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 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 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.
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 WordPress.org 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 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 HTML 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 Vanilla Forums Features page 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 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.