Creating a Forum Community in Webflow: Free and Paid Versions

In this article, we'll walk you through the process of setting up open source forum software or exploring third party tools and seamlessly integrating it with your Webflow website.

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Integrating a feature-rich forum into your website can enhance user engagement and foster a vibrant online community. While Webflow offers powerful design capabilities, it doesn't provide native forum functionality. To address this gap, you can explore open source forum software or paid third party tools to integrate into your Webflow site.

Open source platforms

Before diving into integration details, let's get acquainted with the forum platforms at hand, then you can explore how to integrate them. .


NodeBB is an open-source forum platform built using Node.js. It offers real-time discussions, robust features, and the flexibility to customize both appearance and functionality.

Its source code is available on the Github Page

NodeBB Integration:

To set up NodeBB you will need a compatible server (e.g., DigitalOcean).

The next step would be customising your forum's categories, permissions, and visual elements. This would throught the NodeBB admin panel

If you have hosted your NodeBB forum on DigitalOcean, you would be able to access the NodeBB admin panel directly from your hosted instance.

The admin panel is part of the NodeBB software and is accessible through a web browser.

To access the NodeBB admin panel on your DigitalOcean-hosted instance:

  1. Admin Panel URL: Open your web browser and enter the URL of your NodeBB forum followed by "/admin". For example, if your NodeBB forum's URL is "yourforum[dot]com", the admin panel URL would be "yourforum[dot]com/admin".
  2. Log In: You will be prompted to log in using your administrator credentials that you set up during the NodeBB installation process.
  3. Admin Dashboard: Once you log in successfully, you will have access to the NodeBB admin dashboard, where you can configure forum settings, manage users, customize themes, set up categories, and more.

1. Setting Up Categories:

Categories help organize discussions within your forum. To tailor them:

  • Login and Access Admin Panel: Log in to your NodeBB admin panel.
  • Navigate to Categories: Find the "Categories" section in the admin panel.
  • Create New Categories: Add new categories relevant to your forum's topics by providing a name, description, and choosing a parent category if needed.
  • Set Permissions: Specify who can access, create, and moderate discussions within each category. Adjust permissions based on user roles, such as administrators, moderators, or regular members.

2. Defining User Groups and Permissions:

User groups determine what actions users can perform on the forum. Customize permissions to ensure a smooth and controlled environment:

  • User Groups: Create user groups that reflect different levels of access and participation.
  • Assign Permissions: Fine-tune permissions for each user group. For instance, allow administrators to moderate all discussions, grant regular users the ability to post, and guests the ability to view discussions.

3. Customizing Visual Elements:

Personalize your forum's appearance to align with your brand and create a welcoming atmosphere:

  • Theme Selection: Choose a theme that resonates with your forum's purpose and brand identity.
  • Customize Colors and Fonts: Tailor the color scheme and fonts to match your website or brand colors.
  • Logo and Branding: Upload a custom logo and favicon to reinforce your forum's identity.
  • Home Page Design: Set up a visually appealing home page that showcases featured discussions, categories, or recent posts.

4. Plugins and Extensions:

NodeBB offers various plugins and extensions to enhance functionality:

  • SEO and Analytics: Install plugins that improve SEO and provide analytics insights to monitor user engagement.
  • Social Login: Integrate social login plugins to simplify registration and login processes.
  • Anti-Spam Measures: Implement anti-spam plugins to ensure a high-quality discussion environment.
  • Custom Features: Explore and install plugins that introduce features unique to your forum's purpose.

5. User Experience:

Ultimately, focus on creating an intuitive and user-friendly experience:

  • Navigation: Ensure easy navigation by organizing categories logically and providing clear menus.
  • Discussion Threads: Use categories, tags, and labels to help users find relevant discussions.
  • Engagement: Encourage engagement through features like likes, upvotes, and replies.
  • Mobile Responsiveness: Ensure your forum is optimized for various devices, providing a seamless experience.

Tailoring your forum's categories, permissions, and visual elements in NodeBB requires thoughtful planning and continuous refinement. By offering an organized, engaging, and user-friendly forum environment, you can foster meaningful discussions and build a vibrant community.

Vanilla Forums

This platform is among the leading free forum software solutions, offering robust support for themes and plugins. Furthermore, you'll discover a wide array of themes and plugins that facilitate the integration of diverse features such as SEO enhancements, anti-spam measures, seamless social login, expressive emojis, and the invaluable FilterDiscussion functionality.

Its source code is available on the Github Page

Vanilla forums integration

To set up Vanilla Forums, you would also need a compatible server.

Both Vanilla Forums and NodeBB provide admin panels that allow you to customize various aspects of your forum without directly modifying the code. Through the server admin panel, you can:

  • Change themes and appearance.
  • Manage categories, topics, and posts.
  • Set up user roles and permissions.
  • Install plugins and extensions.
  • Configure basic settings.

If you want to make more in-depth or unique changes to your forum that aren't achievable through the admin panel, you may need to modify the source code. This might include:

  • Creating custom themes or templates to match your branding.
  • Adding new functionality through plugins or custom scripts.
  • Adjusting specific behaviors or interactions.
  • Integrating with external services or APIs.

Both options offer a balance between convenience and customization. You can achieve a lot using the admin panel without directly touching the code. However, for more specialized changes or to fully align the forum with your vision, you might need to modify the code.

When it comes to hosting on DigitalOcean or any other server, hosting provides the infrastructure for your forum to run. Customizing the code is often done locally or on the server itself, depending on your workflow.

Paid Community Software Tools

If you find the open source community forum platforms too technical you may want to consider off-the self tool. Here's an overview of some popular paid community software tools that you can consider for building and managing online communities:


Discourse is a modern community platform that emphasizes real-time discussions and user engagement. It features a clean and intuitive design, integrated gamification, and strong moderation tools. Their plan starts at $50 a month.


Muut is a cloud-based community platform that offers a range of features, including forums, commenting systems, and live chat. It's known for its speed and mobile responsiveness, making it suitable for modern online communities, it's also a cheaper alternative to Discourse. Their plans start at $16 a month.

Mighty Networks

Mighty Networks is a community platform that allows you to create branded online spaces for your audience. It includes features like discussions, events, courses, and monetization options, making it suitable for creators and entrepreneurs. their monthloy price starts at $33 a month.


Supersparks enables commenting on Webflow sites and works with Webflow Memberships and Memberstack, so you can either receive comments from guests or logged in users. Their plan starts at just $5 a month.

If you need help with building a custom community forum or integrating a third party community platform, get it touch with us.

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