What is an Online Forum?
A forum in terms of the internet pertains to a website where people can discuss various topics by posting messages and reading comments of all the members of the “Forum”. A Forum can be about anything at all and it can be of any size. The members can be just a few of the family members or a set of friends or it can be very large like the employees of a conglomerate. Generally one needs to register himself with the Forum before he can post a message on the Forum. Also, there is an administrator on the Forum who controls the level of visibility of the content on the Forum. A particular set of conversations on a particular topic is known as a thread and can numerous posts in it which are displayed in order.
There is any number of software that can be used to create an online Forum and they are in different programming languages like Perl, PHP or Java.
Forums are good! Foster Engagement and increases website traffic
Forums have become very popular platforms where people with common interests and passions can meet and get to know each other. Another big advantage of Forum is that if you have an existing website and you need to increase traffic on it then you can add a Forum to it or link a forum to it. This is sure to increase the web traffic on your website and is sure to attract targeted customers to your website. Also having an Online Forum linked to your website can definitely improve the ranking of your website on search result page of saying Google, Yahoo and all.
If you need to have your own Forum, all you need to do is get a Forum software according to your requirements and then finalize a web host who will provide Forum Hosting and will make your Forum available online. The various Forum software will have different features and you must pick the software carefully so that you get all the desired features. You might want to give your Forum members the facility of posting audio or video files or to have opinion polls. Some software also offers the services like having an instant messenger or you can have set events on the calendar.
Forum Hosting Features
When you are deciding which Web host to choose for providing you Forum Hosting, you must consider following features. You must find out if the host is providing them or not, are they free or if they have any limitations or guidelines.
- The host must provide the general popular features like you must be able to generate profiles, connect groups to your community and so on.
- No spam, promotional, or instigating content: There must be Spam filters, provision of Sticky topics and moderation rules.
- Member Interaction features or how can members interact with each other. Can they chat in private, is anonymous posting allowed, is online/offline status displayed, can members have a blog within the Forum. All these features make a Forum popular and successful.
- The appearance of the Forum is important. Many hosts provide various themes to select from. Also, it is good if the forum is collapsible as that reduces scrolling time. The image viewing size can also be adjusted.
- How can a member search anything on the Forum? There should be an option available to search topic wise or member wise. Also spotting the active topics should be easy. Also, anyone who wants to sort the posts according to relevance or date should be able to do so.
- Security and moderation features should be carefully looked out. This helps to keep the forum civil and disciplined. Also, problem identification and solving become easy.
- You must be able to customize your forum.
Forum Hosting Websites
E-Commerce websites like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Jabong, Shopclues, and Snapdeal provide a section where customers can ask questions about a product, manufacturer, or find out the relevant, unbiased reviews of the other customers about product or services. The websites allow visitors to interact, thus helping them to make informed decisions. Also, it enables businesses to understand customer issues, grievances, feedbacks in using the products, services, or website. Online E-Commerce businesses do everything to bring the customer delight, which includes discounts, sharing knowledge, and exchange of ideas.
Social network community websites like BuddyPress enable visitors to register, create an account, add friends, and then post messages to share updates, like or comment on other user's updates, or send private messages.
Polls, ‘Q & A' Websites enables users to add questions and answers in a stack overflow style. The users can upvote or downvote answers and also share them on various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The website maintains the index of all items asked.
- Keymaster (administrator or website owner): Create Categories, Topics, and Tags, Delete forum topics and posts, block users who do not follow the rules or guidelines.
- Moderators: moderate forum topics and posts.
- Participants (Default Role): enables users to create and edit topics and posts.
- Spectators: only read the topics and posts.
- Blocked users: They cannot do anything on the forum as the Keymaster stops their capabilities.
So just pick a reliable and affordable host and go ahead and have an Online Forum!