cover a wide variety of forum website builders – fit for both places open to the world, large groups, and anonymous users, as well as close-knit communities meant to share ideas and stories with the select few.
Which one’s the best for your community? Let’s go find out together.
So, let’s take a quick look at my top 5 list of the best website builder for forums. Each one of them is suited for one thing better than the other, so you can definitely find a forum building platform that will help to make your idea come true.
Many people aren’t aware that you are able to create a forum website through Wix, despite it being one of the front-runners in the website-creation game.
Over 160 million people worldwide have chosen Wix to create a website, forum, or otherwise; which obviously explains well why it is so popular and trustworthy.
With options for both free and premium plans, Wix gives you the freedom to plan for the future and scale as needed. Of course, the more content you want on your site, the higher-end plan you’ll need.
Things like additional storage space and better bandwidth are the main features of Wix’s more advanced plans. These two features should play a key role in your project as a forum will require a lot of bandwidth capabilities if you want to gather some traffic to your website.
The website building plans range from $13 to $39 a month. And the cheapest plan lets you connect a custom domain, removes Wix’s branding from your website, as well as provides your website with 2 GB bandwidth and 3 GB storage.
Wix is, first and foremost, a drag-and-drop website builder – meaning that after choosing one of the many templates, you can rearrange things to just how you like them.
With a very simple sign-up process, it doesn’t take long to get your Wix website up and running. That’s just the beginning of the great things about Wix, though. When you first sign-up, you’ll be given two options: Build your website from scratch using a template or let Wix ADI take care of things for you.
What is Wix ADI, you might be thinking? Well, let’s break it down. ADI, or Artificial Design Intelligence, is a feature that allows Wix to create a website design for you based on your answers to a few simple questions.
Using Artificial Intelligence, ADI even has the capacity to tweak the smallest details, even such as matching your website’s color scheme to your logo.
If you want to create a forum with Wix, you’ll have a few options in terms of layout and design. Right out of the gate, the website builder gives you 3 layouts to choose from. Those being Classic, Modern, and well, Compact Modern.
Okay, I may have made those names up, as Wix doesn’t name its layouts, it simply shows them. I will give you some examples of how they look.
Above is the Classic style layout. As you can see, it displays each forum thread in a single line, one after another, with information to the right showing interactions and recent activities.
After clicking the three dots to the far right you’ll be given options to follow, edit, or like a post. This feature remains the same throughout all three layouts.
Next up is the Modern layout. It’s more of a blog than a forum but still operates in the same way. Each tile is a thread that can be displayed as simply a text box, an image, or both. This is more useful if you’re going for a more clean and elegant forum website approach.
Last but not least we have Compact Modern, as I will stick to naming it. It is really a more compact version of the previous layout, with smaller boxes for text and images, allowing more threads to be displayed on the home page at once, but without resorting to the less dynamic and more ‘old-fashioned’ Classic style.
All three have their purposes, and it ultimately depends on what you and your community want to see.
There are some downsides to Wix – this isn’t necessarily a massive minus, but you are unable to remove the author name on posts, which mostly removes the anonymity some forum users look for.
Wix also can be somewhat challenging for beginners to create a cohesive forum website since it lets you drag-and-drop anything anywhere. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, it may become troublesome as forum owners have multiple pages to maintain. Overall, however, Wix is a very solid community website builder.
You’ve probably seen the ads on YouTube and other platforms, as since 2017 Squarespace has been pushing their business far and wide. But the question has to be asked, are the ads telling the true tale of Squarespace, or are they carefully crafted marketing tools with little substance to back them up? How does this platform stack up as a community website builder?
The short answer is: Somewhere in between, as things so often are. Despite being one of the best website builders for beginners, it may be a little bit tricky as an advanced forum website builder.
But let’s look at everything in order. To begin with, I’ll point out some of the things the website builder does well.
First and foremost, that would be templates and designs.
Squarespace templates are beautifully crafted and curtailed to provide a uniquely pleasant experience for both website builders and end-user.
In terms of pricing, Squarespace offers a few options:
To begin with, unlike other website builders on this list, Squarespace only offers a 14-day free trial, before forcing you to either give up on your site or upgrade to one of their paid plans, starting at $12 monthly.
As is usual with website builders, more features = more cost. Unfortunately, a big drawback of Squarespace in the area of forum websites is that in order to create a forum you need to import the code from an already completed one, created elsewhere.
In simple terms, third-party integration. However, this feature is only accessible to the users that are using a paid subscription. This means that if you actually want to test Squarespace’s forum implementation, you must first pay for it.
Squarespace may be a bit tricky to navigate when it comes to creating a forum, but it does the rest you’d want from a simple website builder very well.
Designs are easy to modify; fonts, animations, and colors are easy to change or add, also the drag-and-drop nature of the builder itself lends to a very pleasant editing experience.
As mentioned previously, you’re only able to create a forum on Squarespace by importing from elsewhere. The most popular service for this is called Website Toolbox, where you can create and save the code for your forum for free.
As you can see, this way you’re able to make a nice and simple discussion page. It doesn’t take long to import, you simply need to copy the HTML code given by the editor you’ve chosen, and paste it into a code box on your Squarespace website.
Website Toolbox even provides a guide specifically to Squarespace users on how to have a smooth integration.
If you’re into coding, Squarespace does allow you to edit the HTML and CSS content of this page to your heart’s content – which gives plenty of flexibility to more advanced users.
And even if you’re not an advanced user, you can contact Squarespace support that can help you with the integration as you would be using a paid plan.
Squarespace offers a fairly thorough knowledge base wherein you’re able to search for answers to the most common issues. If you need more help, you can always use the live chat function and speak with a representative, too.
While not as well-known as some of the other forum website builders in this list, SITE123 is a fantastic place to get started. It’s super easy to use (It likes to boast everyone about it too!) and is competitively priced.
If you want to play around with SITE123 before committing to a paid plan, it also offers a free version that still allows you to create and publish your website. However, it will be a super limited experience.
Having heard many claims to fame from website builders around the world about how easy they are to use; SITE123 is the first one to immediately deliver on that promise.
From landing on their homepage to having a website ready to go can be done in less than a minute. Setting up your forum is just as simple, it takes only a few clicks and boom, there it is.
There are a couple of plans to choose from with SITE123, including a Free plan which gives you 500MB of storage space and 1GB of bandwidth, whilst the Premium version gives a free domain for 1 year, 10GB storage and 5GB of bandwidth – for $7.80 per month.
That is until you’ve created an account and headed to the ‘upgrade’ page, where you’ll see this instead:
As you can see, the Premium plan shown before sign-up is actually the most popular plan. There are three other options on top of that, ranging from $8.28 to $15.48 per month.
The increase in things like storage space is drastic, going from 10GB to 270GB when comparing the Basic and Gold plans.
SITE123 offers over 200 templates, and while they are often very attractive and professional-looking, but there are some limitations to designing a forum website here.
However, the creation process is the same as many website builders’ on this list – pick a template, customize it, publish your forum website.
That’s what you’re here to read about, right? SITE123 allows simple forum creation to be done in just a few clicks, as their editor software is clutter-free and simple to navigate.
Once you’ve made the forum page (which is just searching for ‘forum’ in the page creator tool, you’re presented with the following options. You are able to create a short description of the page, add images, and add categories for the threads inside the forum itself.
Unfortunately, creating labels is only possible with the Premium plan. Nevertheless, in just a couple of minutes you can create something like this easily:
When it comes to actual editing of the forum design, you’re pretty limited in what you can do. Sure, you’re able to change fonts and colors, but anything further like changing button placement or design is not possible.
I guess that’s the price you pay for the most beginner-friendly interface in the industry. However, you are able to add custom code to the site with the Premium plan.
Nevertheless, I still wanted to know if this applies to the site in general, or if you can edit the code of forum items specifically. So I asked SITE123 about this, and this is what they had to say:
That’s what I call customer support! Who knows, by the time you are reading this, the feature may be available after all.
So I guess for now you can only edit the overall code of the website and access to specific forum areas may be developed later.
Not to be mistaken for its more powerful brother, WordPress.org, WordPress.com (herein ‘WordPress’) is a quick and easy way to get started with building a forum website.
Offering lots of free templates to get started, WordPress has many things going for it. Although it can’t be considered as a drag-and-drop website builder like others in this article.
The templates WordPress offers on its free plan are sufficient for a basic style of website, allowing for simple editing of fonts and color-schemes, but very little else.
The templates themselves range from simple blog-style layouts to more interesting and eye-catching designs such as modern art studios or options for small businesses.
WordPress.com is a great entry point to creating and maintaining a website – it is very user-friendly and has a huge community online which will offer and share support, should you need it.
So far so good right? Well, here is where things, take a turn for the worse.
WordPress does indeed allow forums to be hosted and maintained on its platform. However, these are limited to the plugin form.
Plugins don’t always mean that it’s bad, right? Well, yes and no. WordPress has a plethora of forum plugins available, many of them free and widely used, but you’ll need to pay the big bucks to WordPress for this privilege.
One of the best plugins available is called bbPress, which is a forum software suite created by the developers of WordPress itself. It’s totally free and supports theme integration too.
Unfortunately, as you can see above, plugins are only available with WordPress’s paid plans. More specifically, only with its Business or eCommerce plans, priced at $25 and $45 per month, respectively.
One thing WordPress does not get bad scores for is its support network. They are hosted on a forum-style site themselves and will be able to provide as much support as you need.
Whilst you’re on the Free plan, you’ll only have access to community support, which is support from other users and contributors.
However, if you upgrade to a paid plan, you’ll receive customer support directly from WordPress themselves, in addition to the community forums.
So, whatever issue/question you may have will, in all likelihood, already have an answer somewhere out there.
You know the saying, never judge a book by its cover? Well, that can be applied in some ways to this forum website builder, uCoz. Despite having a nice webpage, its sign-up process is fairly slow and, to be honest, quite ugly.
But don’t let that put you off, as once you’re in, there are wonders to behold.
uCoz is a relatively unknown brand when it comes to website builders. It certainly is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the other popular site builders. It may not be that great for website building, but it’s fantastic at forum building.
This forum website builder is actually one of my favorites in this article, for one simple reason: Options.
When setting up for the first time, you’re sent to the module screen to choose which modules you want on your website. You don’t have to choose right now, as these can be easily added/removed from the modules page later on in the editing process.
The control panel where you’re able to view and change all these settings is called ‘Control Panel 2.0’ – and I hate to say it, but it is quite slow and unresponsive.
Despite the modest appearance, uCoz is filled to the brim with options, settings, and tools to help you create the best version of the forum you want.
This page, for example, has 25 separate settings available, from Module name all the way to sets of buttons and icons. There are more than 40 button sets and over 10 icon sets, in order for you to really personalize your forum and give it the feel you want.
If for some reason, none of the options appeal to you, you can even add a link to a folder containing your own premade icons and button designs. Of course, this will require some knowledge of FTP (File Transfer Protocol), but if you’re okay with that, uCoz gives you the option that many others on this list do not.
The best thing about uCoz is the forum creation tools, but unfortunately, other areas do fall short as a consequence.
Designs, overall, are lackluster, responsiveness could be improved, and ease-of-use is definitely something the provider needs to take a look at.
But despite all of that, there is something that draws you into this fairly outdated, often-times clunky website builder. It has the charm of the old forums I used to use and maybe, just maybe, there is something special about that.
There are, of course, upgraded plans available. These include the addition of storage space up to 20GB for the Maximal plan (the free version only gives you 400MB) and things like PHP scripts, ad removals, etc.
Even here, uCoz shines. Its most expensive plan at $12.79 per month is the same price as many website builders’ entry-level plans, and for that price, you get much more forum-centric options to adjust.
In the end, you can make a simple, humble forum website, without too much difficulty. This is one of the best forum platform options out there.
When making a forum, any ordinary builder won’t do. Previously, we’ve covered some of the best website builder options out there – but only a handful of them allow for any kind of forum functionality.
And even the ones that do, do it in a dramatically different way. You’ll find both classic phpBB-style solutions, as well as some modern takes.
But in between all that noise, there are still a few things all forum website owners should absolutely look for.
I’ll break down these aspects into the following sections: Sign up, Discussion threads, T&C (Terms & Conditions), Blogs, and Affordability.
The sign-up page on a forum is essential. It is in all likelihood the first area of your forum that the end-user will interact with and allows users to provide their details for future log-ins.
A well thought out and clean sign up page gives your user a great first impression and is more likely to encourage users to create accounts on your website.
You need to strike a fine balance here, though. Of course, asking for information like email address, username, and password are important, but try not to ask too much.
If users have just arrived at your site and are being asked for things like their phone number, home address, or date of birth, you may see sign-ups being less successful. As I said, it’s all about a balance.
My advice would be to take a look into forum builders which allow you to integrate Captcha solutions, to ensure your site won’t be overrun by bots.
Discussion threads are really the be-all and end-all of any forum website. If your threads aren’t great, nobody will enjoy interacting with your forum.
Luckily, most website builders nowadays make this a simple thing to accomplish. This is the page on your forum which will either draw users in or drive them away, so it’s important to get it right.
Usually, this page will display the multiple discussions currently ongoing and can be sorted however you like. From newest to oldest, most interacted first, etc.
You also have the ability to ‘pin’ threads at the top of this page. I would suggest that adding things like important information for forum users or website information in general in such pinned threads.
All the end-user has to do is click on the thread of interest to them, and they will be taken to the discussion page.
You’re also able to set up notifications on these threads with some platforms. As mentioned earlier, Wix has this functionality. On top of this, users also are given the opportunity to create new threads of their own.
Terms and Conditions are important in everything, not just on forum websites. However, they are of particular interest here. You need to set out the rules and regulations for use of your forum, else things could go astray very quickly.
Depending on your user-base and workload, it might be a good idea to give some long-term or trusted users the role of moderator. This means they’ll be able to police the forum, in a sense.
If you’re still growing your small community and don’t have this option, you need to make sure that your Terms and Conditions are very clear to all users.
For example, you can find a sample version of forum terms and conditions page on Wikihow or anywhere else on the internet, and most of these are copyright free, allowing you to fill in the gaps with site-specific information pertaining to you.
While not strictly considered as essential, running a blog alongside your forum is a great way to keep users updated without the information getting lost in piles of threads.
They can be used to promote new ideas on your platform, give updates and information about changes to the forum itself, or simply be a place to write down your thoughts and ideas.
You’re also able to allow comments to blogs, creating a place wherein users can not only read updates, but give feedback on them too.
You don’t want to be spending the vast majority of your time fixing problems or dealing with issues that arise on your forum.
Maintenance is an important part of any website builder software, as whilst some are fantastic in the building process, they may struggle when it comes to day-to-day upkeep.
Always look for a forum website builder with clear, concise control panels and dashboard that is easy to master. Since, as webmaster, you’ll be spending a lot of your time looking at these areas, perhaps even more than your forum itself.
First and foremost, you need your forum to be SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly. Some website builders will give you specific tools in order to do this.
For example, Wix has a page in its dashboard which gives you access to SEO information and tips in order to be Google-friendly.
Another couple of features to look out for in a forum website builder are speed and uptime. Speed is fairly self-explanatory, it’s basically how responsive your website is when a user clicks any link or is scrolling through.
Uptime is usually displayed as a percentage, showing how much time your website can expect to typically stay up. Most providers promise around 99 – 99.9% uptime.
It’s worth bearing in mind that issues out of the provider’s control can occur, like servers malfunctioning for example, and this can affect your website’s uptime.
Personal domains are also something to look into. Offered for free with some builder’s premium plans, they allow you to choose your website’s URL.
They are definitely worth the relatively small cost, sometimes as little as $0.99, as they show users immediately that this is a domain that is looked after professionally. Let’s face it, ‘exampleforum.com’ looks a lot better than ‘example-forum-q773.wordpress.com’.
Ultimately, you need to experiment and play around with each of the options above to see what fits you the best. None of the website builders in this article are going to be a one-stop-fits-all solution.
There is no such thing as the perfect forum builder, but there are definitely some that stand out as better than most. If you want a personal recommendation, I would suggest uCoz. To be perfectly honest, I did not expect this website builder to be as good as it is.
Yes it has problems, the control panel is a little laggy and the designs could certainly be improved, but it has something special about it. The number of options and settings available blows all of the other platforms in this list away.
If a clean and modern design is important to you, then I would suggest choosing between SITE123 and Wix. These two builders offer the best value for money when it comes to the options given on the free plan.
If SEO is something you don’t feel comfortable dealing with, then Wix would be best for you as it gives so many useful tips and tricks in this area. If support is your priority, SITE123 is best in class in this area.
Other builders like WordPress and Squarespace certainly have their good points, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable making a recommendation regarding either of them if building a forum is your priority.
Sure, if you want a beautifully designed and smooth experience on your blog website or online store, go for Squarespace. Similarly, if plugins and access to a huge support community of users and support is your thing, look no further than WordPress.
At the end of the day, the best forum builder for you is the one that makes you feel excited about building your forum. For me, that was uCoz; for you it could be any of the builders in this article, or, perhaps, one that hasn’t even been mentioned.
Good luck in your quest to build a forum website, it’s an often challenging task, but one with great rewards!