The best WordPress forum plugins make it simple and easy to create dedicated communities on your WordPress website.
Forums are a great way to build an online community and you can add this functionality to your website with little effort. Better than merely comments, forums let you create topics, discussion boards, and much more for your site's visitors to share their knowledge and experiences.
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 have gathered five such plugins with different strengths and advantages, depending on what you are looking for.
We have assessed these plugins on aspects like ease of setup, user interface, aesthetics and layout templates, and the overall performance. We checked how lightweight the plugins were, and how quickly the forums loaded on different devices (laptop, mobile, and tablet). We also considered the pricing plans, the customer support, and the quality of integration with diverse third-party extensions, among other things.
The best WordPress forum plugins of 2022 in full
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bbPress (opens in new tab) 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 customized forum experience thanks to bbPress with the reassurance that the plugin gets regularly updated with new features and security patches.
Read our full bbPress review.
WP Discussion Board (opens in new tab) 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 to be installed on one site. ‘Pro’ allows installation on an unlimited number. However a one-time price is also available if you’re not a fan of yearly commitments. 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 (opens in new tab) 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.
Forym (opens in new tab) 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 customizable 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 that replaces profanities with asterisks. There's a solid control system for moderators or administrators to manage the forum and block problematic accounts, among other things.
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 customize it to your heart’s content.
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 (opens in new tab) 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 (with image and video sharing), and so is embedding YouTube videos, and image galleries.
As you’d imagine, it is 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. Not to mention, WP Symposium Pro integrates quite seamlessly with most WordPress themes.
What is a WordPress forum plugin?
A WordPress forum plugin is a tool that can help you set up a forum on your website (or convert your entire website into a forum).
A forum is a space for website visitors (users) to discuss and share things. There are different types of forum structures and some are similar to popular forums like Reddit and Quora.
With a solid forum on your website, you can nurture community building and knowledge sharing.
How to choose the best WordPress forum plugins for you?
When selecting the best WordPress forum plugins for your website, start with checking the ease of setup and overall simplicity of the interface. If you're a beginner looking to set up a basic forum, it'll be effective to pick a simple forum plugin rather than one that's loaded with advanced features.
Check what the plugin's aesthetic is like and the layouts it offers so that your website looks good to visitors. But since forum plugins tend to receive a fair bit of traffic, look for lightweight plugins that won't lower the page's loading time. You'll want to check how responsive the forum is across different devices.
Another essential aspect to look out for is third-party integrations. A forum plugin that integrates with a wide variety of third-party extensions will give you greater customizability in setting up your website's forum.
Lastly, you'll want to consider the pricing plans and the quality of the customer support.
The best WordPress forum plugins: How we test
We've tested the best WordPress forum plugins on many factors, starting with the level of user they're best suited for and the ease of setup. We considered the interface's simplicity, aesthetics and layout options, and the overall performance.
Since forums receive decent traffic, we checked how lightweight the plugins were and how swift the page loading times were across different devices.
We evaluated how well the forum plugins integrated with third-party extensions, and how many different plugins they could connect to. Along with the pricing, we also checked whether the plugin had sufficient documentation, good quality customer support, and an active forum for users to get their doubts clarified.