How to Create a Forum for Your Site Using Drupal

A lot of different types of sites can benefit from having a forum – newsfeeds, blogs, professional networks, and even eCommerce sites. Forums allow users to discuss problems, issues, or recent updates with one another and the site’s administrators. Low-level issues are worked out using the collective knowledge of other users, and a secure area to engage with a site’s content ensures that traffic will continue to flow into the site. As has been mentioned before, Drupal was originally built as a tool to create forums. Though Drupal has since evolved, users can still take advantage of that core functionality and Drupal’s catalogue of modules to create an attractive, easy-to-use forum for their site.

Enable Drupal’s Built-In Forum Function

Drupal comes pre-equipped with loads of commonly used features. Among them is a Forum, and enabling it is, quite literally, as easy as pressing a button. Click over to Administer, Site Building, and click the box next to ‘Forum.’ Voila, you now have a Forum for your site. You’ll then have to tweak some of the default setting for your site’s forum – click to content management, forums, settings, and decide how you want your forum to act. How many hot topics will it be able to feature? How will it sort topics? Make sure you also go to the User Management section of the administration panel so that you can set who is allowed to post on the forum, and what they can do. Though Drupal’s core modules will allow you to create a functioning forum, it will unfortunately look pretty sparse and users won’t be able to do much outside of posting new threads and comments.

Install the Necessary Modules

 That is where modules come in. There are plenty of ‘forum add-ons’ available on the Drupal site, but one of our favorites is the Advanced Forum Module. Rather than building an entirely different module, this one actually enhances Drupal’s core forum tool, adding on features and completely integrating with the core site. Now it may not have every feature of a stand-alone forum, but it does work very well with Drupal and comes with its own advantages. Along the many things it allows you to do, the advanced forum modules makes it easy change the forum’s theme, gives you statistics, makes it easier for users to use the forum, adds signatures, allows for permalinks, and changes how Drupal handles images posted in the forum. It is a great tool, and one that no Drupal forum should go without.

Truly Incorporate the Forum into Your Site

If you do choose to install and monitor a forum in your site, the last thing you want is for it to go unused or ignored by the majority of your visitors. You want to make your forum one of they key features of your site so that users have a reason to consistently come back. With that in mind, it’s a great idea to feature posts from your forum on your front page. A module like Views Slideshow makes it simple to feature the forum and its most recent posts, along with other parts of your site, like recent blog posts or articles. You should also make sure to remain an active member of your own forum – after all, why would anyone want to use it if the site’s administrator isn’t even posting?

Internet forums have been around for a long, long time. Users like them because it allows them to engage with other users or the site’s content in a way that would otherwise be impossible. And though the technology may seem a little aged, a well-maintained, active forum ensures that consistent traffic will be flowing to the site. That means more page-views, click-throughs, and higher ad revenue. Drupal’s core forum module, though sparse, is easy to enable and use. When combined with the ever expanding offering of modules on Drupal’s site, a Drupal forum can become very easy to use, monitor, and customize. Then it is just a matter of making sure your users know about your new forum, and keeping it active.