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15 Best Forum CMS to Build Your Community

Seriously. Online forums haven’t died yet. Many people still using it. Most online forums users have the same interest. That’s why online forums have a better engagement compared to other online communities.

If you run a business with a segmented market, it will be a good idea to build your own community to approach your customers candidates. And online forum is likely to be a good way to start with. Of course, you can also use your upcoming online forum for another purpose apart from business like non-profit organization, school club. Anything.

You don’t have to be a master in programming to build an online forum as there are some forum CMS (content management system) that you can rely on.

Here are the top 15 foum CMS that you can choose, starting from paid ones to free.

Paid forum CMS

1. XenForo

Let’s start with the paid ones first. XenForo is one of the best forum CMS in the market and it’s not a nonsense at all. XenForo is well-known for its security reputation, one of the most important aspect when choosing an online platform. Apart from it, the forum CMS also fast loading to deliver a better experience to your community member. XenForo is a great tool for companies to build their communities to keep them in touch with your company’s last info. XenForo also supports social media login to make it more convenient.

2. vBulletin

An old player. VBulletin has been around since the year of 2000 and has been serving countless online forums until today. The online forum CMS offers two options. You can purchase the licensed forum CMS to be installed on your own hosting or you may prefer to host your online forum to the vBulletin’s cloud service. The second option handles the hosting, maintenance and upgrades. VBulletin also offers a Mobile Suite to give your community member a better experience when accessing your site from mobile devices.

3. Ninja Post

Ninja Post offers a single option to use its service. Instead of letting you download a licensed CMS, it offers you a cloud-based CMS with a custom domain. If you don’t have enough human resources on IT while you don’t have enough skill in IT too, the option will be good for you. You can rely all technical aspects to Ninja Post while your focus is to develop your community.

This forum CMS comes with a live-feed in its homepage, giving community members a look at the latest threads as they roll in. Other features include real-time updates, built-in spam defence, thread tagging, gamification and some neat analytics.

4. GetSatisfaction

This online forum platform is built specifically for customer support. Your costumers can use this platform to give their feedback over services/products you offer. So if you run a business and want to provide a place for your customers to congregate, GetSatisfaction will be a great choice. This online forum platform is really helpful to grow your business-based community. It brings forth CRM integration, gamification features, powerful analytics and various ways to glean feedback and testimonials from customers.

5. PlushForums

PlushForums has a sleek interface to make your member being bear to spend their times on your online forum. Similar to Ninja Post, you only have one option to use the service. You can’t download the CMS but you can register the paid plan to use this cool forum platform. Gratefully, you are given a 14-day free trial before deciding whether want to continue using it or not.

If you plan to monetize your online forum PlushForums also make it easy for you to do that as it comes with PayPal subscriptions and banner advertising settings built in.

6. Invision Power

If you are looking for a complex forum platform, Invision Power is probably something you are going to love. Your community member not only can interact each other via forum thread. They can also post a blog post to make your online forum be more rousing and content-reach. The platform also comes with a handy notification similar to Facebook’s. Your community member will be notified when other member mention him/her or leave a comment on the blog posts/forum threads they created.

Free forum CMS

7. Vanilla Forums

If you are looking for a free, open source forum CMS to build your community, Vanilla Forums is one name you should consider. While premium service is also available, the free version is a wise choice if you have not enough budget to subscribe to the premium service.

Premium service means your forum will be hosted at Vanilla Forums’s cloud service while the free version requires you to host and maintain the software by your self.  Since it’s an open source software you can also modify the CMS to meet your need.

8. Node BB

If you visit the NodeBB site you will see no download button or something similar to let you download the CMS for free. But, don’t be broken. NodeBB is basically an open source project. You can download this forum CMS for free from its GitHub page. This forum CMS comes with some cool features such as media embedding, mentions and social integration. It also serves up real-time updates, favorites, drafts, desktop notifications and instant messaging, keeping members connected as they browse the forums.

9. PhpBB

PhpBB is a famous name in terms of free forum CMS. This platform is mostly used by those want to build non-commercial community platform. This forum CMS isn’t bursting with modern features but it’s supremely easy to set up, manage and use on a day to day basis.

10. BbPress

Running a WordPress-based blog? If so, bbPress would be a perfect completion. Used together with BuddyPress, you can have yourself a fully fledged online community-forum hybrid, with all the perks and trimmings enjoyed by WordPress users across the world.

BbPress is written by the creator of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg. It’s extremely lightweight and won’t encumber your hosting as it requires minimal resources.

11. MyBB

MyBB is the best option if you are looking for a free version of vBulletin. Has been around since 2002, MyBB is one of the most-used free forum CMS. It’s fully free and released as an open source software. Another good thing about this platform is that you can add more features to your online forum as it’s supported by plugins. MyBB also comes with some handy features you will love including polling, reputation and built-in email campaign management.

12. Discourse

Another free, open source forum CMS that you will love to. Discourse has a sleek design. It has nearly all aspects to be mentioned as a modern forum platform. It features a social login, single sign on (more about SSO), real time notifications, like, user metrics and a lot more handy features. Discourse has also optimized for mobile device and, you will love it for sure, it also has a SEO friendly structure.

You can both use Discourse on your own hosting or Discourse’s. If you prefer to install the forum platform on your hosting you can download the source code of Discourse from its GitHub page. Sure, you can also do some modification over the codes if you want to spice up your forum.

13. Simple Machines Forum

As the name suggests, this is a simple forum CMS that offers no miscellaneous features. It is designed to provide you with all the features you need from a bulletin board. It’s best suited for building non-commercial community. However, since adding a banner is allowed you can also monetize your online forum you are developing if you wish it. Simple Machines Forum is also released as an open source software.

14. PunBB

Another lightweight forum CMS you will love to. PunBB has a simple but sleek interface and it’s extremely fast to be loaded. PunBB is projected to be faster, and less graphically intensive as compared to other discussion boards. Although it has has minimum features than many other discussion boards, but is generally faster and outputs smaller, semantically correct XHTML-compliant pages.

15. FluxBB

Last but not least. Another free forum CMS that you can use for free is FluxBB. It’s also lightweight and has fewer features but generally is great enough to cover your need of discussion board online, non-commercial purpose in particular. It’s also easy enough to be installed.

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