From chat rooms to forums, and social networks to email, being online allows people to remain connected with each other and find like-minded individuals who want to discuss certain topics. Forums, in particular, have extreme allure because of the conversation logging, community building, and easy integrations with websites. And there are plenty of forums to choose from online. If you like gardening, a quick Google search reveals several forums for you. The same goes for basketball, web design, email marketing, and there’s even a forum for men with long hair. In order to make your own, you’ll have to consider a WordPress forum plugin to integrate the community portion into your current website.
It’s also possible to turn your entire website into a forum, but in that case, you’re most likely going to use a WordPress forum theme instead of a plugin.
The cool thing about forums is that they’ve evolved over the years. Those old forums with long threads and sometimes confusing dialogues are still around, but that’s because the format seems to work. We’ve also started to see several other forum formats, like the question and answer layout on a site like Quora and Stack Overflow, or the up/down vote arrangement on sites like Reddit.
The good news is that you can achieve similar forum styles by utilizing some of the WordPress forum plugin options below. We’ll outline the best features from each plugin and talk about how much it’s going to cost you. Some of the forum plugins are well-known, but there are a few of them that you should take a look at if you’re interested in a forum revamp or you’d like your forum to look unique compared to the millions of other forums out there.
The world of forums is ever growing, and you can be part of it with your very own WordPress forum plugin. So, keep reading to find the one that’s right for you.
Plugins require testing to figure out whether you’re going to like the user experience and enjoy the way it appears on the frontend of your site. This is particularly true for forums, since you’ll have to manage the community and make the forum nice-looking so people want to come back for more. So, we put together a quick list for you to scroll through the WordPress forum plugins and test them for yourself. However, we also highly recommend viewing the in-depth reviews compiled below.
From the setup process to the forum management, the features inside these plugins make up the experience you’re going to have on your website. Some of them are lightweight and useful for smaller, simpler sites while others offer robust feature sets for voting, user profiles, and messaging. Let’s see how each one stands out.
The bbPress plugin is one of the most popular WordPress forum plugins. That’s partly because it’s been around for awhile, so there wasn’t as much competition back in the day. However, bbPress also offers familiarity. The frontend looks like you would expect it, and it has a lightweight build and unbloated interface. The bbPress plugin is kind of like going to McDonald’s instead of a sit-down burger restaurant. It’s not going to blow you away, but you know exactly what you’re getting. This plugin works the way it should and it has the basic customization tools for adjusting colors, making keyboard shortcuts, and enabling a visual editor for when users are writing.
The bbPress plugin is completely free, so you can go to the website and not have to worry about some random upsells popping up along the way. It’s an opensource project, so several developers contribute to the plugin. For the user, opensource means that you often get consistent updates and, of course, the plugin is free. The bbPress website also provides some interesting resources to improve your forum.
For example, one page is filled with bbPress extensions, while another has different themes that work nicely with the forum plugin. You can also find quality documentation and a full blog. As you may have guessed, the support is provided completely through a forum.
BuddyPress often comes up in the same conversation as bbPess, and that’s because both are the go-to solutions for online communities. Oh yeah, and they’re both made by the same development group. BuddyPress, however, is a little different. It’s for making a social network or online community, where users make profiles, join groups, and send private messages. The BuddyPress interface allows for sending out friendship requests, and you can make special groups for things like sports teams, companies, and schools.
Similar to bbPress, BuddyPress is free and opensource. The interface is easy to navigate and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting it to launch on your website. It’s truly a little social network packed into a plugin, where you unwrap it and start turning your website visitors into an actual community of people. The great part is that you can combine bbPress and BuddyPress to offer a standard forum section along with an area for people to build relationships on a more social level.
Similar to sites like Facebook, BuddyPress has an activity stream for viewing what your friends are up to. Favorites, mentions, and all of the cool features you would typically find on a social network are all included here. The best part is that you get to customize it for your own brand and develop a social site for your niche.
WPForo Forum is a free WordPress forum plugin, but the company makes money by selling add-ons. This add-on collection offers options for items like custom user fields, ad management, polls, private messaging, and more. If you go to the add-ons page you’ll notice that most of these extensions sell for anywhere from $11 to $95.
We like the WPForo Forum plugin for those interested in a more modern design compared to bbPress. The colors seem brighter, the threads are nicely organized, and it’s rather difficult to get confused as a user. A few layouts are provided for you to get started, all of which have modern and responsive designs. Several translations are also available, from Swedish to Czech, and Polish to Russian.
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 I enjoy WPForo Forum so much 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.
Asgaros Forum is a completely free plugin. The developers do have a donation button on the website if you’d like to contribute to their work. As for the rest of the features, moderators can see who is online at all times. The plugin also works with widgets for adding different modules to the side of your forum. Asgaros Forum is multisite compatible, and it provides a mobile theme for your users to have conversations on their mobile devices.
Try the DW Question and Answer plugin if you’re thinking about making a community like Quora or Yahoo Answers. In this configuration, it’s still a forum–with threads and conversations–yet it’s formulated like a Q&A. Typically these types of websites have voting systems so the best answers rise to the top. That’s the main difference from a regular forum, since those are mainly a huge list of all the responses. With DW Question and Answer, you have more control over quality, since the trolls and people with questionable answers are sent to the bottom of the page.
DW Questions and Answer is yet another free, opensource project. It also has some additional free plugins for things like markdown, social sharing, leaderboards, and captcha. Dozens of languages are supported, included Thai, Catalan, Vietnamese, and Czech. Shortcodes are also available in case you would like to quickly insert the forum into a certain page on your website.
With the notification and voting system, the DW Question and Answer plugin makes for a pleasant surprise, especially considering how so many forums are converting to this type of Q&A setup.
The WP Symposium Pro Social Network Plugin is similar to BuddyPress in that it also turns your WordPress website into a social network. This includes a full forum and activity wall, but you receive several other elements that are only found on social networks like Facebook. After being installed, users come to your website and create profiles. They can manage those profiles and add friends who they want to communicate with. Email alerts are sent out when actions are taken. So, if you were to like something on a friend’s page or send them a message, they’d get a message explaining the action.
Since forums are so useful for discussions on gaming, clubs, dating, and technology, sometimes it makes sense to expand on the conversational part of it and add the more advanced social profiles. One of the reasons WP Symposium Pro stands out is because of its collection of customization tools. Creative changes are typically done through shortcodes, where you add the shortcode to a page and adjust things like colors, fonts, buttons, and more.
Several other extensions are available if you’d like to improve your social network. For example, you might need some of the following features to round out your social network, and an upgrade is all it takes:
Many of the premium features come with the Pro version of this plugin. WP Symposium Pro goes for $29, and that pricing includes some decent support from the developers.
The Discussion Board WordPress forum plugin delivers a minimalist, modern forum that you can place anywhere on your WordPress website. The one-click installation makes things simple for beginners, and the user registration process takes what we all know and love about forums, but makes it a little more practical. A frontend form is shown for these registrations, and then the users can post topics through another simple form. That seems to be what’s fueling the Discussion Board’s popularity, since we’re seeing rave reviews and several users turning to it instead of the better known options.
This WordPress forum plugin has a lite version with standard forum functionality. This version would most likely work for the majority of organizations. The Pro version starts at a reasonable $29 and goes up to $49 depending on how many sites you’d like to use it on.
As for the features that come with the Pro version of the plugin, here’s what to expect:
As you can see, the feature for having multiple discussion boards is only given in the Pro Plugin. So, the free version makes the most sense for small organizations and schools that only require one board. However, the $29 price tag is a small price to pay for any additional features you may need.
At $23 (one-time payment,) and with impressive reviews on CodeCanyon, Sabai Discuss is actually one of the only WordPress forum plugins I would 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.
What’s more is that Sabai has a report abuse system. Therefore, your regular forum users can let you know if they think another user isn’t following the rules or treating people with respect in the forum. Another reason to consider Sabai is that you can add multiple instances of the forum throughout your site. You also have the opportunity to do this with your website network, which may come in handy if you have several sites. Finally, Sabai caters to users who want a new-age design. It’s fully responsive and flat, straying away from the forum designs of past digital ages. Overall, it’s more likely to satisfy those with modern websites, since the user experience feels current and it looks like a forum from this decade.
The last solution on our list is called Forums from WPMU Dev–but just because it sits at #9 doesn’t mean it’s the worst, at all. In fact, I would argue that the Forum plugin is one of the best you can find. The only part that’s tricky is that you have to signup for a WPMU Dev membership. For developers, this decision might be a no-brainer. After all, you only have to pay $49 per month for access to just about every type of plugin you need. This includes plugins for security, marketing, SEO, backups, and more. Not only that, but the development membership offers some awesome themes for you to utilize on multiple client websites.
If you’re thinking of making one or two forums, it’s tough to swallow that $49 per month price tag. When you look at the competition, a forum typically goes for under $50 (one-time fee) or you can download it for free. Regardless, I don’t want to skip the Forum WPMU Dev plugin since developers love it and you get so much for your membership.
The Forum plugin allows you to set up a forum on every one of the sites in a network. The forums can be embedded into any post or page, and there are no limits on the number of forums you can create. The reason I like the Forum plugin so much is because of how easy it is to use. The styling options are great for adding the right colors and designs, while the embedding is done with some basic code. there’s even a tool to set the maximum number of forums if you’d like to limit the size of your community.
WordPress forum plugins are still wildly popular and needed for generating the conversation that both small and large organizations require. When you’re completing your search you might want to go with a tried and true plugin like bbPress, or maybe you’re tired of that interface and would like something more modern like WPForo. On the other hand, some organizations and communities are more interested in social networks. In that case, plugins like BuddyPress make the most sense.
If you’re still having trouble with your WordPress forum plugin selection, here are some thoughts to narrow down the search:
And that’s all we have to say about WordPress forum plugins! If you have any questions about our selection or you’d like to state your opinion about some of the plugins discussed, feel free to let us know in the comments section below.
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