How to Turn Your WordPress Site into an Online Forum

WordPress

Did you know that we're only three people here at Nelio? And, yet, our posts are pretty cool, huh? That's because of our new plugin, Nelio Content! Do you want to use it too?

The success of WordPress lies in its versatility. What was born as a simple blogging platform has ended up becoming whatever you want… From an online store to a corporate website, or even a social network, the truth is that you can make anything with a WordPress site. And yes, that also includes the classic Internet forums. Do you want to know how to create your own forum? Keep reading!

bbPress, the Plugin to Run Forums on WordPress

bbPress is a plugin to add forums to your WordPress. It was created by the same creators of WordPress itself, so think of it as an official plugin. As you can imagine, it’s an open source plugin with exceptional documentation and an incredible amount of resources on the Internet. If you want to set up a forum, this is your solution without any doubt.

bbPress Docs Website
bbPress Docs Website.

Let’s see how to install and configure it on your website.

How to Install and Configure bbPress on WordPress, Step by Step

The installation and configuration of bbPress is as easy as it can be. As it is a WordPress plugin, simply search for it from your Dashboard, install it, and activate it:

bbPress in a Plugin Search
You can install bbPress just like you do with any other plugin.

Once the installation and activation process is completed, you will see the following welcome page with information about what’s new with the version you just installed:

bbPress Welcome Screen
Right after installing the plugin, you’ll see this welcome screen.

And that’s it! It’s that simple!!

Creating Your First Forum

If you pay a little attention to your Dashboard, you’ll see that, after installing bbPress, there are some new menus: Forums, Topics, and Replies. These three sections will contain all the information generated in your forums. But right now they’re obviously empty…

bbPress Menu Items in the Dashboard
bbPress Menu Items in the Dashboard.

The first thing we need to do is create one forum. To do this, go to Forums » New Forum and fill in the information requested in the form:

bbPress Forum Creation Screeen
bbPress Forum Creation Screeen.

For now, just name the forum and give it a short description. You can repeat the process as many times as you like to create the different discussion forums you want to have:

List of available forums in bbPress
List of available forums in bbPress, as shown in the WordPress Dashboard.

The interface to manage the forums is, as you can see in the previous screenshot, very familiar, since it’s the same you use for managing pages and posts in WordPress. Obviously bbPress includes some extra options, specific to the forums themselves, such as the order in which the forums appear, if we want the forums to be hierarchical or not, their status, visibility… but they don’t matter much right now and I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out what they’re used for, don’t you? 😊

Add Forums in Your Navigation Menu

After creating the forums it’s time to make them accessible to your website visitors. In fact, a published forum already has a public URL (usually they follow the pattern https://exmple.com/forums/forum/forum-name), but unless your visitors know about it, no one will ever find it. So you should better put them in your navigation menu, don’t you think?

To add a new forum to your navigation menu, go to Appearance » Menus and look for the Forums section in the left column of the screen. There you will find all the forums you’ve created and you can easily add them to your menu.

Adding a bbPress Forum in the Navigation Menu
Adding a bbPress Forum in the Navigation Menu.

One of the most common questions when installing bbPress for the first time is: isn’t there a public page where all my forums appear? And the answer is yes, of course there is. It’s https://example.com/forums/. Unfortunately, it’s not a “regular” WordPress page, but a “virtual” page generated by bbPress:

List of bbPress Forums in the frontend
List of bbPress Forums in the frontend.

So, if you want to add it in your navigation menu, you’ll need to use a Custom Link menu item:

Navigation Menu Item pointing to bbPress forums list
Navigation Menu Item pointing to bbPress forums list.

If you do so, then you can add all the forums as submenus and your resulting navigation menu will be clean and tidy:

Navigation Menu Example with bbPress Forums
Navigation Menu Example with bbPress Forums.

What About Forum Users?

If you have forums, the most common thing is to want people (users) to participate in them, so let’s spend a couple of minutes talking about user management in your bbPress forums.

The first thing you should probably want do is open the access to your forums. To do that, go to Settings » General and check the Membership option so that “anyone can register”:

Membership Option in WordPress Settings
You should enable the Membership option in WordPress settings if you want people to participate in your forums easily.

Needless to say, if you do this, you’ll have to add some kind of spam protection to your registration forms using plugins like Akismet, for example, or risk having your installation filled with spam… 😥

Once this is done, all you need to know is that bbPress defines several additional roles for your users, each of which sets different permissions when it comes to interacting with the forums, topics, and replies that appear on your website:

bbPress User Roles
bbPress adds new user roles to your WordPress site.
  1. Keymaster. The admin of your site is given this role by default… so I assume is the role you currently have. The keymaster has whole control over all bbPress and is able to create and delete forums, create, delete, and edit topics and replies, and so on.
  2. Moderator. This users have the necessary tools to moderate forums, approve or block comments and users, etc.
  3. Participant. This is the default role new subscribers will get. They can create topics and participate on existing ones, star them, subscribes to updates, etc.
  4. Spectator. They only have reading permissions to public content, subscribe to updates, etc.
  5. Blocked. They don’t have any permissions at all on the blog, other than reading public content.

How to Create Register and Lost Password Pages

Obviously, if we want users to participate in our forums, we must provide them with the possibility of registering and recovering their password if they have forgotten it. Luckily, this is also quite easy on bbPress.

To allow users to register, create a new Page on your website called Register and paste the following shortcode into the content: [[bbp-register]]. With this, you get a simple page with the following appearance:

Register Page in bbPress
Register Page in bbPress.

Then create another page called Lost Password and paste the [[bbp-lost-pass]] shortcode to generate the page with which users can recover their password when they don’t remember it:

Lost Password Page in bbPress
Lost Password Page in bbPress.

And that’s it! Well, obviously you have to put these pages in the navigation menu or somewhere else for the user to get to, but…. yes, you have everything you need.

Some Final Notes

As you can see, setting up a forum in WordPress is very simple: in a few clicks you can have the forums up and running at full speed. But before you go, let me share a couple extra tips with you.

Theme Compatibility

All the screenshots I have posted here today use the official WordPress Theme: Twenty Seventeen. As you can see, the appearance of the forums and forms is not bad at all, but they aren’t astonishing either. That’s why I recommend that you search for bbPress compatible themes. Some of them have very elegant and beautiful designs for the forums, topics, and so on, and they really make your website stand out. So take a few minutes to explore the options.

If you don’t know where to get started, look at this post from the guys at wpbeginner.

bbPress Widgets

bbPress includes many more things than we have seen so far. For example, the plugin comes with a full range of new widgets for you to use:

Available Widgets in bbPress
Available Widgets in bbPress.

The most interesting one for me is, first of all, the Login widget. If we want to reduce friction and make it easier for users to participate in our forums, what better way than to put the login form on a sidebar that appears on every page?

In the following screenshot you can see how to configure the Login widget. As you can see, it consists of three fields: the widget title and two URLs. These URLs correspond to the Register and Lost Password pages we have generated previously.

bbPress' Login Widget Setup
bbPress’ Login Widget Setup.

And this is the widget your users will see:

bbPress Login Widget
bbPress Login Widget.

Forum Setup

In addition to the new menus that bbPress has added to your Dashboard, which we have already discussed, the plugin also adds a new submenu from which to configure it. Specifically, if you go to Settings » Forums you can manipulate things like the frequency of content publication by a user (to avoid spam), the default role that new users should have, pagination parameters, and so on. Don’t forget to take a look at these settings to adapt the plugin to your preferences!

Additional Plugins to Enhance bbPress

Finally, it goes without saying that bbPress is one of the classics in the WordPress world and, therefore, the collection of plugins around it that extend its functionality is incredible. So if there is something you want to do with your forums that is not available by default, don’t forget to check out the plugins section of the bbPress website.

In Summary

Setting up a forums website with WordPress is one of the easiest things there: just install a plugin and you’re done. If you want to build a community and promote the participation of your visitors, use bbPress and turn your WordPress into a great online forum.

Featured Image by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

PoorMehGoodVery GoodAwesome! (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

by

He obtained his PhD in Computer Science at UPC. David leads the analysis and design of our services and the user support area. He's interested in a variety of areas, including conceptual modeling, virtual reality, and 3D digital printing. He contributes to the WordPress community by participating in meetups, seminars, and the WCEU.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I have read and agree to the Nelio Software Privacy Policy

Your personal data will be located on SiteGround and will be treated by Nelio Software with the sole purpose of publishing this comment here. The legitimation is carried out through your express consent. Contact us to access, rectify, limit, or delete your data.