Successful Forum: Forum Creation

Welcome to the first article of my Successful Forums series which was inspired by my other articles

  1. Shawn Gossman
    Successful Forum: Forum Creation

    By: Shawn Gossman, Owner

    Welcome to the first article of my “Successful Forums” series which was inspired by my other, How to run a successful forum, article series that I had written a number of years ago. This is the first of five articles about running a Successful Forum on your own. In this article, I will be discussing ideas and suggestions for starting your very own message forum.

    What is a forum?

    First we need to discuss what a forum is and if it is right for you. A lot of people confuse a forum with a chat room. While there similarities, a forum is still much more than an actual live chat room. A chat room allows users to post lines of text to one and other and when a new line gets posted, it lowers down the other lines of text in the chat room. A forum allows users to create paragraphs or lines of text and it puts it all in their own page (thread) and then allows users to create additional posts to the page to reply to the first text. If someone replies to a thread, that thread will usually become the first thread in the main index where all the threads are held. A forum is an online version of the bulletin board and it allows more interaction between members.

    A forum not only allows discussions that never disappear unless removed by a user who deletes their own content or forum staff who deletes content. A forum also has many other features including search, calendars, member profiles, registration and login, email abilities, a control panel for forum staff and much more. If you want to build a community with many discussions present, then a message forum is right for you.

    Where do I start?

    Okay, here is the fun part, deciding how to go about creating your new message forum. First you need to decide if you want to use a free forum hosting service or get your own paid hosting and a domain and then install forum software on it. Personally, I would recommend that you get a domain name, paid hosting and install forum software that way. A free is good but it usually will not let you get that big without charging you money further down the road as your forum gets more active.

    Now you need to decide what free host to go with or what forum software to download and install on your hosting service. For free hosting, there are many big free hosting services out there such as, a free forum hosting service with many options that have been around for many years. I recommend if you want to go the free forum hosting service route. That was the first ever forum that I ever used, a free hosted forum and it had great features. That was over 10 years ago so it’s likely the features are even better now.

    If you want to get a domain and hosting and install forum software, there are many options available for you to do so. You can get free forum software including Simple Machines Forum (SMF) Software or MyBB Forum Software which are both free and serve in a PHP and MySQL manner. You can also get something like Yet Another Bulletin Board (YaBB) Forum Software if you want to install software that runs of Perl programming language. There is also paid forum software which usually offer better support including XenForo, vBulletin and IP.Board which are all three widely used and successful forum software.

    The forum is installed or setup, what now?

    Okay so you have installed your forum software or setup your free hosted forum. Now you need to configure everything. Usually, you login to your administrator control panel and go through the settings and adjust them how you wish. If you are ever unsure or do not know what to do, you can seek support from your software/service support forum or services for help on what to do. If you do go to a forum for support, try searching before posting a new topic because you answer may already be present and it will be quicker to get it that way.

    Once you have all your options, settings, groups and permissions setup, it is time to start adding categories and boards to your forum. I must suggest that you do not add too many categories and boards from the start. If you add too many of them, people may find your brand new inactive forum confusing and overwhelming. It will be harder for you to keep every board active and if you want a successful forum, you will need to keep most of the sections fairly active. Besides, if you have fewer boards and more posts, it will make your community look a lot more active than having more boards and fewer posts in each of them.

    Okay, after you get your categories and boards up, you should make some topics/threads to start the forum out. I would make some topics about the rules of your forum which is something all forums should have as well as any extra policies for each board that you want to make. I would make about 5 to 10 starter topics in each section as well. Making some posts will help new and potential members have something to talk about on your forum. A secret I do when I make a new forum is for the first 2 months, every time I login, I post 5 to 10 new topics in EACH board. In 2 months, I have thousands and thousands of new topics and new members have plenty to start talking about. It really makes my message forums grow a lot faster than normal. You just have to discipline and motivate yourself to do it.

    Now for the looks!

    Now that you have some boards and topics going for you, you should consider the look and feel of your new message forum. If you are using the style or theme that came with the forum software or hosting service, find something else. There are plenty of free themes and styles for forum software and they are usually listed on the homepage or a link on the homepage of the forum software. As for free hosts, you should be able to pick new themes from within your administrator control panel on your forum.

    Make sure you put up your own custom logo as well. There are a lot of free logo creator websites online that you can use including Cool Text and Flaming Text. Try to keep the colors and style of the logo to match your forum’s colors and styles. You can also make your own logo with graphic design software such as the free GIMP software or the paid PhotoShop software. Alternatively, you can go to forum admin forums like and request free or paid logos be created for you.

    Don’t use the default theme/style and logo. A lot of people are tempted to do this but it’s a bad practice, really. There are way better styles out there and some forum won’t let you advertise your forum on theirs unless it has a theme/style and logo that is not a default one.


    You have created your own message forum. Now you get to experience the awesome world of running your own forum and building an online community. If you like this article, please consider replying with your comments. You may re-post this article on other websites as long as you keep all text intact and provide a link back to The next 4 articles in this series will cover Getting More Members, Solving Forum Problems, Increasing Search Ranking and Earning Money from your Forum. Stay tuned for more article from me and thank you for reading this article.