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Top 11 Ways To Add A Forum To Your WordPress Website

Posted on October 3, 2014 by in Tips & Tricks | 38 comments

Top 11 Ways To Add A Forum To Your WordPress Website

I’m a big advocate of building community on your website. It falls in line with that whole social networking, thought leadership stuff that’s so important and so effective right now. Of course, when you’re first setting up a WordPress site for yourself or a client, it can be daunting to know which route is the best to pursue in terms of choosing a platform for engagement.

You can have your social media profile links and your share buttons. You can encourage blog comments. But if you want to foster real discussion that stays on your site your best bet is to add a forum.

Before you wonder off cowering in fear, allow me to ease your mind. You don’t need to know a lick of code to add a forum to your WordPress site. No, all you need to be able to do is install a plugin (or theme) configure the settings to your specifications, and get someone in charge of moderating the thing. Otherwise, it’s easy peasy.

I’m not kidding. It’s really easy. In fact, here are 11 easy ways to add a forum to your site with minimal fuss.

bbPress

bbpress

Beloved by nearly everyone who gives it a shot, bbPress is one of the top WordPress forum plugins out there right now. Once installed, it adds several options to your dashboard for creating and managing a forum. It fully integrates itself into your site so it doesn’t feel out of place and you can easily manage forum topics and replies just as you would Core settings.

It includes several widgets as well that make implementing the forum easier. Plus, your site visitors can have several options for interacting with the forum like subscribing to the forum itself, to specific topics, and replies. Users with the right permissions can also delete posts, make stickies, flag spam, make edits, and more from the front-end of the forum.

You can also import forum posts from many other forum tools, which means you’re not tied down to one forum solution for the rest of your life.

BuddyPress

buddypress

Another forum plugin you’ve likely heard of before is called BuddyPress. It’s feature-rich and makes it easy to add a variety of social network features to your WordPress site without having to use ten thousand different plugins. It’s made by the WordPress crew, too so the code is clean and secure.

With it you can let your visitors set up user profiles and user groups, monitor each other’s activity streams, and take part in private messaging. It’s the perfect way to set up a dedicated social network for your company, a niche topic, or a product. It’s also a good way to provide extended support to your customers.

Create custom profile fields, optimize your notification options, and manage account settings quickly. You can establish Friendships to maintain ongoing conversations and even use Private Messaging with multiple forum members at a time. You can give users the ability to create micro-communities thanks to the Groups feature, view activity streams for each member, and you can even extend BuddyPress thanks to third-party add-ons.

DW Question & Answer

dw-question-answer

DW Question & Answer is a simple plugin that lets you create a question and answer site in WordPress. This can serve as a useful support forum for your customers, a robust FAQ section, or a way for members of your site’s community to pose questions to one another and respond with answers directly.

Some features include the ability to categories and tag questions, up vote answers and comments, and CAPTCHA support for minimizing spam comments. It also includes support for 11 different languages, private answering, the ability to “follow” questions and answers, place certain questions as stickies, and more.

CM Answers

cm-answers

If you want a more robust question and answer forum on your site, CM Answers is the obvious choice for accomplishing this. It’s built on a Stack Overflow discussion board so users can ask questions and other users can respond with their answers. Members of the community can then rate the answers to help improve the overall accuracy and effectiveness of your forum. There’s a free and premium version available.

The free version is easy to use and looks nice but it doesn’t include all the bells and whistles that make this plugin truly great. The premium version includes a variety of widgets and shortcodes for easy customization. It also includes social media sharing options, the ability to add attachments to questions and answers, a full text editor, customizable permalinks, and more. You also have more moderation tools at your disposal and multisite support when you shell out the $29 for the premium version.

WP Symposium

wp-symposium

Though typically billed as a social media plugin, WP Symposium is yet another way to add a forum to your WordPress site. And man is it loaded with features! The free version is quite robust and lets you add a forum to your site using a shortcode. You can setup multiple forums if you want by using categories. This way, you can restrict user access if you want based on user role.

Opt-in or opt-out of email notifications, set sticky topics, favorite topics, and vote replies up or down depending on their usefulness. The forum also has a popup menu that lets you conduct searches, view the latest activity, and view your favorites. It also comes with widgets so you can easily display recent forum posts and topics that haven’t received any replies yet to encourage more discussion.

The premium version includes even more features but caters more to the social media set and might be a little too much for those just looking to add a discussion forum to their site.

AnsPress

anspress

If the Q&A format is your thing, then AnsPress might be a good free option for you to try out. It’s really simple and not as complex as some of the other question and answer style plugins I’ve covered here (like CM Answers, for instance) but it still gets the job done and has a lower barrier of entry for those unfamiliar with customizing WordPress.

Once installed, this plugin adds a Question and an Answer option to your main admin menu and a dedicated Settings page. If you want to customize the look to match your theme you can but it looks pretty nice right out of the box, if you ask me. It has a lot of the same features we’ve already discussed here like the ability to edit questions and answers, flag for spam, and vote for your favorite answers.

Other features include built-in moderation, question labels, question tags and categories, tag suggestions, reCAPTCHA. private message, email notifications, and a variety of user levels. There’s also some fun features for users like ranking, badges, profiles, points, cover photos, and more.

Bublaa Forum and Comments

bublaa-forum-comments

Another free option is Bublaa Forum and Comments. It’s a little bit different than the plugins I’ve talked about so far because it uses the best of what forums and comments have to offer to create a true-blue discussion community. With the Bublaa Forum, you can add a forum to your site that allows for real-time discussions and easy navigation. Bublaa Comments lets you connect pages and posts on your site with this comment system that allows for rich text, video, photos, and more. Finally, there’s the Bublaa Activity feature that lets you insert a widget that will display any active discussion you want on any page.

Other features you might want to know about include email notifications, moderation, social logins, responsive design, and SEO support.

SabaiDiscuss for WordPress

sabai-discuss

If you’re up for a premium option, SabaiDiscuss is a good one. It follows the question and answer format, too, and uses the familiar Stack Overflow style. It can be used to create a standard forum or a helpdesk, even.

Some features here include the ability to post questions and answers from the front end, tag suggestions, categories, file attachments, voting on questions, answers, and comments, and the ability to set some questions as featured. Users can set some questions as favorites, build profiles, and create a reputation thanks to a points system.

A custom field editor allows for greater customization and you can set permissions for a variety of user roles. Access restriction, guest submissions, a PHP Markdown editor, search, widgets, templates, email notification templates, and translation-readiness round out the feature set here for $22.

Groups Forums

groups-forums

Another for-pay option you might want to consider is Groups Forums. It’s light weight so won’t bog down your site but still offers plenty of features to keep you happy. It’s actually an expansion of the free plugin, Groups.

Topics can be submitted from the front-end and the back-end. You can establish moderators and sticky topics, and users can subscribe to topics if they want to keep tabs on the conversation. Notifications are also included, specifically for new comments, pending topics, published topics, and more. Several widgets and shortcodes are also included for simpler integration. This one will cost you $21.

Simple:Press

simple-press

The last plugin I’m going to talk about today is Simple:Press, which has the features of several other plugins all rolled into one. It works for small and large communities alike and is easy to customize to your site’s specific needs and design. You can add sub-forums to your heart’s content and enable moderation if you want, too.

Other features include ranking and badges for users, image thumbnails, signatures, avatars, search, forum stats, and standard admin tools. You can also set custom icons, custom smileys, “spoilers,” shortcodes, and email notifications. It also works with multisite and allows for the creation of permissions, user groups, private forums, private RSS feeds, pretty permalinks, support for popular SEO plugins, and multiple language support.

Finally, Simple:Press offers plenty of additional plugins that can add-on functionality like private messaging, additional admin tools, and more. The basic plugin is free but if you want to add more complex features, you’ll have to shell out some cash for a membership. A Silver membership is good for two months and costs $39, while a Gold membership is good for 12 months and costs $99.

ForumEngine

forumengine

Maybe you want to a build a site that is pretty much nothing but a forum? If that’s the case, you might want to check out ForumEngine. This WordPress theme foregoes the plugin solution and gives you an entire site built around the forum concept. Because of that, it includes features some of the aforementioned plugins don’t.

Some of those features include social logins, infinite scroll, permissions, the ability to favorite and follow posts, the ability to follow topics, and more. It also comes with a variety of widgets that you can insert wherever you’d like to add more easy functionality. This theme is also responsive, so it’ll look good on any device. And it truly is designed just for forums so every aspect will serve that purpose well. It currently costs $53.

Wrapping Up

Adding a forum to your WordPress site or building a forum site from scratch shouldn’t be complicated. In fact, it should be a snap, especially if you leverage the right tools. And there are plenty of tools out there to get you started. Hopefully, this list gets you set out on the right track.

Before you embark on your forum-creating journey, I want to hear from you. Do you use any of these plugins or themes? What’s your experience with it been like? Or, do you use a different plugin solution that I missed here? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Article thumbnail image by Dooder / shutterstock.com

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38 Comments

  1. Can somebody recommend the best forum plugin with excellent google ads (or other ad platform) implementation?

    11 ways is just too much for me to explore… 🙂

  2. You mentioned that bbpress “can also import forum posts from many other forum tools.” Can SimplePress import bbpress forums so we can evaluate it and then if we decide that bbpress worked better for us can we revert to bbpress?

    Thanks

  3. We tried to implement a Forum with Buddypress, but the spam crippled it. We added layers and layers of plugins to prevent bots and spam, and we manually approved each of the members, but we couldn’t keep up and eventually had to shut it down.

    • Hi, Kristin – Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m looking into WP forum options myself. Which forum option did you end up going with? And I assume it’s better in terms of controlling spam? Thanks!

  4. oh this old nugget .. I’ve been searching for years for the perfect integrated forum .. there is no such beast 🙁

    If you need a forum, use forum software (MyBB, Invision, xenforo, vbulletin)
    Wordpress has never really developed in the forum area .. sad 🙁

    BBpress and buddypress in my opinion simply aren’t forum solutions on the scale of the above.

    I’ve even tried endless wp/phpbb or wp/vanilla or wp/mybb integrators .. nothing works.

    I’d pay good money to someone to come up with *proper* solution (one of my forums http://mandrivausers.org has 20K member, and 300K post, so it needs to be *proper*)

    and some thing that integrated with ET themes would be ever awesomer 🙂 (given that I’m a paid lifetime member 😉 )

    • We have managed to successfully do a WordPress/PHPBB integration in our website http://www.xbody.gr using WP-United. It comes with its advantages and disadvantages. You can do great things with it, but it will take a lot of tweaking and custom code adding. It is by no means a turnkey solution.

      In the usual scenario, one would like to extend one’s forum-only site to a full website/portal, or to create something from scratch, hoping to attract traditional forum users. As vBulletin, phpBB, xenforo and the likes are being used by millions of people, it should at least have a similar appearance in order to attract people – and bbPress has to do some work on that.

      For me, a truly integrated forum solution would be one that

      a. Keeps with (or at least, gives the option) for a traditional forum format discussion (as in phpBB and vBulletin), something which means some theme work,

      b. Keeps most traditional forum functionality (permissions, ranks, reps, etc).

      c. Is fully integrated with the rest of the site, which means

      – it’s a single sign-on solution for everything, reflected in your profile page which should show all your relevant data, such as everything forum-related, and blog-related (and user-based-plugin-related too), and it should do that in an attractive format (everybody loves a good profile page about oneself)

      – blogpost/topic and comment/reply one-to-one integration (as an option)

      – as mobile-friendly as it gets!

  5. Would be great to see a post about integration existing (non WP-based) forum app, such as phpBB, into WordPress.

    • I’m currently looking for phpbb integration myself. I have tried a few things but everything ends up terrible. For now I’m going to settle for BBPress.

    • Yes Brenda. Steven mentioned my topic of interest. Any new thoughts/ideas regarding this? PS: I went to Edison in HB 😉

  6. I’m actually about to start a blog/forum for my daughter’s high school and am so glad to see a part from this site.

    I will be researching them and am interested in hearing from others that have used any with success.

  7. We have set up a Simple:Press forum for a client and it did deliver. One thing you might want to add in your description above is that you only need to buy the license once and you will get upgrades to all the plug-ins you downloaded even after your license runs out. So it’s not like you have to buy the license year after year, you can only buy it once, install all the plug-ins you need and you’ll be pretty much all set.
    You won’t get any more support after your license ran out, but if you are able to set up your forum in the 2 months that the silver license is valid, you’ll be fine (which was the case for us). Their support was also top notch, they helped us with some weird permission problems (this part of the set-up was a little awkward).

    Overall, I can definitely recommend Simple:Press.

  8. Just the post I needed. I’ve been looking for something new and better than the old forums apps that have been around forever. I only knew a couple of these existed, and hadn’t discovered the others yet. Now I have some real choices, so thanks! Leaning towards wp symposium or forumengine just at first glance, but the concept of bublaa is interesting too.

  9. I used Simple:Press for about two years and was extremely happy with it. I did purchase a 2-month membership so I could download all the plugins, and I used a few of them.

    The only thing I noticed towards the end of my forum’s lifespan was that I was getting tons of brute force attacks against the site, which I discovered after installing the WordFence Security plugin. I can’t say if it was related to the forum software or simply due to the popularity (and exposure) of the site.

    I think the only real (small) downside to Simple:Press was the setup and customization is not terribly easy or user-friendly. The interface in the Dashboard could use some real work, and there are a TON of options to dig through.

    When I was looking for forum solutions, I had tried a few others (I wish I could remember which one’s, but the options have probably changed in two and a half years), and at the time, Simple:Press was the only solution I really liked.

  10. Great article could you please suggest me best from all of them? Thanks Brenda Barron

  11. Your recommendations are all the popular forum builders that can make the forum building an effective thing. However, I highly suggest you make a series of articles like https://wpmatter.com/how-to-make-forum-with-wordpress/ to introduce them in detail. After all, the creation of forum needs much effort, and newbies may feel confused of where to start and when is finished.

  12. I was going to start a forum on my site but I have ruled it out. I do not want to be slammed by thousands of scammers.
    Ken

  13. Please tell me a light plugin, i just want positing feature no avatar and user profile.

  14. Thanks a lot for the list, I am sure one of these is going to work for me, hopefully Bublaa I guess.

  15. Bublaa is useless and not good at all, did’t work properly

  16. Hey, I am trying to get a forum plugin that integrates with my existing users AND allows them to comment on regular blog posts using the same account. Basically, users could comment on a blog post OR in a forum post and the plugin would keep track of their comments. Is there one out there?

  17. I’m currently trying to discover what options exist for providing some interactivity to my site. I started-out by investigating the likes of MyBB, xenforo, vbulletin, etc. It is all very interesting, but my needs are probably a lot more modest than that. So the above article was very helpful to help me see various types of solutions.

  18. I have tried almost of them, I had to say so far their is no real fantastic forum plugin for WordPress. And I think you can add Qdiscuss https://wordpress.org/plugins/qdiscuss/ into the list, it is a very modern design new forum plugin

  19. Now i got a forum in my wordpress theme 2015 🙂

    thank you!

  20. In all honesty, wordpress has bbPress but it’s only a forum. You need cometchat, BuddyPress and then bbPress to make it have better social integration (chat, instant messaging etc). But, here comes the next issue. Not only do you need to make each element work, you also need to make sure that the updates are compatible not only with each other but also with wordpress. In a lot of ways getting a seperate forum like phpbb or fluxbb as a separate install and have wordpress as your wrapper; the forums installed inside /forums on your hosting. This then makes your updates reduced to two platforms. 🙂

  21. Thought all the forum options were pay only previous. Pretty excited to find this post and try to implement a few on the site. Thanks!

  22. I have an ancient UBB Threads – I’m migrating the rest of Jokers to WordPress. Been looking into different forums for wordpress: I hear BuddyPress would be the way to go, except that my forums are VERY large indeed.

    If that is true, then what would the best forum solution be? I’m willing to upgrade/import my current forums (database) into whatever solution will work best (most rapidly, AND must be threaded.)

    Also need someone to do it once we figure out the best ‘it’ lol!

    • Hi Cat, Me too ..i’ve got old UBB Threads. What did you end up doing?

  23. I used to mingle in the forum and have a lot of work I could do it too easy .. Does this forum free download of my way?

  24. Hi Brenda, this list is a good resource. I would like to add couple of things here –

    We can add the forum using other Forum softwares live vBulletin and phpBB. These are the most powerful bulletin board tools available for any php site. We have done the same with our website by integrating the phpBB forum (which is open source and available for free). We could use vBulletin as well but that’s a premium tool and we wanted to see the response with some free tool. I would like to advise fellow webmasters to try below mentioned forum tools to add further interactivity and user gathering to your site –

    1) phpBB
    2) Simple Machines
    3) vBulletin

    Hope it helps! Cheers!

    • Nice info Stylediva,Even i am using the phpbb and vbulleting its working awesome.

  25. I’ve tried many different wordpress forum plugin and bbPress is the best for me, it’s really decent forum plugin.

  26. Hi, I’m looking for a 100% responsive theme for small devices from which I that will provide a short scenario and will then ask for comments/advice about the scenario. This is not related to a support forum. It is simply a fiction writing site that will be only geared for reading and commenting by small device/phone in real time. I have not been able to make this happen on my wordpress.com site but I’m thinking about switching to wordpress.org where more plugins are available to use. I want very simple for a reader.
    First, short scenario with a question asking for feedback/comments/advice
    Second, the only other thing on the page will be discussion.
    Can anyone please offer some advice on an easy way for me to accomplish this? I am assuming I will need to have a theme, a forum plugin?? and a website host. I am not a code expert :/
    Many thanks for any ideas!

  27. Great article! Just want to know that is it possible to have WordPress Forum similar to PHPBB ? I have just install PHPBB on my domain http://hamarisiasat.com/ but I am not happy with it as I don’t have much options. Is it possible to have similar website with WordPress ?

  28. it will become endless pages if the comments increase there shud be an option to preview it and then choose our topic.

  29. Awesome Post and sure, I’ll use one of these methods soon. Thanks a lot for sharing.

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