Top 9 Best Forum Software to build an Online Community in 2020

Do you want to create an Online Community? We are here to help. You will get to see a lot of forum software in this list to build an Online Community. Most of these are free to use & you can use them as you like.

Many communities on the internet use the same software to create a suitable place for the community members. It is pretty easy nowadays to set up your customized online community.

With the help of software available in the market, you can actually create a community without coding anything. The question here is: How? We are going to share some of the best software to create your Online Community.

Features you should check in a Forum Software

We are going to share some of the best-known features that your Forum Software must-have. What actually a forum means? Well, It is a place where admin, mods, community members & other staff actually communicate. You can easily manage the members, the posts, the replies & much more on a Forum.

Here are the things to check in the forum software.

  • Profile Customizations: Users would love to customize their profile which will result in better engagement. You can allow the users to change their profile picture, cover, bio, privacy, security tools & much more.
  • Private Chats: You can allow your users to communicate within the community through private messaging. This will develop more connections & will result in the user’s satisfaction.
  • Stylish Text Editor: If you provide a stylish editor to your members, chances are that you will see a lot of posts on a daily basis. As a person would prefer logging in to the forum & provide valuable content.
  • Customizations: You can provide various customization settings to the user. Just like the profile customization, the user will love it if you can allow them for a custom comment signature.
  • Ranking & Achievements: Who doesn’t like getting a specific rank? No one. You can define various tasks which increase the level of a user, most of them would love to get a higher rank. Also, a user can be rewarded with different vouchers/goodies on your forum.

You can easily find the valuable feature that you wish to have in any forum software you would install.

Keep in mind, you need to provide a smooth experience to the end-user. If a user is suitable for your platform, they are going to increase the user base only.

9 Best Forum Software you can use for building an Online Community

Here is the list of best forum software that you can choose for your online community. It is totally up to you, which software you would use for the community forum.

  1. phpBB
  2. MyBB
  3. WordPress
  4. Joomla
  5. Drupal
  6. Vanilla
  7. Simple Machine Forums
  8. FluxBB
  9. Codoforum

We have curated this list as per the user ratings, reviews, popularity. You can compare any of the software options & select the one you would prefer.

1) phpBB

phpBB is one of the great software available for online forums. This allows you to create different boards where the user can post updates. You can make as many as boards you would like to have in your community.

phpBB allows you to have a large user base without any hassle. Apart from having basic features like login, profile, etc., you can even use extensions. With the help of hundreds of extensions, you can actually add a lot of options to your forum.

Users and admin both get extensive customization options. It’s an open-source platform that might attract you as the developer of your community.


  • Powerful Forum Software that can handle many users.
  • Customization options for the user & admins
  • Moderating your community is easier
  • With the help of extensions, allows various additional features
  • A responsive platform for the end-user


  • Outdated design of the themes.
  • The forum might look like an old website

2) MyBB

MyBB is another forum software that you can try for your online community. It also comes with basic features like login, profile, feed, etc.

MyBB too has the quality of plugins, themes, just like the previous one. However, It is easier to use & manage the community on MyBB.

You can expect a great amount of better user experience on MyBB compared to phpBB. The looks and style are what make it better from the one we have discussed earlier. However, you will not see as many extensions compared to phpBB in this one. More likely, it is the modern version of what you have seen earlier.


  • An Open Source Platform, i.e., maintained regularly
  • Customize forum the way you like, using Plugins & themes
  • Easy to Use Interface, giving controls to the end-user
  • Comes with stylish, modern looks


  • Not Powerful as compared to phpBB, might not handle huge users

3) WordPress

You must have used WordPress once in a while. It is a widely spread popular CMS tool that allows building online communities too. If you are familiar with WordPress, it is a great advantage for you. You can do a lot of tasks on WordPress apart from making an online store, blog, etc.

You can use different plugins on WordPress that allows you to create an online community. Talking about looks & style, you get a lot of options in the form of themes. You can create an awesome looking website for your forum. A lot of free and paid themes are available.

You can use different multipurpose plugins like bbPress, wpForo & more to build an online Community. You will get a lot of customization advantages on WordPress comparatively.


  • A familiar platform for creating a web interface
  • The largest collection of themes & plugins available on a CMS
  • Easier to Use comparatively, for both the user & the developers.
  • Build a website, store or message board at the same time
  • Personalized Forums with the help of Up to date Plugins
  • Stylish, Modern & Better looks than the other


  • As it is not generally for forums, you will need to do a workaround to set up the forum initially.

4) Joomla!

Joomla! Is another great CMS tool that you can use for creating an online forum. You can make your website or create forums or just launch your online store on Joomla!. Just like WordPress, it is a great tool that is used widely. There are a lot of features of Joomla! which might excite you.

There are as many numbers of plugins and themes available on the Joomla! CMS as well. You can create a totally customized website with the help of Joomla!.

If you have some experience in coding & you want to make the forum look customized, you can prefer Joomla! over others.


  • More controls to you, highly customizable
  • Choose from a lot of plugins and themes available for free
  • Built-in Security controls
  • Easy platform for Search Engine Optimization


  • Not easy to use as the drag & drop on WordPress
  • Need to know coding in order to continue with Joomla!
  • Forum plugins are available in a limited amount

5) Drupal

Drupal is a great CMS tool in terms of functionality. The features are powerful & perform great in a normal case scenario. You can find amazing features on Drupal which are comparatively better than that on the other CMS platforms. However, you do need to have experience in coding & development in order to use Drupal effectively.

It provides a great number of modules & themes which will help you customize accordingly. You will not need any additional plugin to create a forum on Drupal. It is the core feature of Drupal to support building forums.

However, You can increase customization with the help of modules. All in all, Drupal is beneficial for those who are familiar with web development & do not wish to continue with Joomla!


  • Highly Customizable, with the help of extreme coding
  • Built-In Forum as a Core Feature
  • Allows additional Modules & themes for better designs.


  • Not that easy to work with Drupal, if you have not used it previously.

6) Vanilla

Vanilla is available as Open Source and Premium options. If you are interested in paying some amount for the software, you can prefer the premium version which obviously provides great features.

You can purchase the premium version of Vanilla starting from $599 & is used by many enterprise-level customers. If you can afford Vanilla’s premium version, you should go with that only. Although, the free version isn’t that bad.

Vanilla provides better design compared to the other software available in the market. You get almost all the features from other platforms that we have talked about. The message board in the forum has great looks & will attract the user as well. A limited amount of themes and plugins are available here.


  • Stylish & Modern looking forum with the help of basic themes & plugins
  • Private Groups for the community members might excite the members to communicate.
  • Advanced text editor with loads of features
  • Auto Saving feature lets you save the content automatically.


  • A limited number of plugins & themes available for free, basic ones might work generally.

7) Simple Machine Forums

It is more likely the phpBB software that we have seen initially. It has similar styles & features compared to phpBB. That means you get all the basic features needed for an online forum. However, you get a bunch of extra themes and modules on this one compared to phpBB having a limited count.

As the name suggests, Simple Machine Forums is specially made for the forums. It is great software for someone who would prefer creating just a forum on their website. It comes with the package installer, which makes the installation process easy in the case of modules.

You get most of the features that are required while creating an online forum. It is preferably suitable for creating forums only. You get a bunch of additional features with the help of extra modules that you can install on this open-source platform.


  • Huge numbers of Modules & themes available for an Open source platform.
  • Easily switch between multiple languages on this platform.
  • Generate revenue from the community by asking for Premium Subscription


  • Mostly outdated design, might not attract modern users.
  • Not much customizable compared to other software available.

8) FluxBB

We have seen a lot of open-source software before this one. Most of the features were similar in all of them. However, only a few features would make them look different from the others. You would always try to look for a powerful tool for your online community.

Just the numbers don’t matter sometimes. You would prefer going with the 10 quality features instead of 1000s of unnecessary modules & plugins. You can build an easy-to-use online forum with the help of themes & plugins that are limited too.


  • Performance is a big achievement in this one
  • Profile Customization & other basic customization features
  • Ranking/Level feature for engaging the users.


  • Plugins and Themes are comparatively lesser

9) Codoforum

Codoforum is last but not the least software to use for building an online forum. This is built on PHP & MySQL. It is a great software that provides a better user experience. It is available for free as well as it comes with paid plans as well.

It creates a clean forum which eventually makes a good impression over the user. Simplicity & functionality are the things that make it an easy-to-use platform. If you are looking for forum software that is user-friendly, you can prefer going with this one.


  • Free license to you
  • Easy to install
  • Compatible with a server supporting PHP & MySQL
  • Clean & Simple Interface of the forums


  • Overpriced Paid plans
  • Watermark on the free version.

Let’s Conclude

That was a pretty long list of Best Forum Software to build an Online Community. We tried to include as much software as we could. If there is still any other software left in the corner, let us know through the comments.

If you have any doubts/suggestions, let us know through the comments. Have a huge Community?!

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