When the internet first launched, many websites were based on community conversations about a particular topic. These types of websites were known as forums, and were the precursors to what we now know as social media.
Don’t be mistaken – traditional forums are still very much alive and well, and cannot be replaced by modern social media trends. Many businesses who sell products and services offer a forum page for their customers to ask questions, submit complaints, and put in service ticket requests.
Still, many of these sites are purely forum-related, such as Reddit and Quora. Users can submit a general discussion topic, and the members of that site can submit their own sub-topics (depending on the platform). Forums are excellent for creating a private community of like-minded people, as well as promoting your business.
Below, we’ll explore different ways you can build a forum website using WordPress plugins, both paid and free options!
Free Forum Plugins
If your budget is tight, don’t worry – there are two exceptional free plugins you can use to create your forum website. If you’re looking just to have one page dedicated to a forum, that’s fine! This is a common practice for most websites.
bbPress is free, open source forum software built on top of WordPress. It can be installed as a WordPress plugin into a WordPress powered website. Unlike older forum software, it is not clunky and doesn’t take up a lot of resources. This means it is easier to add a forum to your WordPress site and still keep the simplicity and extensibility of WordPress. It has the ability to create multisite forums, it has customizable templates, and built-in support for preventing spam.
bbPress started because miniBB was too bloated for the WordPress support forums. In 2004, the WordPress team decided to code a completely new forum system from the ground up. It was first published on WordPress.org and since then it has been turned into a plugin.
Because it is a plugin, bbPress offers an easy way to add a forum to a WordPress website. It works with most standard compliant WordPress themes. The most popular open source software platforms are usually resource intensive and it is not easy to integrate them into a WordPress website. bbPress solves this problem. It is light weight and can easily blend into a WordPress theme. It was created by the same people who created WordPress so it follows the same principle of keeping things small and lightweight. It is also very extensible and capable of handling custom forums easily. There are also very active support forums with contributors willing to help fix issues and bugs.
BuddyPress is a plugin for WordPress. BuddyPress is set up as a plugin that can be added to a WordPress site. It’s a large plugin, and it adds a lot of functionality.
It’s free. Like WordPress, it’s open-source software, which means you’ll never have to pay to download or use it.
It’s a social networking system, with features similar to Facebook. In a BuddyPress site, users can create and update their profiles, send private messages to one another, befriend and de-friend each other, form and join groups, participate in forum discussions, and more.
It’s a content management system. In conjunction with the WordPress engine that it runs on, BuddyPress lets you create and update content on your website.
It’s extensible with plugins. The functionality of a BuddyPress site can be extended with the use of plugins. Hundreds of BuddyPress plugins are available for free in the plugins directory. BuddyPress is compatible with many of the thousands of plugins that already exist for WordPress. If you need functionality that isn’t already offered, you can build a custom plugin.
It’s designed using themes. Just like a WordPress site, changing the look and feel of a BuddyPress site can be as simple as activating a new theme. Free and premium themes are available for BuddyPress, or you can design a custom theme.
Paid Forum Plugins
If you have a budget to invest in your website, then you may want to consider the following forum plugins to polish your website and optimize the forum as much as possible.
The great news about WPForo Forum is that it’s designed for both small and extremely large forum communities. It also has built-in SEO and caching functions so you reach the right people on Google and always have your forum running at its speediest. Both Antispam and Akismet are integrated into the forum plugin, meaning you can fight off some of that spam that’s notorious in forums. One of the main reasons WPForo Forum is so enjoyable is because of the large, colored counter areas, which tell users how many votes, answers, and views each thread has.
Asgaros Forum is a solid choice if you’d like a lightweight forum page on your current website. The forum is added by inserting a shortcode into the desired page. Therefore, it keeps things fast and easy for the admin. The structure is simple and elegant, with a powerful editor and a notifications system. Users create profiles and then end up on your members’ list. People can also complete actions like uploads, searches, and messaging.
At $23 (one-time payment,) and with impressive reviews on CodeCanyon, Sabai Discuss is one of the only WordPress forum plugins we recommend on CodeCanyon. The good thing about Sabai is that the developer is very responsive and willing to help out users before and after the sales. As for the forum plugin itself, Sabai Discuss features a discussion stream, like a standard forum, along with a question and answer tool. So, you could turn your website into something like Reddit or Quora, or you have the choice to stick with a more standard forum layout.
The voting system moves answers up and down to show the best answers to all users. You also receive flexible access control, which could come in handy if you don’t want some users seeing all of the boards. Pair that with the user reputation system and you have a reputable forum experience from the moment you launch. The coolest part about the voting is that much of the site moderation is done for you.
You have many choices when it comes to creating a forum via plugins. Make sure to use a good website builder like Divi Builder from Elegant Themes so that you can customize the look and feel of your website around your forum.
Remember – communities build businesses, not the other way around!
If you’re looking to start your own website or need help with marketing online but you don’t know where to begin, contact us.