I am gearing up to make my app and game development more of a real job, and I expect that I will need to have a robust forum capability on my website. I am currently just using a WordPress based website, which I expect will not really cut it as I move forward. Since my background is in systems and game programming, and very little on web programming, I am hoping that some other devs here can share advice on how best to set up my website for forums. I am not picky as to whether it involves installing some package on my existing site or switching to a new hosting provider that handles the forum setup for me. What I do not want to do is have managing forums eat into my time developing my apps and games.
I am not a developer xD But I am a forum owner of 3 years and I am pretty knowledgeable with hosts.
I strongly recommend you check out Invision Power Board software. It's a great software(I use it for my site actually).
Build An Awesome Community with IPS Community Suite
They offer two options
A. You can buy a license from them that comes with support(ticket and forum support) and access to their mods
B. You can buy one of their hosting packages. The hosting package is hosted by Invision Power on their servers and you get access to the forum software(Invision Power Board), IP Blog, IP Downloads, IP Gallery, IP chat(A chatroom they provide) and IP Content(more on this later).
I brought my license for the software because I prefer to host my own site on a host of my choice as well as I find the packages on IP hosting a bit restrictive in storage/members online.....basically the only reason someone would use their hosting packages is because you want access to all of those cool applications but don't want to have to buy them individually. For as low as $20 a month you get to have access to all of them for as long as you keep the hosting package.
IPB has a great community and support.
I also suggest if you want to check out
2. Woltlab Burning Board
I don't have much experience with it but I've heard great things about it <3
I strongly dislike(The community there is just ridiculous...reminds me of fanatical apple users). But it is an option. I don't personally recommend it because the software is similar to Windows Phone 7...nice to look at but then you realize it is limited in features compared to other products.
It's highly overpriced.
Personally I am not a fan of free software. It's free(which is great) and open source but at the same time, development for new features is slow compared to the faster developer process of premium software. Think of Free software like normal Android and then Paid forum software is like what you'd see from Samsung Galaxy, Sony Xperia, HTC One M8, etc etc.
MyBB - Free and Open Source Forum Software
It's a popular software. Personally I am not a fan of it(I am a snob lol) but it is popular and free and has a great app community.
2. Simple Machines Forum
if I HAD to use free, I'd probably use SMF
Simple Machines Community Forum - Index
It's a good software in my opinion. But it's been 3 years since I used it so I am not sure how(or if) it has progressed. But it was a good software when I used it.
My personal recommendation:
If you use Wordpress, you can convert your wordpress site over to their IP content app. IP content is a CMS that Invision Power created and it is extremely powerful. You could have something akin to WIndows Central's main page with IP content.
The big thing is, wordpress fully ties into your forum's membership. There's no need to go through a process to get two software to work(with Wordpress and a forum site, if you want users to be able to log in you have to do some extra work since they are two different software) because they tie together.
Think of IP content and IP Board(the forum) in the same way that Windows 10 will work together. With IP content you have full control of permissions and you can style it better to match your forum's theme.
If you decide to go free....
Hmm...I'd probably go with whichever the two you like of mybb and SMF.
Xenforo is alright(and popular) but I hate the fact that 90 percent of Xenforo forums are all alike in how they look and it just looks boring.
If you're going to go Xenforo, I'd probably go with Burning Board since they are quite similar but you know...Burning Board is actually useful.
But I suggest IPB of course <3
It depends on what type of hosting you need. Shared, VPS, or Dedicated
Site5 Web Hosting - The Best Support In The Industry
They have a free trial for shared hosting for 30 days....if you need something more like VPS or Dedicated, they also offer that as well but they are a bit pricier. I use them and they are really good with support and uptime. You can choose to host your site in like 20 different places all over the world.
2. A Small Orange
Homegrown Website Hosting | Fast, Reliable Web Hosting
I also use them presently for another project of mine. You can look around for promos Or send me a PM and I can help you get some promos.
They offer shared hosting, VPS(Cloud), Managed VPS, and Managed Dedicated hosting. Prices are reasonable.
Very well known company. Have great support. A bit pricier but they offer shared, VPS and Dedicated
HostDime: Managed Dedicated Servers, Managed Cloud Hosting
Also very well known and decent support. A bit pricier compared to some
5. Big Scoots
I use them and they are pretty decent.
6. Big Wet Fish
Big Wet Fish - We Don't do things by the Hosting Handbook
We use them presently for my main(largest) site aka my forum. It's a good host and they can work on custom plans for you as well if your budget needs something different.
Avoid: Hostgator, Bluehost, Godaddy, etc etc
Like I said above, Site5 has 30 days free on their shared hosting packages as well as A Small Orange also has discounts on various plans(you can get one of their plans free the first month as well as I think there is a $5 vps promo and 25-30 percent off on any hosting package for the first month)