Tools to Add a Forum to Your Blog

Free and Paid Ways to Create a Blog Community with a Forum

An online forum is a type of message board, divided into topic folders, where members can publish posts and reply to posts from other members. Adding a forum to your blog is a great way to enhance the feeling of community and visitor loyalty. Fortunately, there are many free and paid tools that you can use to easily create a forum and seamlessly integrate it into your blog. These tools aren't difficult to use and they provide diverse features. 

vBulletin

The vBulletin logo in SVG.
Recreation as a vector of the logo on their site by Craigbrass/Public Domain

What We Like

  • Available in mobile version.

  • Established company.

  • Runs lean, without much bloat.

  • Add-ons available to extend functionality.

What We Don't Like

  • Complicated to install and manage.

  • Can be buggy.

  • Technical support spotty.

vBulletin is one of the most popular forum tools because it is chock full of features and functionality. It does have a price tag, but if you want a top-notch forum, you can get it with vBulletin, which also offers a mobile app. Spend some time on a site that has a forum powered by vBulletin, such as the vBulletin support forum or the StudioPress forum, to see how it works.

phpbb

What We Like

  • Free.

  • Demo version allows users to try before committing to installation.

  • Lots of customization options.

  • Forum users can send private messages.

What We Don't Like

  • Infrequent updates.

  • No social media integration options.

phpbb is one of the most popular free forum tools because it offers a wide variety of features even though it's completely free to use. You can visit the actual phpbb forum or the Elegant Themes forum to see how the tool works.

bbPress

What We Like

  • Free.

  • Large support community, with more than 300,000 active installs.

  • Small footprint.

  • Third-party plugins add features.

What We Don't Like

  • Rather sparse out of the box.

  • Forum appearance can’t be customized without changing code.

Even though the free bbPress forum tool was created by the makers of WordPress and Akismet, you don't have to use WordPress to use the bbPress forum tool. It's a standalone tool that can be added to any blog or website. However, if you do use the self-hosted

as your blogging application, then you'll find that bbPress integrates seamlessly into your WordPress blog or website. The bbPress tool isn't as feature-rich as a tool like vBulletin is, but it's a great option if you want to use a simple, free forum tool. You can see it in action in the actual bbPress forum or the U.K. Nissan Cube Owners Club Forum.

Vanilla Forums

What We Like

  • Free.

  • Easy to use.

  • Add-ons available.

  • Excellent support.

  • Large user community.

What We Don't Like

  • Not as customizable as most other options.

  • Analytics not very comprehensive.

  • No dedicated mobile app.

Vanilla Forums is a free, open-source forum tool that offers some customization options but not as much as some of the other options in this list. However, this is the easiest tool to use. Simply copy a single line of

code from the Vanilla Forums website into your blog, and a bare-bones forum is instantly added. Add-ons are offered to enhance your Vanilla Forums discussion board. You can give a Vanilla Forums forum a test drive by scrolling to the bottom of the

to see how an actual embedded forum looks on a web page (using that single line of HTML code mentioned previously to embed it) or visiting the live Wufoo Forums.

Simple:Press

What We Like

  • Free.

  • Clean, pleasing appearance.

  • Fully responsive.

  • More than 12 years of continuous development.

  • Long list of features.

  • SEO-optimized.

What We Don't Like

  • WordPress plugin only.

  • Limited customization options.

  • Lacks extensive documentation.

Simple:Press is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to add a customizable forum to your self-hosted WordPress.org blog or website. You can choose your Simple:Press forum skin (design), icons, and more. It's very easy to use once you've installed the plugin. You can see a forum built from the Simple:Press plugin by visiting the iThemes forum or the Simple-Press support forum.

XenForo

What We Like

  • Good customer service.

  • Highly customizable.

  • Easy setup.

  • Regularly updated.

  • Lots of add-ons.

  • Monetization options built in.

What We Don't Like

  • Can be slow on some installations.

  • Many add-ons are pricey.

XenForo offers easy styling, built-in search engine optimization, recent activity streams, alerts, and many add-ons so you can customize the experience of your forum. Social engagement is included with Facebook integration and a system to reward member participation using a trophy system. A 12-month license, including ticket support and upgrades, starts at $140. A free demo is available on the XenForo website, and you can find a showcase of links to live sites using XenForo in the XenForo Community.