What is a WordPress forum plugin? Why should you use one? Which are the best available? Read on to find answers to these questions…
Keeping readers interested and engaged on your website is quite a hard task. Publishing blog posts usually helps, but it may not always be enough.
As such, one of the best strategies you could use to keep visitors coming back all the time is setting up a WordPress forum on your website. This forum would serve as an online community where your readers can bounce off ideas, ask questions, interact, and help each other.
There are many benefits to setting up a forum on your WordPress website. For one thing, it serves as a discussion forum where users post questions and answers. Since Google search bots tend to like user-generated content, your site will get SEO benefit from this.
We will talk more about these benefits shortly.
Setting up a forum on your website might seem hard at first. But the truth is, it’s much easier than you may think, thanks to WordPress forum plugins.
There are a number of forum plugins out there; some free and others premium, some crappy and others great enough to get the job done.
In this article, we will be reviewing some of the best plugins you can use to set up a discussion forum on your website.
- Benefits of creating and maintaining a WordPress forum
- Free WordPress forum plugins
- Premium WordPress forum plugins
Benefits of Creating and Maintaining a WordPress Forum
The major reason why setting up and maintaining a forum on your website is useful is that it improves user engagement.
Specifically, it creates a social platform where your visitors can chat, hang out, ask questions and get back answers, etc. And the longer they hang around your website, the more likely they will buy your products, or suggest them to others.
Secondly, a support forum can help save you the money you would have otherwise spent on hiring and keeping a support team. A user that has issues with your product can always come around to find solutions from other users. Big names like WordPress maintain a robust user support forum for this purpose.
Additionally, you can set up a fully functional question and answer forum website, just like Quora or Stack Overflow.
With that said, let’s go over some of the forum plugins for WordPress that can get the job done.
Free WordPress Forum Plugins
We will be starting off with the free plugins. Free though doesn’t mean low quality. In fact, these plugins are quite powerful. Let’s run through some of them.
Since forums can become large, one of the very important features to look out for when shopping around for a plugin is weight and size. Asgaros is one of the lightest forum plugins you will find out there in the market.
This super lightweight plugin comes in handy when you are looking to set up a simple forum or a discussion board.
Asgaros puts you in total control of whatever content goes into your forum. Firstly, you are at liberty to ban certain WordPress users whose comments and contributions are harmful. Secondly, you can set moderators to regulate the activities of posters on your forum.
Users can also create profiles, react to posts and comments, conduct a poll, and do much more.
The plugin is SEO-friendly and can help improve your website’s visibility on search engines.
Asgaros is quite easy to install and set up. Upon installation and activation on WordPress, a new page will be created automatically for you. This is where all the content from the forum will live.
This is one of the simplest, and yet most powerful WordPress forum plugins in the WordPress repository. It may interest you to know that Matt Mullenweg – the founder of WordPress – contributed to the development of this plugin.
bbPress lets you integrate a functional discussion forum right into your WordPress blog or website, seamlessly. It has a live comment section, too.
Since it’s built by the main contributors to WordPress, bbPress is compatible with any theme you have on your site.
Additionally, you have the option of determining the look and feel of your forum, thanks to its customization options.
bbPress leans heavily on simplicity and lightness. As such, you may not be able to build a very robust forum with it because its capabilities are limited. The only way around this is by installing other plugins on your site so as to extend its functionalities.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a functional networking platform where your visitors can socialize?
Well, WP Symposium Pro can help you pull this off without breaking a sweat.
For better networking experience, WP Symposium adds features like user profiles, activity walls, friends invitation, etc.
This SEO friendly plugin gives you the liberty to create an unlimited number of forums, in many different ways. As a matter of fact, you can create a support forum, a discussion board, a product question forum (similar to that of Amazon), and lots more.
Did we forget to mention that private messaging is supported? That is to say, users can send direct messages to each other while on your forum.
Unlimited customization is another feature that makes WP Symposium a great choice. And what’s more? You can get started with all these for free.
If it’s a question and answer forum that you are looking to set up, DW Question and Answer plugin will be of great help.
Perhaps, you want to create a site where users can ask questions, vote on answers, and drop comments. Just as they would on Stack Overflow or Quora. This plugin was built for that.
It lets your users filter out questions, search for answers using a keyword, get email notifications, etc.
It also supports CAPTCHA, which helps ensure spammers are kept off from your QA website.
And you get to enjoy all these features for free.
CM Answers is another powerful, yet flexible, questions answers plugin on our review list. With it, you can replicate a question and answer website like Stack Overflow, quite easily.
CM Answers gives you complete control as the admin. You can filter out answers and responses you deem harmful. Additionally, you can customize questions and answers posted by your WordPress users, limit a user’s posting capabilities, etc.
As an admin, you are also at liberty to create as many forum categories as you like and can customize whatever content goes into them.
On the other end, users can vote on a question, send private messages amongst themselves, upload media files, sign up to receive notifications when new questions are posted, etc.
In the premium version, however, there are more plugin options you might like. You can integrate Facebook, Twitter, etc, to your WordPress site, add widgets, show and hide views, and do much more.
wpForo Forum WordPress Plugin
If you care about the look and feel of your WordPress forum, wpForo plugin is the place to look. It comes with three distinct design layouts: simplified, extended, and question-and-answer forum layout.
In the simple forum layout, a user can create a topic, and under each topic other users can make contributions. For every post, the poster’s avatar, time of posting, and the username will be displayed.
The extended layout adds more flavor to your forum. It displays the latest post and topics, allows users to switch between posts and topics easily, etc.
Then in the question-and-answer layout, users have an avenue for posting questions and getting back answers.
So, whether you are looking to set up a discussion board or a question-and-answer website, wpForo plugin will be of great help.
Another one of the many WordPress forum plugins which let you set up a question-and-answer network on your website. You don’t have to be a techie to install and set up this plugin – all it takes is a few clicks.
It comes with quite some interesting features such as push notification, reCAPTCHA, multi-language support, etc.
Your users can also edit/filter out questions, follow posted questions, send private messages, create user profiles, and do much more.
Looking to create a unique, highly customizable, and yet intuitive forum that your users will find engaging? If so, you want to check out Vanilla Forums.
This plugin is ideal for bloggers who would like to create a community where their readers can hangout and socialize.
It’s easy to install, and it’s free.
Premium WordPress Forum Plugins
Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. The same holds for plugins. So, here are two premium plugins worth putting money into.
Earlier on, we reviewed the free version of this WordPress forum plugin, which as you saw had quite a number of interesting features. However, the premium version has a lot more to offer.
Your users can vote on answers, and only the answer with the highest vote will appear on top. It also comes with pre-designed themes that let you style your forum just the way you want.
Additionally, DW Question and Answer pro lets your users upload media files, mention other users in comments, send private messages, etc.
Also, RTL (Right to Left) languages – such as Arabic – are fully supported.
If you run a WordPress membership site and are looking for a simple, yet powerful forum solution, Simple Forum should do it for you.
With this plugin, you can add custom fields to any discussion thread or category. Also, you can assign roles and badges to users. For now, only three user roles are supported: admin, moderator, and member.
Additionally, it comes with editors that let you customize your forum, supports sticky threads and forum statistics, and lots more.
Conclusion on WordPress Forum Plugins
To sum up, one of the biggest benefits of having and maintaining a forum is that it improves user engagement. The more users engage with your website, the more your chances of converting them to paying customers.
We’ve reviewed both free and premium plugins with which you can set up a forum, discussion board or question-and-answer network on your website.
Please take your pick and go on to reap the benefits of a forum.
As your forum grows, you may need to improve your hosting to accommodate more users. Please read our WordPress hosting guide to learn more about this.
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