Forums are a great way to build an online community and you can add this functionality to your website with little effort. Much better than merely comments, forums let you create topics, discussion boards, and much much more. A site designed around the website builder and web hosting solution that is WordPress has the ability to install a plugin that will do most of the heavy lifting for you. We’ve gathered five such plugins with different strengths and advantages, depending on what you’re looking for…
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bbPress has been around for a long time. It’s open source, meaning that it’s created and maintained by the community, which might worry some users, but is actually a great thing. It also means it’s totally free to use. It doesn’t have all the features, and bells and whistles that other forum plugins boast of, but what bbPress lacks in finesse, it gains in simplicity, flexibility and speed.
The basic plugin can be supplemented with additional… plugins. The term can be confusing so we’ll just refer to them as add-ons here. These include anything from support for file attachments, use of avatars, the inclusion of moderation, and protected forums, to name but a handful.
Finding the right add-on can be a little intimidating. As of this writing, there are 207 of them available, so you’ll find its search field most welcome. You can design a truly customised forum experience thanks to bbPress with the reassurance that the plugin gets regularly updated with new features and security patches.
WP Discussion Board offers an elegant modern interface, which works great on whichever platform it’s viewed on, be it desktop, tablet or mobile. It offers all the features you’d expect, such as spam filters, the ability to see user profiles, and to follow topics and boards. It has a WYSIWYG editing interface, and boasts compatibility with all WordPress themes (although this is obviously something impossible to test fully).
There are three plans available, with the cheapest called ‘Basic’ for $49 a year, and can only be installed on one site. ‘Pro’ allows installation on an unlimited number, for $89 per year. However a one-time price is also available if you’re not a fan of yearly commitments: you can get WP Discussion Board forever for $199. A 14-day money back guarantee is also offered.
If you’re on a budget, there’s also a free version, but the limitations could be seen as substantial. For instance, admins lack the ability to approve registrations, you can’t subscribe to boards, nor follow topics, media uploads are forbidden, and WYSIWYG editing is not available (you’d probably be better off with bbPress above). If you’re interested in this plugin, the paid-for version is the way to go.
DW Question and Answer is an interesting forum plugin because, as its name implies, it’s more aimed at asking questions and seeking answers. Just like Quora, viewers can vote on the answers, meaning that the best ones remain near the top, while the ridiculous ones get forgotten at the bottom of the list (at least that’s the theory for these types of forums). So it’s not a regular forum per se, but it can help curate the content and allow the best responses to be more easily seen rather than being lost in an ocean of comments.
We greatly appreciate the fact this plugin supports over 20 languages, including Thai, Catalan, Arabic and Persian.
There’s a free version, which, as you’d expect has a few limitations when compared with the paid-for ‘pro’ version. For instance, Pro comes with 4 premium extensions, has the ability to edit text without using HTML formatting tags, and comes with reCaptcha / FunCaptcha anti-spam features.
Prices start at $69 per year for ‘Personal’, and $99 for ‘Developer’ (which includes all premium extensions). If you’d rather own the plugin outright, it can be yours for $249. For that price you’ll get all the ‘Developer’ features.
Forym is a nice modern-looking fully responsive forum which actually aims to combine features of traditional forums with the question and answer variant which is currently gaining in popularity. One way this is represented, is by being able to vote answers up or down.
It boasts being highly customisable and compatible with every WordPress theme, and offers the ability for users to add badges and custom signatures, allows a ‘best answer’ to be selected, and includes a profanity filter. It’s all pretty minimalist and user friendly, and includes nice features such as drag and drop file uploading, and, for those happy with coding, lets you get in there and customise it to your heart’s content.
Forym can be got for $19 for a single licence and comes with six months of support. You can extend that support by an additional six months for $5.25 extra.
You got forums, you got Q&A sites, but why not go one step further and create your own social network? This is what WP Symposium Pro aims to provide. Its plugin adds features to your WordPress site such as user profiles, activity walls, and friends invitation. You have the ability to create forums, discussion boards and product question forums. Private messaging is also supported, and so is embedding YouTube videos, and image galleries.
As you’d imagine, it’s not as easy to set up as just a basic forum like the others on this list offer, but the potential is much greater with WP Symposium Pro and that in itself could convince many to take the leap.
This plugin is available for $100 per year, or you can get it for a lifetime one-off price of $170… except, as of this writing, there’s a special offer, allowing you to get it for $90 - which is less than the yearly price! Extended support is also available for an additional monthly fee of $40.
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