Vanilla Forums
Community Blog

For Pros Just Like You

Getting Started With Vanilla Forums

3 minute read

October 7, 2013

Congratulations on your new community! Here is a checklist to help you get started:

1. Add your logo

This is an important first step in setting up your forum, as it can instantly convey the personality, brand and purpose of your site. Accepted file types include .jpg, .gif and .png. You can also add a favicon in your Dashboard by going to “Banner” in the Appearance section.

2. Select your layout

Vanilla Forums offers you a few page layouts to choose from. You can can change access the setting in the the “Homepage” link found in the Appearance Section of the dashboard. Tip: The “Discussions” view is the most popular.

3. Select your theme

You can change the default theme under “Themes” in the Appearance section of the Dashboard. If you don’t see a theme you like, you can customize or create your own by editing the html/css. This blog post covers the basics. If you’d like Vanilla to create a custom theme for you, please contact us for a quote.

4. Change your domain name

Instead of having your new forum's url look like this:, it can look like this: or Detailed instructions can be found in the Custom Domain menu in the Dashboard.

5. Login options

How do you want your community members to register and login? There are three ways you can configure how users create an account and access the content in your community:

  • Have users create an account specifically for your forum. Registration can be open, by approval or by invitation.
  • Let members login using social network credentials (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Linkedin), you can enable these the “Forums” menu under ‘Social’.
  • Use an existing system with Single-Sign On (SSO), this requires some dev effort on your end.

6. Create categories

Categories are used to organize your community's discussions. You can create categories, sub-categories and sub-sub categories. You can also configure custom permissions for each category you create. To organize your categories, just drag and drop them into the order you like. Tip: We recommend not to have more than 10 categories.

7. Enable Plugins

Vanilla is endlessly pluggable and customizable. To see the plugins available, look under Add-ons. Each plugin has a brief description, so you can read more about them before enabling. To keep you community under wraps until you are ready, you can enable “Private Community”. Some of the popular add-ons that can impact the look and feel of your community are Ranks, Badges, Reactions, Tags, Discussion Photos, Who’s Online and Q&A.

8. Stop spam before it starts

Unfortunately, due the power forums have for SEO, many spammers target forums and try to add comments that contain spam links. To reduce spam, it’s recommended to turn on Akismet and Stop Forum Spam. If you are using Basic Registration method, we recommend you turn on “users must confirm email addresses” in the user registration settings.

9. Create some content

Vanilla Forums has some sample content, but you will want to modify or create your own community guidelines, along with some content to get the conversation started. Think of topics that will create discussion.

10. Add users

It's not a community without users! Invite some friends or beta users to help you get things going. With registration set up you can invite them by email. If you need, you can also create a user from the backed end. To do so, select "Users" below the "Appearance" category in your Dashboard and click "Add User".

You've made it through our launch checklist! Now it's time to focus on building and growing your community. Check out our blog for useful articles. If you get stuck or need more help, join our customer community.


Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community and Lead Evangelist for Vanilla by Higher Logic. Besides spending many years in digital marketing, Adrian has been building communities of all sizes for over 20 years.


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