These days, social media can play a significant role in community building. But there is also another way that existed way before Facebook or other platforms.
Yes, I’m talking about forums.
The easiest way to build a forum around your WordPress website is to use a plugin. But there’s a problem. There are too many potential candidates that can be a good solution for you.
The purpose of this post is to show you the solutions you should consider. So let’s get started!
What to Look for in a WordPress Forum Plugin?
Take a strategic approach when choosing a plugin for your WordPress website. Instead of picking any plugin you can find, make sure to pay attention to at least these seven factors.
Both free and paid plugins exist. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages.
While a free plugin doesn’t cost you anything, it may lack the support options that the paid version offers.
2. The usage
Do you intend to use the plugin only as a forum, or in some other ways, too?
For instance, certain plugins work better as a Question and Answer (Q&A) site. Then again, some solutions are more flexible, and you can use them in many ways.
I’ve already touched on this area in point number 1, but let me elaborate further.
So when you are picking a forum for your website, make sure it also offers proper support options.
For instance, if technical issues come up, do you know where to find help, and how? Find out all the support options in advance so that you get help if you need i.
I know it sounds a bit confusing, but it’s true: forum plugins can have their own plugins. These plugins extend the functionality of the forum by adding new useful features to it.
While most of the forum solutions can be extended, some are not. So make sure to learn in advance whether your forum supports add-ons or not.
How well does the forum plugin support the custom branding of your website? Also, is it possible to integrate the forum into other systems?
Plugin development is an ongoing process. But is your product updated and developed frequently?
For instance, if the plugin was updated a year ago, should you consider using another solution instead.
7. Basic Functionality
What features you value depends on your needs. But as a general guideline, I would make sure that:
- The forum is easy to set up and maintain.
- The user interface, both for the user and the admin, is simple to use.
- The end-user can format the posts easily.
- You can secure your site from spam and bots.
- You can optimize the SEO of your forums.
- The solution contains all the essential features. These include creating new threads, replying to comments, or editing your posts.
- The forum is optimized for mobile devices.
The Top 8 WordPress Forum Plugins for 2020
Now that you know what to look for in a forum, let’s go through the top-8 WordPress plugins.
bbPress is probably the most popular forum plugin for WordPress. It’s an open-source solution, and it comes from the same folks who develop WordPress.
The guiding principles behind bbPress are simplicity, web standards, flexibility, and speed. The forum integrates well with WordPress, and you can also extend it via plugins.
The plugin supports 11 languages. It’s easy to set up and simple to use.
- Light-weight forum solution.
- Fast setup.
- The solution integrates well with WordPress.
- The forum can be translated into many languages.
- Flexible layout options.
- Active community forums.
- Free to download.
- Adding new forum categories is a bit inconvenient at first.
- Plugins are developed by many people, which means that the support options may vary, depending on the developer.
2. wpForo Forums
wpForo Forums is another fully-featured forum plugin for WordPress. While the core version is free, you can also extend your forum with premium add-ons.
The solution is light-weight and easy-to-use. You can quickly manage your current forum structure through the forum’s admin panel.
The forum has four layout options: Extended, Simplified, Q&A, and Threaded. Each layout option provides features that make your forums unique.
wpForo Forums also integrates well with systems like BuddyPress or Ultimate Members.
- Free to download and use.
- The plugin comes with five premium add-ons.
- You can drag and drop the forums and categories into any order you wish.
- SEO-friendly forum solution.
- The forum can be easily translated into other languages.
- The forum configuration may not be intuitive at first. So be prepared to visit wpForo’s support forum frequently.
- If you deactivate the plugin, you’ll have to submit a feedback form to the developer first.
3. DW Question & Answer Pro
DW Question & Answer is a light-weight WordPress forum plugin by DesignerWall. It helps you to build a site like StackOverflow, where the visitors can vote for each other’s answers.
The plugin provides a clean interface for the forum visitors. From the administrator’s perspective, the setup and maintenance tasks are also easy to do.
The plugin contains Default, Flat, and HelpDesk themes. Each of these options adds their nuance to the forum layout.
The forum integrates with the Akismet spam solution. The plugin also supports two different types of captchas, FunCaptcha and Google captcha.
Finally, the plugin includes six different add-ons. For instance, you can use the DW Q&A Markdown for editing forum posts without HTML language. Or with DW Q&A Leaderboard, you can list great forum contributors. You can also provide competitions for the community.
- Clean user interface.
- Quick to setup and configure.
- Various captcha options.
- Custom styling should be easier.
- It has limited options as a discussion forum.
- The plugin costs $29. There is also a free version
4. CM Answers Pro
CM Answers is another elegant solution if you want to build a Q&A site, like Yahoo Answers or Quora.
The solution lets users vote for their favorite answers. Administrators can customize forum layout or localize the community to their preferred language.
You can also replace the default WordPress comment system with a Q&A discussion forum. With this feature, you can turn your website into a real community.
You can also integrate the plugin with Facebook, LinkedIn, or BuddyPress.
- You can turn WordPress comments as part of a discussion board.
- Users can vote for their favorite answers.
- Users can add many attachments to questions or answers.
- Ultimate Edition has the payment and micropayment support.
- The user guide section (in the admin panel) looks messy.
- You’ll find a link to the ticket system on the plugin’s home page after digging around a bit. Yet, the support options should be more easily available.
- Premium versions: Pro: $39. Pro Anonymous: $59. Ultimate: $99. There is also a free version
5. Discussion Board Pro
Discussion Board plugin comes in two flavors: free and paid.
During the installation, the plugin creates three pages:
- A login-in page.
- A page for posting new topics.
- A page for viewing existing topics.
These pages act as the backbone of your forum. And once the forum is live, users can register their user account through your website’s front-end.
The forum includes features like user management, which defines who can see it and who can post to it. You can also reduce the spam by blocking specific email addresses or domains.
The forum is mobile-responsive and works with any theme.
- It integrates well with your website.
- The plugin is easy to set up and configure.
- A simple solution that adds a forum to your website without extra hassles.
- It can be used in many ways, such as a community forum, a Q&A site, or as a job board.
- It would be nice to see a comparison table between the free and the premium versions. That would make the selection between the free and the paid version easier.
- Versions: Basic: $49 per year (one site). Pro: $89 per year (unlimited sites). The free version is also available.
Would you like to run a social network hub on top of your WordPress website? If so, you should consider using BuddyPress.
With BuddyPress, you can build a website with social network features. These features include things like user profiles, activity streams, or internal messaging. You can also create user groups to build mini-communities.
Contributors to WordPress also build BuddyPress. It integrates well with WordPress, Akismet, and even with bbPress.
- Active development community.
- It has plenty of plugins that extend the core plugin functionality.
- It is continuously developed and maintained.
- You need to do more configuration than with some other forum plugins.
- Free to download and use.
Simple:Press has a long history behind it. It’s over 12 years old, and it now spans over 70 modules.
The free version includes features like great support for SEO or a spam protection tool. The premium version gives you private messaging and a TinyMCE editor for post formatting.
The forum is mobile responsive, so you can use it with your desktop, mobile phone or tablet.
- Plenty of features already in the free version.
- The forum developer creates all the add-ons, not a third-party. This factor makes it easier to get support for any questions.
- Premium version prices can be too much for some people.
- Premium versions: Silver Bundle: $99 per year (one site). Gold Bundle: $149 per year (one site). Platinum Bundle: $199 per year (one site). The free version is also available.
8. Asgaros Forums
Asgaros Forums is a light-weight and forum-rich forum solution coming from Germany.
The forum is easy to set up. It creates a page titled Forum on your WordPress during the installation. The page includes a shortcode, and you can also place the shortcode on another page if you wish.
The forum is SEO-friendly, and it supports uploads, polls, and activity feeds. Forum users can also earn reputation points based on their activity on the forums.
- Free (developer accepts optional donations).
- Loads fast.
- Easy to set up.
- No plugins are available.
- Can’t migrate from other forum systems (at least without coding).
- Free to download and use.
What WordPress Forum Plugin Is the Best for You?
So there you have it: 8 WordPress forum plugins, which each promise to be the perfect fit for you. But the hot question is: which one should you pick for your WordPress website?
Remember the seven factors I talked about in the beginning about what to look for in a forum? When I think about all the plugins against these factors, there are two forums that you should consider: Simple:Press and wpForo.
- Price: There are both free versions and paid versions available.
- Usage: The plugin can only be used as a community forum. But if you invest into other premium Simple:Press components, you can create various types of websites.These include helpdesk sites, membership sites or donation sites.
- Support: The free version gives you community support. The premium versions provide access to standard or premium support. You also get all the add-ons and support from one vendor, instead of from many.
- Extensibility: Premium versions include over 70 add-ons. These include anonymous posting, polls and surveys, or profanity filter.
- Integrations: Integrates with WordPress dashboard, logins, and registrations. The premium version adds integration to BuddyPress or WooCommerce.
- Development: New features are continuously developed. Also, the old code is kept up-to-date.
- Technical Features: The forum solution is easy to use, and it is mobile responsive. It has proper SEO functionality and has security features to protect you from forum spam.
Try the free version first. If you like what you see, then upgrade to the premium one. This way, you’ll learn if the solution is a good fit for you. You can also access the Simple:Press demo site to learn more about the solution.
- Price: Free to download. This is great if you want to have a forum solution, but are on a budget.
- Usage: The main usage of the plugin is to use it as a forum. However, you can also use it as a Q&A/support site.
- Support: You get the support through wpForo’s support forums.
- Extensibility: You can extend the solution with 10 premium plugins. The prices range between $11 and $125. The premium plugins include ad manager or polls.
- Integrations: wpForo integrates with BuddyPress and with Ultimate
- Development: The forum is actively developed and old code is kept up-to-date.
- Technical Features: The forum is mobile responsive, and it supports various forum layouts. It also provides great SEO support, and has tools for user management.
Like Simple:Press, give a forum a test drive first. You can also visit the vendor’s website to see how the forum looks in action.
I hope you enjoyed our blog post on the best WordPress forum plugins. Next, you may want to check out our comprehensive article on the best list building plugins for WordPress.