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How To Add A Forum To Your Own Web Site Practically For Free

First a little background.

I want to make it perfectly clear that I "do not" work for any of the sites mentioned in this article. I have been helped by others with regards to web site creation and I am writing this article as a way of returning the favor. One other thing, it would be beneficial if you have a little bit of knowledge relating the HTML but it is not absolute necessary.

Ok, let's get a domain name, assuming you do not have one yet.

If you are new to this, a domain name is your "dot com" name. For example, "www.companyname.com", "companyname" is your domain name. This can be the name of your store, your name, the name of something of interest, whatever you wish as long as some else is not using it. Domain names are not limited to ".com" either, it can be ".org", ".net" or ".edu" to name a few.

There a many sites on the web that advertise FREE DOMAIN NAME, that is until you read the fine print. Sure they will give you a free domain name, but you have to sign up with a one or two years hosting agreement and possibly pay a setup fee. There is one site that offers a free domain name of your choice for the first year, with no setup or monthly hosting fee. After the first year it is $14.95 per year which works out to about $1.25 a month.

Here are the steps to get a domain name:

1) Goto: smallbusiness.officelive.com

2) Click on the button: Sign Up Free

3) Fill out the form and following the directions from OfficeLive

That's all there is to it. Once you sign up and create an account, your will have a custom domain name and lots of tools to help build and promote your web site. Remember, the first year is FREE.

For those of you out there that don't like Microsoft, what can I say? I don't work for them and I get nothing out of this at all from them. The service the provide is good, the tools easy to use and there are lots of resources to help you build and promote your web site. In fact, after I signed up, a representative actually called me on the phone twice so far to see how I was doing and if there was anyway they could help. That was a surprise to me!

You got your domain name now let's go get a forum.

If you are new to forums, a forum is also called a "message board", "activeboard", "discussion board", or "bulletin board." It is a place on the Internet where people can hold and post discussions on a particular topic.

Setting up and configuring a forum from scratch is complicated and you need specific hardware and software. So the next best thing is to find a hosting service that has done the work for you.

Here are my issues with these services. They also advertise FREE FORUM but guess what, the forums for free are cluttered with ads and pop ups that you have no control over, you are limited to how much you can customize the forum and you cannot place your own ads in it. Another thing that really bothers me are these companies that advertise ONLY $4.95 A MONTH. Don't fall for it because I checked practically all of them and the catch is that you have to sign up for TWO years in advance to receive the $4.95 price.

I was willing to spend the $4.95 a month for an ad free forum, but I was not going to sign up for 2 years. Luckily for me I finally found a forum hosting site that you can sign up for on a monthly basis for $4.95 a month and with a 30 day free trial. If you want, you can also sign up for free and they has only one banner ad.

Here are the steps I went through to get a forum:

1) Goto: www.sparklit.com

2) Click on the Activeboard link.

3) Sign up for either the free or paid forum.

4) Fill out the form and following the directions from Sparklit.

5) You can configure your forum to your particular requirements.

You have a domain name and a forum, let's put them together now.

I am going to assume you have an OfficeLive web site and a Sparklit forum with the following instructions.

1) Log in to your OfficeLive account.

2) Click on the Web Site link to access your web site Page Manager.

3) Click on the Edit link of the page you want to insert the forum.

4) Within the Page Editor tab, click on the Layout menu and select Single Area.

5) Click on the Site Designer tab and click on the Settings menu.

6) Within the Settings dialog box, set the Page Width to 100%.

7) Go back to the Page Editor tab and click on the Module menu.

8) Select HTML from the Module menu.

9) Copy the following code in the Add and edit HTML window. Make sure you change the "put_your_forum_name_here" to the name of your forum.