SMF: How to Make a Forum

how to make a forum

It’s hard to get your website to stand out on the Internet. There are currently over 1.6 billion active websites on the Internet. This means that roughly 1 out of every 5 living humans has a web page or digital domain.

That means it’s hard than ever to rank in the search engines. How are you supposed to show up in the SERPs if you’re just starting out? Or if you don’t have a ton of money for content creation or digital marketing?

That’s where forums come in.

Internet forums automatically solve some of these problems by their very nature. Google gives preference to websites that are updated frequently. Having a non-stop flow of user-generated content means your website is being updated pretty much constantly.

Those are just some of the benefits of having an Internet forum. It also helps to establish you as a thought leader in your industry. It encourages people to link to your content, as well, as one final benefit.

If you’re wondering how to make a forum, we’re going to show you how! Follow these steps to learn how to create a forum using Simple Machines Forum software.

How To Make A Forum With Simple Machines Forum Software

There are a lot of different ways you can go about setting up a forum on your website. We’re going to be focusing on Simple Machines Forum (SMF), as its some of the best forum software on the market.

Let’s start by taking a look at SMF a little bit, shall we?

What Is Simple Machine Forum Software?

SMF started out way back in the days of bulletin boards. They started out as a message board called YaBB. As the Internet continued to grow and evolve, YaBB eventually morphed into YaBBSE to take advantage of emerging php technology.

SMF have had a passion for Open Source software from the very beginning. That’s part of what makes SMF some of the best forum software out there. It’s free, for anyone to use.

Here are some of SMF’s features, to give you an idea of what it’s capable of.

Supports Multiple Database Formats

Support Machine Forum software is designed to interact with any system. It easily interacts with most modern database formats, include SQL, SQLite, PostreSQL, or MySQL.

Pre-existing Templates

Another advantage of using forum software is it’s easy to get it up and running easily and painlessly. SMF features a wide array of pre-existing templates, making it almost instantaneous to get a forum set up immediately!

Advanced Permissions

You don’t want just anybody to have the keys to the kingdom to your forum. If you’re going to have a lot of people using and monitoring your forum, having the ability to modify security permissions is an invaluable feature.

Topics Tracking

Having the ability to keep track of topics is unbelievably useful, especially when you’ve got a lot of traffic. It also lets your users do the same, encouraging them to visit often and come back regularly.

Package Manager

You don’t want to have to update your website or your forum every time a new version’s released. SMF comes with a built-in package manager that automatically checks for updates, known as mods or hacks.

Now that we’ve looked at some of SMF’s features that make it such outstanding forum software, let’s learn how to set it up!

How To Setup Simple Machines Forum Software

Setting up SMF is actually quite simple once you know how to go about it. We’re going to show you how to set it up, making SMF even simpler to use!

Step #1: Download SMF

The first step of setting up SMF is fairly easy and straightforward. Start off by downloading SMF.

If you’re installing SMF from scratch, you’ll want the full version. If you’re upgrading from an older version, the upgrade version should suffice.

SMF Version 2.0.15 is the latest stable build. If you’re willing to experiment with a Beta Version, SMF 2.1 RC2 is also available. Find the full version here or the upgrade here.

Step #2: Install The Software

SMF recommend not using an automatic installer. They claim it’s more confusing than it’s worth and has been known to give users trouble.

Manually installing SMF is simple. To start, you need a webserver with PHP and a database. You have a few choices as far as what kind of database you want.

Database With phpAdmin

Most shared hosting solutions disable the ability to set up a database with phpAdmin. If the option’s available to you, however, you should be able to set up your database using the phpMyAdmin homepage.

Creating A Database with a Control Panel

If your webhost features a control panel, there should be an option to manage your databases directly through the interface. Look for either ‘MySQL Databases’ or ‘Database Wizard’ option. Either should take you to a prompt to create your database.

Create Database User

Now that your database is set up, you need to create a user to interact with it. If your web host has a control panel, this should also be possible with the ‘MySQL Databases’ or ‘Database Wizard’ option.

Your database user will need to be given the following permissions:

  • Select
  • Insert
  • Update
  • Delete
  • Create
  • Create temporary tables
  • Alter
  • Drop
  • Index

Now you’re ready to install SMF to your digital domain.

Extract SMF Files To Your Website

Before you begin, you’ll need to decide where you’re forum is going to be located. Wherever the SMF files are located on your server is where your forum is going to end up.

You’ll need to upload your files using either an FTP server or your web host’s control panel.

Set Directory and File Permissions

The directory and file permissions settings controls who’s able to see your files and alter your directories. For most servers, a permissions setting of 755 for directories and 644 for files should suffice.

This can vary for different operating systems, however. If you’re unsure how to configure your permissions, contact your web host.

Run The Installer

Go the folder where you extracted the SMF files to. Look for the ‘install.php’ file. Open that file location in your browser.

You’ll be prompted for some information. You’ll be asked to provide:

  • Forum name
  • Forum URL
  • Gzip output
  • Database sessions
  • UTF-8 character set
  • Allow stat collection

You’ll also be asked to provide some server settings. You’ll be asked for:

  • Database type
  • Server name
  • Username
  • Password
  • Database name
  • Database prefix

Create An Administrator Account

We’re nearing the end of the SMF installation. The SMF installer will ask you to create an administrator account. You’ll be asked for a username, password, and e-mail address. This is necessary to access the SMF administration center.

Finalize The Installation

Once you’ve finished all the installation steps, you just need to do a little file maintenance to keep things tidy. You’ll be given a prompt to ‘Remove The Install Files From The Server.’

If this doesn’t work for any reason, you’ll need to delete them manually using your FTP client.

Once the installation is complete, the installation files are no longer necessary. They’re also a security risk, so it’s in your best interest to get rid of them.

Installing Themes

So far, we’ve shown you how to install the basic version of SMF. It’s super easy to install customized layouts using some of the existing SMF themes.

Start off by visiting the SMF themes site. Download a theme that’s appealing or suits your particular needs.

Make sure to backup your database and files before modifying your existing theme. Now go to your SMF admin panel.

There you’ll see a ‘Themes And Layout’ section. You’ll see an ‘Install A New Theme’ option at the bottom. This opens a dialogue box.

Locate the theme you downloaded, select it, and choose ‘install.’

You’ll also be given the option to set this theme as the overall forum default. Keep in mind, this only changes the default for new users who sign up for the forum after you’ve installed the new theme. You’ll need to select the ‘Reset everyone to: ‘ option so that everyone can see it.

Voila! Now you’ve got a forum on your website! Now you can start reaping the benefits – climbing the SERPs and establishing yourself as an expert in your field!

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