Add a forum to your WordPress site Here are a few tools to help
There are various ways to build a community around your WordPress website. Social networking channels are often the most common method for doing this, because a good number of users nowadays are active on social media and can easily share your website’s content with their audience.
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However, when it comes to community-building, nothing beats a good ol’ forum. There are a zillion ways to run a forum, including the usage of dedicated forum software or content management systems such as phpBB, Xenforo, and so on. However, integrating these heavy-weight tools in your already-existing WordPress website is often a pain, causing many WordPress users to rely on alternative mechanisms that integrate well with WordPress.
To help make things easier, here are some tools you can use to easily integrate a forum with your WordPress website.
The “Official” Methods
First up, let us look at two solutions that come from the same stable as WordPress: bbPress and BuddyPress. Both, just like WordPress, are free and open source.
bbPress is a pure forum software that lets you create discussion forums that function in assonance with your WordPress website. It comes with its own widgets and settings, and also has importers just in case you’re migrating from another forum software. The best part about bbPress is that it integrates seamlessly with your WordPress site, and as such, nothing seems out of place or mismatched.
BuddyPress, on the other hand, is a solution that lets you add social networking features to your WordPress website, and can even be used to power a discussion forum. In general, BuddyPress lets you create user profiles, activity streams, private messaging, groups, and other social features. It is backed by its own set of add-ons, plugins, and themes.
The Pure Forum Approach
After bbPress and BuddyPress, there are several other tools out there as well that let you add a forum to your WordPress website. Such tools offer a lot of features to help you build a community around your website, but their primary focus is on the creation and management of a forum. As such, instead of offering a you-ask-I-answer model, they offer proper forum threads and tools, as well as user-role management.
First up, there is Bublaa Forum and Comments. It is a rather interesting plugin for WordPress, as it offers much beyond just forum functionality. This plugin lets you add a forum to your site with real time discussions and activity streams. Furthermore, it also comes with a new comment system (optional) that allows for rich content such as images, video, etc. Bublaa Forums and Comments offers responsive design, SEO friendly structure, email notifications and social profile logins.
Another plugin that aims to offer nothing but pure forum integration with WordPress is Simple:Press. It integrates well with WordPress, and has its own set of add-ons, shortcodes, and other custom features. Also, Simple:Press supports most of the major WordPress plugins, such as Yoast SEO, All in One SEO Pack, Google XML Sitemaps, and Shareaholic.
The Question and Answer Approach
What if a forum isn’t really what you want? Maybe you wish to add something like Stack Overflow to your WordPress site?
In that case, a plugin that offers question and answer functionality might be your safest bet. AnsPress is a popular and oft-used option, that lets you add a question and answer section to your website. It comes with its own theme system, offers support for private messages, email notifications, user profiles, and a lot more.
Another option for you to consider is the DW Question and Answer plugin. It is a simple and no-nonsense offering, with all the basic features that you might find on sites such as Stack Overflow or Quora. It includes features such as the ability to upvote/downvote an answer, and includes social logins, email notifications, etc. Furthermore, DW Question and Answer is translation ready, and currently supports 11+ languages.
Worth A Look: ForumEngine
I have placed this one in its own category because unlike the others, ForumEngine is neither a plugin or extension nor a proper CMS. Instead, it is a WordPress theme specifically meant for forum websites. Based on Bootstrap, it features a clean and flat design, is fully responsive and translation ready. However, ForumEngine is a premium offering, and a Regular License via ThemeForest will cost you $53.
If all you need is a proper forum and nothing else, using a dedicated forum software makes a lot of sense. However, if you are trying to implement a forum within an existing WordPress website, using one such plugin or tool is a wiser bet.
What forum solutions do you rely on? Share your experiences and thoughts with us using the comments below!