How to Get Your Website's Forum off the Ground

Having a forum on your website is great for giving your visitors a reason to come back to your site, but how do you get people to join your forum in the first place? The majority of web-users will simply not take the time to register in a forum that has a few user accounts and threads. One of the best ways to get a new forum off of the ground is to pay a forum posting service to come in and create new user accounts and discussion threads.


  1. Image titled Get Your Website's Forum off the Ground Step 1
    Lay out a plan for your forum. You want to know what your forum's theme will be. Going into a website blind with no idea of what it will be like is pointless. Yes, experimenting is a good idea but having a solid plan up front will prevent a lot of problems when you decide to get it setup.
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    Select a forum software. Having a forum software (or backbone) is the key essential to a forum. Without it, all you will have is a plan, and a hosting account. There are many different types of software out there written in different coding languages. Make sure you understand what your host supports and what your software will require. MySQL and PHP are the most common requirements. Some free choices, are SMF and PHPBB. A paid choice is vBulletin.
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    Find a host. Search around the Internet to find a good solid host. Of course paid hosts are better but using a free host in the beginning will allow you to see what you are getting into.
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    Upload the forum software to your hosting account. When you apply for a host you will receive your hosting accounts information which will include (MySQL link, username, and password; FTP link, username, and password; account username, and password; and a link to your cPanel). When you are ready to upload, you will need a FTP program (FileZilla and SmartFTP are good examples). Open the FTP program and drag and drop into the public HTML folder. The folders name will vary so ask your host what folder to upload to unless you know what folder it is. To customize the URL, while in the FTP program (before you upload everything) create a forum inside the public HTML folder and call it forum, or forums, pretty much anything you want to call it.
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    Create a database. Log into your CPanel (using your account name and password) go to the section named databases or MySQL databases. Make a database. Make it with a short name (i.e. forumdb). Your hosting account name will usually come in front of the database name (i.e. b18_999999_forumdb). You will need this in the step below.
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    Install the forum software. Visit the URL of the forum and an install prompt will be present (if everything went as planned. If it is not present, troubleshoot and if all else fails, contact your forum software company). When you begin the installation, you will need your MySQL database information. Enter your MySQL database information and proceed to the next step. Depending on your forum software, the steps may differ (it will usually guide you through the process). Usually 1-2 steps later you will be asked to make an admin account (YOUR ACCOUNT). Give it a name (custom) and a password (custom) as well as an e-mail. When this is done, it may either begin to install all the MySQL tables or your installation may be finished. Like it says above, it differs from software to software. When you are done, be sure to delete the install.php file (via FTP). The installation may delete it automatically. If you forget to delete it, it poses a risk to your forum security.
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    Give it a color scheme. In this step, you can make your own theme (if you have knowledge in XML, CSS, and Graphics) or you can download a free or paid theme. When you obtain a skin (as they are called) you may have to upload it via FTP or via your forums Admin CP. Like the step above, it differs from software to software.
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    Begin the construction. At this time, begin the building process. This will require the addition of categories and individual Forums and Sub-Forums. categories come first, then forums, then sub-forums. It is up to you to decide the names of categories and forums as well as their content.
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    Make your rules. Be it global forum rules, or rules specifically designed for a certain section, make the rules so that the forum can be used effectively and to minimize spam (a major culprit on forums).
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    Hire some staff members. When starting off, one to two admins (including yourself) will be all that you need for administrators. Look for people who are interested in a Global/Super Moderator position and if they don't want that much responsibility, offer them a Moderator position. It is recommended that these people are trustworthy.
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    Make member-groups. Make forum member groups so that you can organize your members. The most common are Administrator, Global/Super Moderator, Moderator, Member, and Banned. Most software allow unlimited member-groups but too many can make organization confusing, tedious, and time consuming.
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    Add your mods/add-ons. You should specify which mods you would like to have (chatbox, Captcha system, Top Stats, etc.). Like before, installation of these mods will differ.
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    Make some graphics. Most new forums make an affiliate icon, a userbar, as well as a banner to help with advertising. Making these is fairly simple. Google for some tutorials.
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    Have fun. Yes, starting off you will be stressed and worried. Don't get mad or upset if your forum is inactive after the first month, projects like this take time to get setup as well as to form a member base.


  • Regularly change your administrator password so that its extremely difficult for vandals/hackers to get access to your account and mess with your forum.
  • Promote members when you feel the time is right.
  • Tell your friends. Pretty self explanatory.
  • Host contests. Have a fun contest. Like a referral contest or a posting contest. Even a graphics contest will work.
  • Make regular backups of your forums database. You never know when your host's servers may crash or get fried by lightening.
  • Keep up to date with your forum software edition/version as well as the versions/editions of your mods and themes as they may become obsolete/not functional and/or may cause your forum to become unstable.
  • Don't be afraid to enforce the law, well in this case rules if someone violates a rule(s).
  • Advertise your forum. Google sites that do free advertising. It can be as simple as saying, "Hey, I just made a new forum, check it out and join if your interested," or you can make an in depth post discussing what your forum offers and what members can do.


  • Stay up to date with your hosts Terms of Service (ToS). Violation of their ToS could result in forum deletion as well as account removal and no refunds are given. You must enforce the law/rules if you are hosting it. You could face the consequences if you don't.
  • Regularly look at your accounts statistics. Make sure you forum isn't breaking your bandwidth or storage limits set by your host. Doing so could/can result in fines as well as charges for the extra bandwidth/storage and/or may result in the deletion of your board and/or account without notice. Most of the time, they will deactivate your hosting account til the next month rolls around and/or charge you for the extra bandwidth that your account used.
  • Making a professional based forum can be expensive, up to $300 US for a starting package. If you are not willing to pay that much or don't have the money on hand for it, don't do it. Make a free forum on a free host until you get the cash to make a professional one.
  • STAY UP TO DATE WITH YOUR FORUMS VERSION/EDITION/RELEASE! New releases have bug fixes as well as security updates and a handful of new features.
  • NO PIRATED SOFTWARE!!! Using pirated software is illegal and depending on where you live could/can result in you being arrested, fined for loads of money as well as time in jail. DON'T DO IT!!!
  • Read and stay up to date with the license information that your forums software follows.
  • Don't vary your forums theme. Doing this can turn off members and make them leave and/or it could turn off potential members interested. Doing this has its ups and downs. Don't do it unless you must or your community agrees to your choice.

Article Info

Categories: Internet Forums and Message Boards