How to Create a Forum (without writing any code)

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Ben Sibley

“Follow the plan outlined here and you can create your own website from scratch without writing any code for less than $300.”

You’ve been lied to.

For years now, social media has been touted as the best medium for discussion online. But do we really have conversations on social media?


Tweets are much too limiting for serious discussion, Facebook posts get lost in the feed, and Instagram… forget about it.

If you want a place where people can congregate online and converse, forums are still the best platform.

Forums can serve as platforms for active and engaging discussion. And as the owner of the forum, there are tons of benefits.

Benefits of running a forum

Discussion forums get tons of repeat traffic from visitors which means your ads can get lots of impressions from relatively few people. You can also create premium memberships or sections of the site where members can pay to advertise products and services.

The point is, forums are excellent for niche discussions and can be very profitable for the webmaster behind the site.

If you’re ready to get started, keep reading to find the first step to create your own forum with WordPress.

Here’s a sneak peek

When you’re finished following along with this guide, you’ll have a live website that looks something like this:


This is the Buddy theme and it’s a favorite amongst WordPress users for creating forums.

I’ll get into much more detail about this theme, but you can click here to visit Buddy now if you’re excited to check it out.

How much does it cost? You can make a site just like the one pictured above on your own domain for just over $100.

How to make a discussion forum

There are five main steps to creating a forum website:

  1. Find a good domain
  2. Signup for hosting
  3. Install WordPress
  4. Find the right theme
  5. Customize your site

And then all you have to do is launch!

I’ll leave the marketing plan up to you, but let’s go ahead and get started now with finding a domain name.

Find a good domain

Coming up with a name you like is hard enough to begin with, but also finding an available domain? Sometimes it feels impossible.

There are a few tricks you can use to score the perfect name for your site, and I share them all in detail here:

How to Find a Great Available Domain Name

Domain Name Post

Give that article a read and you’ll have the strategy you need to get your domain.

But don’t buy it just yet!

I’ll tell you how to get it for free in this next step…

Signup for hosting

Hosting is how you get your website online.

When a visitor arrives at your domain, your host will deliver all of the site’s files to their device so that your site can load.

There are lots of hosts to choose from, but I normally recommend Nexcess for anyone creating a new WordPress site.

Nexcess WordPress Hosting

Nexcess is an awesome host for beginners because they offer more than just hosting.

Included in their special WordPress hosting plan are automated daily backups and plugin updates. This makes it much easier to stay on top of things and keep your site running smoothly.

Along those lines, their hosting is also much faster and more reliable than the budget hosts while avoiding the steep costs of a “premium” WP host.

Also, they make the WordPress installation super simple.

Install WordPress

Installing WordPress is actually pretty easy.

However, Nexcess makes it way simpler by automatically creating a WordPress site for you when you signup. This means you can completely skip the installation.

WordPress Logo

WordPress has been around for well over a decade now and powers a massive 30% of the web!

One of the best reasons to use WordPress is the availability of plugins and themes. Plugins add features to your WP site and themes change the design.

With thousands of these products at your fingertips, it’s possible to build exactly the site you want without ever hiring expensive developers.

And that brings me to the next step.

You can follow the video course in my article on how to make your own WordPress site if you need more help.

Find the right theme

As I just mentioned, WordPress themes are used to transform the aesthetic of a site.

The theme you choose will also come with a variety of customization options, so it’s important to choose one that has the style settings you need.

Buddy has a really nice design and a relatively simple set of features. This makes it easy for a WordPress newbie to create a beautiful website.

Buddy Forums
Here’s a look at the forums overview page

As for the actual forum functionality, this comes from the bbPress plugin. bbPress is the oldest and most widely used forum plugin for WordPress.

That said, there are more forum plugins you can choose from if you’d prefer another option.

The Buddy theme also integrates with BuddyPress which is the social networking WordPress plugin. It adds user activity feeds, private messaging, and more.

Overall, I think Buddy is an awesome forum theme, but like I mentioned, there are always more options with WordPress.

Alternative themes

Take a look at this collection of WordPress forum themes for more than 10 additional alternatives.

Forum WordPress Themes

You’ll find a wide variety of designs and layouts in that collection.

Customize your site

First, you’ll want to go through your WordPress admin dashboard and configure a few basic options.

You can follow my guide on basic WordPress customization to get your site configured.

The majority of style customizations are going to come from the theme you choose, so it will depend on the template you’ve selected. There is a lot of documentation provided for Buddy including a knowledgebase with 45 help articles.

Most forum themes choose to integrate with bbPress, so you will need to fully customize your forum using this plugin. Follow along with this bbPress guide to get fully set up.

Once you’re site is customized to match your brand, there’s just one step left.

Launch your forum

You’re ready to launch!

Getting users to signup and post will take some time. You’ll probably want to get together a seed group of users and post a lot yourself when you’re first getting started.

Otherwise, word of mouth should spread, and it’s up to you to keep the site running smoothly for your users.

To summarize the steps one last time:

  1. Get your domain name
  2. Signup for hosting (Nexcess)
  3. Install WordPress
  4. Choose a WordPress theme (Buddy)
  5. Customize your site

If you still have questions about how to create a forum with WordPress, post in the comments sections below.

Ben Sibley
Ben Sibley
This article was written by Ben Sibley. He is a WordPress theme designer & developer, and founder of Compete Themes.