Forums are still very much alive and well!
Yes, even in the age of social media, forums are still a great way to engage with your audience and build a community.
There are many plugins available to help you add a forum to your WordPress website, including bbPress which is perhaps the most well-known forum plugin.
bbPress allows you to create forums, and then within these forums you can create more specific topics to get users talking. Users can start their own topics or add posts to existing topics.
So for example, I want to create a forum all about travel. Within this forum I could create specific topics that people might want to talk about that relate to travel such as dream holidays, favourite hotels, best airlines, etc. Users can then post their responses and start conversations with other users about this specific topic.
In this post, I am going to show you how to add a forum to your WordPress website using the bbPress plugin.
How to install the bbPress plugin
To install bbPress, hover over Plugins in the left-hand menu of WordPress and click on Add New.
The bbPress plugin often appears on the Featured plugins page. It looks like this:
However, if you can’t see bbPress here, use the search bar to search for bbPress.
Click Install Now and then when prompted to, click Activate.
Once you have installed bbPress, a new page will be added to your website. This is the main forums page where you and your visitors can see a list of all of the forums you have created. To view this page, simply add /forums on to the end of your website URL, like so:
This should take you to a page that looks similar to this:
(bbPress forums integrate into your existing WordPress theme to make it look them look like a part of your theme. You may need to make some changes to the CSS to get it looking exactly how you want it to.)
As you will see, there are no forums here right, and that’s because we haven’t created any yet. So, let me show you how to do that…
How to create a forum
After installing bbPress, you will see some new items in the left-hand menu of WordPress. One of these items is Forums. Hover over this item and click New Forum.
The Create New Forum page looks very similar to the classic post and page editor that came with WordPress prior to version 5.0.
Start by giving your forum a name and a short description to tell users what the forum is about.
On the right-hand side of the screen, you will see a meta box titled Forum Attributes.
Firstly you can choose whether you want this to be forum or a category. You can create categories, and then have forums within these categories. But for the purpose of this tutorial, I’m just going to make this a forum.
Then you can choose the status of this forum. By default it is open but you can change this to closed if needed.
Next you can choose the visibility of the forum. By default, it will be visible to the public but you can choose to make it private or hidden.
Finally, you can choose to make a forum the child of another forum in a similar way to how to can make child pages.
You can preview your forum by clicking the Preview button and when you are ready to make your forum live, click Publish.
This is what my forum looks like on the front-end of my demo website:
And if you were to check out the main forums page on the front-end of your website (https://YOUR-DOMAIN.com/forums) then you would now see your new forum here too.
As you can see, the forum is currently empty as no topics have been created. But don’t worry, I’ll show you how to add topics in the next section.
You can always go back and edit forums once you have set them up. To view a list of all the forums you have created, hover over Forums in the left-hand menu and click All Forums.
As you can see, the list will look a little bit like a list of blog post.
How to create topics
Creating topics is a very similar process to creating forums with bbPress. Start by hovering over Topics in the left-hand menu and then click on New Topic.
Again, this page looks very similar to the Create New Forum page. Start by entering the name of your topic and give it a short description.
Then on the right-hand side of the screen, you will see the Topic Attributes meta box which contains a few different options.
Firstly, you can choose the topic type. By default this is set to Normal but you can choose to make this topic Sticky (sticks to the top of the forum it is in) or Super Sticky (sticks to the topc of all forums).
You can then choose the status of this topic. By default this Open but you can change it to Closed, Spam, Trash or Pending.
The most important option here is Forum. You need to assign your topic to a forum or else it won’t show up on the front-end of your website. So click on the drop-down list and select the forum you would like to add this topic to.
Another meta box you will see on the right-hand side of the screen is the Topic Tags box. Here you can assign tags to a topic in the same way you can assign tags to a blog post.
When you’re finished setting up your topic you can click the Preview button to preview it, and click Publish when you are ready to make it live.
Once you have created a topic, you will be able to see it within your forum, like this:
Then when you click into the topic, you will be able to see all of the posts within that topic, like this.
The profile picture that shows is powered by Gravatar and is connected to the email address associated with your user. For more information about Gravatar and setting up a profile picture, check out this post.
Creating topics via the front-end of your website
While forums can only be created via the admin area, topics can be created both via the admin area and on the front-end of the website. This means that users of the forum can create topics as well as administrators.
To create topics via the front-end of the website, simply navigate to the forum that you want to create a topic on and scroll down until you see the Create New Topic form.
Controlling who can use the forum
By default, bbPress is set up so that only registered users of your WordPress website can create new topics and post replies to these topics.
You can either add users manually, or you can update the settings of your website to allow anyone to register as a user on your website.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of users in WordPress then I recommend checking out this guide to users than I wrote.
And if you do decide to allow anyone to register as a user on your website, I highly recommend setting up custom login and registration pages. Again, if you’re not sure how to do this then I have a tutorial for you to check out.
However, you may decide that you want to open up your forum so that anyone, regardless of whether they are a member or not, can add topics and post replies to these topics. Opening up anonymous posting could cause problems and open your forum up to spam, so think carefully before you enable this option.
To enable this feature, hover over Settings in the left-hand menu and click on Forums.
You will find various options here to help you customise your forum, but the one I want to focus on is Anonymous posting. Tick the box next to this option to allow anyone, including non-registered users, to add topics and posts to your forum.
When you’ve finished updating your settings, make sure you click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.
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