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Forums are quite possibly the most miss-used feature for a website. Corporate identities often mistake a forum as an instant way to get customer feedback and loyalty, but without the proper moderation they often turn into product bashing pages filled with complaints and arguments. Other users such as the smaller sites often struggle from quite the opposite; empty forums where the last post was this time last month.

Do I need a Forum?
There are a few things to consider when deciding on whether or not to install a forum on your site. Here is a very basic checklist which we will be focusing on in this article.
Is your site high traffic?
Is your site member based?
Does your site have something to discuss?
If you answer yes to all three then itís looking good for you to install a forum and here is why. High traffic sites often have something that attracts repeat visitors, and this is a key thing with forums. No one likes to look at a 3 year old forum with 10 posts, neither do they like to start a discussion where every user has one post and has never returned once posting. Also if your website is already member based, a forum may just be the perfect add-on for you members to communicate with each other. You already have the repeat visitors, now its time to hook them into discussion and potentially attract more users; an active community often encourages users to join. With a little time and work you could also merge your existing membership site with your forum, making the sign up process seem effortless to your user. Finally, if your site has something to discuss, a forum will let all your visitors do just that without leaving your site.

Choosing and Installing
Next is the process of installing your chosen forum software, choosing a certain forum relies heavily on two factors; money and compatibility. There are many, many pieces of forum software out there, some are free, others costly and all have a wide range of features and use a wide range of different languages. Choose wisely though, as a buggy site is a turn-off for many a visitor. Some of the more popular pieces of forum software include: Invision Power Board; vBulletin; phpBB; snitz; YABB and Jive Forum. Also be careful not to go with the free option just because its free, for many people the costly alternatives may be the better choice due to the free support, free installation and vast amounts of help you can get customizing your forum.

What Next?
Your job now is only just beginning. Donít install and leave your forum, take care of it and be kind to it, donít leave the forum using the default look, customize it to your site; make your visitors feel at home so that they may post within the familiar settings of your website. Be an active member; be sure to talk to your visitors, take suggestions on board and converse with those that make your site worth while. Integrate your board; for the more adventurous you can modify your board and site to show the latest topics, polls, statistics and much more on a different section of your site. This increases the signup rate as people in general like to be part of those statistics. So, you have a forum installed, themed, customized and populated by the masses of the internet, go converse and enjoy.

About the Author: Start your own forum for FREE. Visit

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