Building a Community – 5 Forum Software Choices in 2017
With the advent of social media, it seems almost an alien concept to participate in a forum discussion for some. Particularly newer web users. But for us old timers, a forum can still be a fantastic place to not only find information on a given subject but also interact with other, anonymous users who all share a similar interest.
In short, whilst they’re not as popular as they once were, they do still have their place and for some a given forum is the be all and end all of their Internet experience.
In this article we’re going to run through some of the more popular forum software applications out there. Some new players, some tried and tested scripts that have been around since the dawn of the web.
All of which can do whatever it is you need them to do and all of them have large user bases which means support is not hard to come by should you get stuck. It also means that whilst they’re still in development they’re frequently patched and secured.
If you’re a bit of an old timer like me you’ll remember phpBB from back in the day. It’s been around for at least the past 15 years and has most definitely stood the test of time.
For those not around before the WWW days, BB stands for Bulletin Board which is what us old timers used to use before we had “websites”.
PhpBB has come along heaps and bounds over the past 15 years and is now the most widely used forum application on the planet. In terms of features it has everything you could expect from a forum with full user management and content control. It’s also extremely easy to setup in comparison to other platforms.
XenForo is probably the go to forum these days for new forum owners as it does everything the old timer applications do but also comes with some fantastic social media features and activity fees etc which new school users seem to appreciate.
It is also extremely to style to suit your design via its colour picker application so no need to edit hex codes like you had to do with vBulletin.
There are also some fantastic SEO benefits to using XenForo over its competitors. The only gripe I have with this application is the fact the trial is only available for 3 days then you have to buy it.
vBulletin was a forum powerhouse in its day and 7 or 8 years ago pretty much every forum on the Internet was using it. It then fell off slightly but has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence recently thanks in part to their vBulletin 5 offering from 2016.
The newer versions retain everything that we know and love from the old version but also come with lots of add ons such as blogs, activity fees and various user interaction elements.
From a coding standpoint, it’s extremely slick with lots of AJAX / jQuery functionality which has really dragged it into 2017.
If you want a nice free and open source forum application MyBB is probably for you. It’s simple, it’s clean and it’s powerful. If you want a basic forum that does the basic features fantastically well but not much else then this is for you. In comparison to the other behemoths, it’s lightweight, agile and extremely easy to setup.
It has been developed with performance in mind yet doesn’t sacrifice any of the core features you’d expect from a fully blown forum application.
The above four applications in my opinion represent the cream of the crop. They’re tried and tested, well supported and well secured. You can use any of the above to run a small niche or community website right through to systems with hundreds of thousands of daily users.
They all do exactly what they do on the tin and are also highly scalable. But obviously there are many more options out there.
If you are intending to start your own community do not be afraid to try all of them out before deciding which one to go ahead with. If you don’t you’re always going to be wondering “what if”. All of the are cross compatible too so if you are currently using one of them you’ll easily be able to find a script or plugin that converts your data for use with another platform.