We’re going to explain in this article exactly how to build an app for a forum.
We all know that the internet is an incredible place to get information. One of the best ways to get specific answers to your questions is to head over to a forum dedicated to the relevant topic.
Forums have been around for decades, and are the original ‘social media’ sites. What is the best format for a forum now though in 2020? Well, as people increasingly spend the overwhelming majority of their online lives on their smartphones – making sure that your forum gives an optimal mobile experience is essential.
That’s why we advocate building high-quality native apps for your forum as a way to stay current and grow into the future!
If you’re interested in building a forum app, read on. We’ll look at some good examples, best practices, and ways to get your forum on the App Stores.
First let’s check out a few good forum apps.
Examples of forum apps
Health forums are very popular and valuable to users, allowing them to share their experiences and advice with others about a variety of health conditions and illnesses.
Diabetes forum app is a mirror of the forums over at diabetes.co.uk/forum.
The forums have over 260,000 users and help people to manage their condition, connect with others and live a full life with diabetes.
They promote their apps from within the main site.
There’s no doubt that for regular forum users – the app is a superior experience.
The photography forum app helps amateur and professional photographers to get tips, advice, and stay up to date.
Recommended if you’re into photography – as you can see from the reviews below users appreciate being able to access the forum through native apps. It makes their lives easier and will encourage them to spend more time on the forum!
Cards Chat is a very popular poker forum with close to 300,000 members.
Forum users can get everything they need to “learn, refine and master online poker”.
The forum has a nice visual design and is also a thriving business monetized through membership programs, ads, and affiliate offers.
Again, we see that poker fans love having the ease and convenience of native navigation to access and browse the forum.
What makes a good forum app?
When it comes to building a great forum app, you want to make sure that you allow:
Letting users customize their profile with unique usernames and profile pics makes them feel at home and more engages.
Forums are all about community, which is all about interpersonal relationships. Sometimes users want to have one-on-one conversations with someone specific, and your app should allow that!
The more users can individualize their profile the better, let them have a bit of fun with this!
Some forums have “levels” that are unlocked after a certain amount of activity, others have a reputation system that allows others to ‘vote’ on the quality of one’s posts. Both are great options and reward posters for participating in your forum frequently.
A Solid Text Editor
Forums are built around the written word, so your users will want a robust text editor that doesn’t constrain their writing.
How to Build a Forum App
There are several ways to go about building a forum app, and the solutions fall into two categories. Firstly, the traditional route.
Traditional app development through an in-house team or agency isn’t really a good fit for a forum app.
For a start, these options will cost $50K+ and take many months. More importantly, building custom apps isn’t necessary when you already have a forum built for the web!
The value of a forum is derived from the community, bringing together a group of like-minded people around a common topic or theme. Ideally, you need to transfer this to an app as closely as possible. Apps that ‘mirror’ your existing forum in a more intuitive native layout are ideal.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. That’s why the second option – MobiLoud Canvas – is a great way to go.
Canvas is our platform for building iOS and Android apps from existing web apps and sites. It has been refined over several years, and the concept proven successful through over 1000 happy users.
Canvas “converts” your existing forum into native apps. They will mirror your existing web app and update automatically, so there’s little extra work for you going forward.
The apps will be packed with features, like:
- Native Tab Menu
- Message Center
- Push Preferences
- Native Navigation
- Custom Splash Screens
- loading Indicators
- Automatic Rating Prompts
Going through Canvas costs a fraction of the cost of traditional development – and is far, far faster. The apps will be ready to publish in a matter of days!
You can customize the apps to your preference by configuring the color scheme, logo, splash screen and more. Your existing tech stack and plugins will also work just the same in the app too, so there’s nothing to rebuild and no roadblocks.
When the apps are ready, we’ll publish them for you to the App Stores and handle that side of things. Our app experts also take care of any and all ongoing maintenance and updates in the future – it’s truly a full service.
Your forum itself will work just the same through the app, just with the benefit of improved native features and navigation. You can also notify your users about hot threads and important announcements with push notifications.
Just that app store presence alone, paired with push notifications, will boost your brand and communication with users to new levels.
What if you don’t already have a forum?
If you don’t have a forum yet, but are thinking about building a forum app, there are some great options too.
We recommend building a forum for the web first, then converting it into apps. Why not have the best of both worlds?
Your web-based forum can be the ‘hub’, pick up organic traffic from search engines, and be the first touch-point for users. Then you can again use MobiLoud to easily convert what you’ve built into high-performing native apps.
There are a lot of good tools for building forums. Joomla, Drupal and phpBB all work great.
In our opinion though, the best option is to build it through WordPress. WordPress is easier to use than a lot of the other options, and thanks to the vast array of plugins allows you to build anything from a simple blog to an eCommerce store.
After you’ve built your forum, you can use Canvas to seamlessly convert it into apps for iOS and Android!
You’ll get apps that look and perform just like custom built native ones, and update automatically with any changes that happen on your main forum. It’s a simple process, but has the potential to scale into a forum with millions of users.
Let’s start building your forum app today! With Canvas – you can have it ready for launch in under a week.
There’s no risk with our free trial – Get Started Today!