WordPress makes it easy to integrate many different features with the right plugins, and forums are one of them. For those considering adding forums to a WordPress or any other type of site, first consider the following advantages and disadvantages.
The nicest point about forums is that the users generate the content. This content is directly related to the niche and is likely to provide a boost in search engine rankings. This is in addition to the added authority a forum will give any site. By setting up a forum, the site owner is showing a commitment to the site that makes it more authoritative with visitors and search engines.
Forums are particularly useful for those marketing products and services as they provide a way to efficiently answer questions and keep them online for everyone to see.
Even for those who are not marketing their own products, forums still offer a great way to learn about the niche and find out what people are looking for. Furthermore, with a forum, it is possible to easily make announcements and directly market to people through form mailings.
On the negative side, forums cost money to set up and must be monitored. At some point, there will be those who try to spam or hack into the forum.
The biggest challenge for most people is to get enough traffic to the forum and people posting on it. There are forums for the majority of niches out there already so those starting a new forum will need to distinguish themselves in some way.
Going for it
If you want to give it a shot, the following plugins will make the process pretty straightforward. As you will already have a WordPress site set up, it is not a big gamble, and there is always the possibility of the forum really paying off.
Here are some useful plugins that you should consider:
bbPress is a “simple yet elegant forum software” created by the WordPress developer team. As such, you can expect this plugin to tie in quite nicely with any WP blog. It is built using PHP 5/MySQL and is compatible with most browsers.
bbPress facilitates easy integration with your WP site, has a simple and intuitive interface, and offers a number of customizable templates so you can design your forum in any way you like. This plugin is considered to be ultra lightweight, mainly because it utilizes the core features that are already provided by WordPress. It is highly extensible and ties quite easily and smoothly with other plugins, has built-in spam protection and RSS feed capability as well. Some of the most popular add-on plugins that can be used with bbPress include the following:
- Add Link to Facebook (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/add-link-to-facebook/) – automatically add links to posts that are published on your wall or page
- bbPress Private Replies (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bbpress-private-replies/) – allows posters to mark their replies as private so that only the original poster and moderators will see it
- Rating widget (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/rating-widget/) – allows for the creation and management of thumb and star ratings into post, pages or comments right from the WP dashboard
- bbPress Threaded Replies (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bbpress-threaded-replies/) – add nested or threaded reply capability to posts
- bbPress Moderation (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bbpressmoderation/) – reduces spam by allowing moderators to approve new topics or replies before they are published
- bbPress Like button (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bbpress-like-button/) – allows other forum members to “like” other members’ posts and/or replies
- bbPress Advert Units (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bbpress-simple-advert-units/) – allows you to insert Amazon widgets and/or Adsense ads to your forums
- And a lot more! To get the complete list of add-on plugins that can be used with bbPress, please visit this page – http://bbpress.org/plugins/?ppage=1
In addition, bbPress provides excellent documentation and actually encourages community collaboration by providing other developers an easy way to submit bug reports and patches.
Its inherent simplicity is the only evident disadvantage of bbPress. For those who are for looking for more advanced features, bbPress may not be for you.
ForumPress provides a fast and easy solution for those who are looking to install a simple community forum in their WP site. While it does not have the robust features offered by other plugins, ForumPress, nevertheless, provides everything you need to run a fully functional forum.
ForumPress comes in both free and paid versions. Both versions are WordPress 3 compatible and feature a simple yet flexible configuration panel, unlimited categories and forums, guest posting, email notification and RSS feed functionalities as well as custom theming, BB code and multi-language support. On top of all these, the paid/pro version features SEO-friendly URLs, quick reply and a free support forum.
Its developers claim this to be “the #1 forum for WordPress”. Simple:Press is quite easy to install, offers an extensive features list and is fully customizable to meet everyone’s needs. This plugin allows full integration with WP registrations and logins and supports WP 3.0 standard, MultiSite and BuddyPress.
Simple:Press also offers SEO-friendly permalinks, RSS feeds and email notifications, optional post moderation and math spam prevention functionality, multi-language support, and a powerful user group and permission system.
Despite these features, however, the plugin is not available for download using the WP interface. You need to manually download it from their site and upload it to your WP site using FTP. Some forum owners also find the admin panel to be a little too complex for the average user.
Tal.ki Embeddable Forum
This plugin allows for an easy way to embed a public or private forum or discussion board to any WP site. Tal.ki seamlessly blends into your website and features an easy-to-use admin panel, drag-and-drop interface, media embedding and permalinking support, automatic security patches and zero account creation (members can log in using their Facebook, Google, Yahoo, OpenID, Twitter and MySpace accounts).
It provides SEO-friendly URLs, email notifications on new replies, multiple sub-forums, multi-language support, and the ability to lock topics. Tal.ki can also be used for sites that are hosted on Blogger, Weebly, PBWorks, Yola and Google, and for those that run through Drupal and Joomla CMS as well. It comes in both free and paid versions.
You can easily install a community forum on your WP site by using this plugin. With no theming requirements, you can simply indicate where you would like your forum to appear, and it will be embedded right into your blog. Vanilla Forums offers easy integration with WP and provides a mobile-friendly version designed for those who want to access your forums using their mobile device.
Vanilla Forums is built using PHP 5/MySQL and is fully compatible with most browsers. It has a user-friendly and highly intuitive admin panel, provides visual statistics and a multi-language support as well. It also provides a number of themes and add-ons to give you the flexibility to customize your forums to suit your needs.
The Zingiri Forums plugin integrates myBB software with WP. As you may already know by now, myBB is a robust, fully customizable open-source forum software designed to make forum installation and management quite easy. Its extensive administration panel gives you the freedom to control every aspect of your forum the way you like it while its plugin system gives you the flexibility you need to extend forum functionality.
MyBB features an intuitive user control panel, built-in template and theme editor, and powerful tools for moderation, task scheduling and other administrative functions. It allows an infinite number of members, threads and posts, full-text search capabilities and multi-language support. Switching to the myBB platform can easily be done by using the MyBB merge system (http://www.mybb.com/downloads/merge-system).
The forum plugin available at WPMUDev makes installing a forum on WP MultiSite easy. It allows chosen sites in a network to have completely features question and answer sections.