How to create a forum with WordPress
In this article we dive into how to create WordPress forum and how to set up your WordPress forum plugin, using bbPress. Then we analyze results using Users Insights.
Forums are one of the oldest ways of user interaction online. In them, users can create posts and reply to them. Their simplicity is a key factor, as users can quickly understand how it works and interact with them. Furthermore, they are a great business tool, as they can help you manage your customers and community.
When it comes to WordPress, there are no out-of-the-box options for forums. The best you can do is a simple threaded comments section, but you would still miss the user posts creation. Therefore a plugin is the way to go. Luckily there are many great options for this.
Therefore, our goal here is to explore how you can use WordPress forums on your site. We walk through the concepts and implementation. Then we look into analysis and how to make the most out of this user interaction.
Let’s get started!
What is a forum – WordPress definitions
A WordPress Forum can be used to collect user ideas, suggestions, questions and solutions. Their main power comes from free user interaction, although moderators and team members are useful. An interesting point is that forums allow you to group discussions by subjects. This allows users to register and participate only to topics that are interesting for them.
In addition, forums are commonly used for product support. That’s because this allows common solutions to be interlinked. Thus, users can search similar questions and find past answers.
The perfect forum in WordPress allows closer contact with customers as well. This means that the forums can be used for announcements and news. Although blogs are a great tool, with forums users can further contribute with new insights to your content.
In general, forums pay off in terms of reduced workload. They can quickly serve as a knowledge base for your customers. This allows you to build a better community around your products and ideas.
WordPress forum plugin options
BbPress is the king of the hill. It is the go-to solution when it comes to creating WordPress forums. That’s because it combines great features with a lot of flexibility. In addition, since it’s been around for so long it has a big community. This means that a lot of solutions are built around it, and a lot of answers are already there.
Although they have some similarities, BuddyPress has its own focus. While the bbPress focus on the organization of the topics, BuddyPress focus on the user profiles. This is due to the fact that BuddyPress is actually a social network plugin.
But don’t let this stop you from testing this option. BuddyPress has a lot of great user interaction and management tools. Furthermore, with BuddyPress, you have many options such as user groups, profiles, and even membership-like tools.
The Simple:Press plugin is a great alternative for simpler yet faster forums. It has different internals from the previous contenders, which makes it a good solution for specific WordPress forums implementations. It has a lot of great fee and premium add-ons as well, in case you need to expand its features.
In particular, an interesting tool is the gamification module. It allows you to build ranking systems for users. This is widely used in forums, to show user status based on their past contributions.
How to set up your WordPress forum with bbPress
As you may have imagined, our pick for today is bbPress. Since it is quite easy to set up and get it running, we walk you through its setup.
The first step, of course, is installing it. You can do this under the WordPress Dashboard > Plugins > Add new. Another option is uploading it or using an FTP install.
Once that step is done, you get a new menu under the WordPress Dashboard > Settings > Forums. That’s where you set up the main plugin options. Usually, the default settings are enough for most installs, but you may want to check them just to make sure.
Next, we need to create our forums. The forums are where our content is organized. They are very similar to WordPress categories to posts. Thus, any topics inside of that forum share the same theme.
You can create a new forum under Forums > Add new. You are then presented with some interesting options:
The forum type can be “category” or “forum”. The difference is quite simple, categories can only contain other forums or categories. While Forums can contain sub-forums and topics. Thus, categories are used in your organization so you can create top-level elements with no topics to confuse users.
Regarding forum status, it could be “open” or “closed”. Open accepts new topics submissions, while closed doesn’t.
As for visibility, your WordPress forums can be “public”, “private” or “hidden”. Public forums require no user registration, and everyone can see them. Private forums are visible only to registered users. Hidden forums are visible only to moderators and admins.
Next up we have “parent” and “order” attributes. The “Parent” sets your WordPress forum as a child of another element. While the order attribute, change which elements will show up first. Lower numbers come first.
Now our forums are ready, it’s time to create a fixed post. It’s usually a good idea to have a sticky post to show users how to start. We do this under Topics > New Topic.
As usual, we have some interesting options there. The topic type is what we are looking for. Our options for this attribute are “normal”, “sticky” and “super sticky”. Normal topics appear in the regular order defined by your WordPress site (usually it’s freshness). Sticky topics are always on the top of their forums. And Super Sticky topics appear on the top of all forums.
Therefore, we can use a sticky type for our topic and move on.
Regarding topic status we have 5 options:
- Open – This topic is active and can receive new replies
- Closed – This topic is visible, but can’t receive new replies
- Spam – The topic is flagged as spam, and won’t be shown to other users
- Trash – Trashed topics are considered deleted, and won’t appear in any lists
- Pending – Pending items are waiting for admin action to be published or deleted
Then we pick the forum we want. Notice here how we can’t select the forum categories as parents.
And that’s it! You are now ready to receive user posts in your brand new WordPress forum.
How to analyze your user data with Users Insights
It may be hard to figure out user behavior just by looking at your forum posts. That’s when Users insights come into play. You just need to activate the bbPress module under Users Insights > Modules. Then all your forums activity will be filterable.
For example, we can find out which users are creating topics. For that we just need to filter users with topics greater than one:
Furthermore, replies are an important component of user activity. Thus we can filter users who have a lot of replies to figure out which are our creative users.
This information can be used in many ways. For instance, you could export these users and get in touch using MailChimp or similar. This is an opportunity to praise them on their engagement and send them some offers.
Moreover, you can use Users Insights to mix different filters. For example, you can filter the most active users just in the US. It is done this way:
Today we looked into how to create a forums site from start to finish. In addition to important concepts regarding forums, we investigated some WordPress forum plugin options. Then we created our own forums site and analyzed results with Users Insights.
We hope you enjoyed this article and see you again next time!