Forums, such as Reddit, remain one the primary digital mediums for virtual communication and are considered the best way to foster discussion online. The classic forum question and answer format, where each comment has its own thread, is still the world’s favorite method to hold candid conversations online.
Many successful businesses have used forums to grow their brand, engage with their users, and foster an online community.
Why you should create an online forum for your business
Creating a forum website allows you to house meaningful discussions and gauge how customers feel about the company. By commenting on the forum and answering questions, users are investing in your business, which makes them feel part of the brand, not just a customer but an active participant in the company’s growth.
Businesses use forums to answer common questions that people have about their products and services and resolve user issues. In addition, having an online forum allows you to collate meaningful data about your customers. You can learn more about who uses your product and gain more granular insights about the demographic.
Finally, an online community means a large influx of traffic to your domain which can improve your SEO and digital marketing efforts. Over time, the discussions on the forum will expand to include many topics related to your industry, and these threads will be indexed in Google. This means that new potential customers have a higher chance of discovering your brand via search engines.
Building your own forum website doesn’t require extensive development knowledge or huge initial investment. With Elementor and WordPress, you can design a fully functional and cost-effective forum website with no need for prior coding knowledge. Elementor’s features, templates, and drag & drop editor allow you to custom-design your very own forum website.
Here’s how to create an awesome forum website in WordPress and Elementor:
What should a forum website include?
Before we begin with our guide to creating the site, we first need to understand the key ingredients of a forum website and its role. Here are some of the important pages and elements that every forum website needs:
The homepage on an online forum acts as the central hub. Here, you should display the brand name, logo, and a smart catchphrase that encourages users to get involved in the conversation. It should also, feature recent posts, popular threads, and links to the various subcategories on the forum.
The navigation menus for the homepage and the rest of the pages on the forum website should include links to all the relevant pages on your main website that you want forum users to access. These may include the about page, product and services pages, and contact us.
2. Community Pages
On a forum website, a lot of the content will be restricted to logged-in members, and some will be personalized to the user. You can decide which content to restrict, such as particular threads, or a list of members and their user profiles. You can opt instead for all content to be unrestricted, this depends on the nature of your forum and how you want to set it up.
In any event, community pages should be user-friendly with intuitive navigation so that users can easily locate the discussion they’re looking for.
You can achieve this by creating a sidebar with quick links, such as ‘hot’ and ‘trending’ which direct users to the recent, popular posts. And, by adding a search function with advanced filtering options that allow users to find specific threads and comments.
3. Forum threads
The thread pages themselves should be organized in a clear, readable manner so users can scan the thread and easily follow particular discussions, and questions and answers. Each comment should display the user’s handle with a link to their profile and display a picture.
To improve the UX of the forum, consider adding a like feature, enable linking to individual replies, and allow users to sort by popularity and recency.
How to Create a forum Website — A Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: Choose your domain name
When you set out to create your own website, the first thing you need to do is get a domain name and a web hosting service. Your domain name will allow visitors to access your website.
Step 2: Choose your web hosting plan
The hosting plan will allow you to house all the files that make up your site. Your hosting server is where you will install WordPress and the add-ons mentioned in this tutorial.
What’s great about WordPress hosting is that it’s optimized specifically for WordPress performance, security needs, installation, and onboarding processes. There is a long list of WordPress hosts to choose from, and many considerations to factor into your selection process.
As far as hosting plans go, they range from affordable shared hosting plans to more expensive managed WordPress hosting and premium dedicated servers. To make your lives easier, we recommend several hosting packages that are fully compatible with Elementor.
Once you’ve signed up for your hosting plan, you will receive a welcome email that will have all the details related to your account. Find the login link to your hosting account area and use the username and password to log into your account.
Step 3: Install WordPress
The next step is to install WordPress. After you have logged in to your hosting account, click on the My Accounts tab and then log in to your cPanel. In cPanel, click on the WordPress icon in the auto-installers area and follow the steps to install WordPress.
After WordPress has been installed, go ahead and visit your WordPress site. Enter the name and password you’ve set up and click ‘Log In’ to access your WordPress dashboard.
(Textual link) See our full guide on how to install WordPress here: How to Install WordPress
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the WordPress software, you can take advantage of the WordPress CMS platform. The flexibility of WordPress lets you choose from tens of thousands of WordPress templates, themes, and plugins.
Step 4: Install Elementor
The next step is to install Elementor, a visual website builder that greatly simplifies the WordPress website building process. Sometimes, WordPress can be an intimidating tool that seems too complex to use on your own. However, by using a visual site builder, you can create your site quickly, efficiently, and comfortably.
In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Plugins > Add New. Search for Elementor Website Builder and click Install. When Elementor has been installed, click Activate.
While Elementor is free, depending on the features you want you’ll also need Elementor Pro to take full advantage of Elementor’s capabilities. Visit Elementor.com and purchase the Pro version of the plugin then install and activate it in the same manner as above. Once Elementor Pro has been installed, you’ll need to enter your license by going to your WordPress dashboard and navigating to Elementor > License.
Because you’re going to be using Elementor Theme Builder and your template kit to design your entire website, you don’t need to look for any design elements in your active WordPress theme.
Instead, you just want the most lightweight, performance-optimized foundation, which is what the Hello theme from Elementor provides.
To get started, go to Appearance → Themes → Add New and search for “Hello Elementor”. Then, install and activate the theme.
Step 5: Install BuddyPress
The next step is to install BuddyPress, which is a free WordPress extension that converts your WordPress site into any kind of online community, with member profiles, activity streams, user groups, messaging, and more. This is a must-have for a forum website that requires user logins and profiles.
To install BuddyPress, simply locate it in the WordPress plugin library here, click on ‘download’, then activate the extension in your WordPress dashboard. For more information, see the BuddyPress manual.
Step 5: Choose a forum Template Kit
Once you’ve installed Elementor, the next piece of the puzzle is a forum website template kit. These are individual sets of templates needed for a complete WordPress website: Header, Footer, 404 page, Blog Archive, Single Post, Single Page, Popup, and more.
Our Template Library features websites of many niches, each kit catering to the needs of our user community. These include portfolio sites, digital agency sites, magazine sites, beauty salons, and so much more.
For this tutorial, we’ll use the QodeInterative forum template.
To install the kit, first, create a page called “Home” and click the Edit with Elementor button to launch Elementor.
Then, open the Elementor template library and search for “forum” under Pages. Once you’ve found your desired template, simply click on install.
For more information about installing the kit, see here: Create a Complete Website Using Elementor Kits and Theme Builder
Step 6: Customizing the template kit
Once you have downloaded and installed the kit, you can use the drag & drop editor to customize each and every aspect of the design and layout to tailor it to your needs.
You can change the logo, color scheme, navigation links, website copy, and any other feature that you wish. You can also use the Elementor widgets to add specific functionalities to your website like a custom donate button.
To learn more about customizing your template, visit our help center.
Step 7: Publish the website
Once you’re completely satisfied with your website’s design, interface, and functionality, then it’s time to publish it live.
- To preview the site, click the icon.
- If you are satisfied with the result, go ahead and click the button.
- Click ‘Have a Look‘ to view the published page
Creating a well-designed, and fully-functional forum website can be a smooth, seamless process with Elementor’s template kits. No coding required, simply download and install Elementor onto your WordPress site, choose your desired template kit, customize, and publish.
Ready to Build an Awesome Forum Website with Elementor?