Bulletin boards and forums are good old reliable tools to build online communities.
While there are plenty of open-source forum software, integrating a third-party forum with WordPress can be a mess. That’s where bbPress comes in.
In this article, we will show you how to easily add a forum in WordPress with bbPress.
What is bbPress?
bbPress is a forum software built the WordPress way. It runs on top of WordPress, which is the best website builder in the world.
Just like WordPress, bbPress is extensible, and you can install add-on plugins to add more functionality to your forums. It is also very light-weight and faster than other popular open-source forum software.
What You Need to Make an Online Forum with bbPress?
If you already have a WordPress website where you want to add a forum, then you can skip this section. On the other hand, if you are just getting started then continue reading.
First, you’ll need to sign up for a web hosting account. This is where you will store all the files for your online forum.
You’ll also need a domain name. This will be your website’s address on the internet and what users will type in their browsers to find your online forum.
Normally, website hosting costs $7.99 per month and domain name would cost you around $14.99 per year.
This is a lot of money if you are just getting started.
Luckily, Bluehost has agreed to offer joinsessions users a discount on hosting with a free domain name. Basically, you’ll be able to get started for just $2.75 per month.
Once you have signed up for hosting, you can follow our guide on how to make a website for complete installation instructions.
After setting up WordPress, you will be ready to install bbPress and start your own online community.
How to Install bbPress
bbPress is available as a WordPress plugin. You can install it like you would install any WordPress plugin.
Simply log in to your WordPress admin area and go to Plugins » Add New . Search for bbPress and then select bbPress from results.
Install and activate the plugin. Upon activation, you will see the welcome screen for bbPress.
Creating a Forum with bbPress in WordPress
Once installed, bbPress adds Forums, Topics and Replies menu items in your WordPress admin.
First, you need to click on Forums » Add New link from the menu. This will take you to a screen similar to the WordPress post edit area.
Provide a title for your forum and enter a little description of it. Then press the publish button.
You can create as many forums as you need for different discussions and topics.
Displaying bbPress Forum in the Front End of WordPress
Now that you have created a few forums, it is time to display those forums on the front end of your WordPress website.
Create a new WordPress page. Give this page a title, like Forum, Community, Support Forums, etc.
After that, simply paste the following shortcode in your page:
Don’t forget to click on the publish button to save your changes and make your forum page visible on your website.
You can now visit the page in a web browser to see a preview of your forums.
Next, you need to help users find the forum on your website. To do that, let’s put a link to your forum page on top navigation menu.
Go to Appearance » Menus and add the forum page to your navigation menu.
Users can now access the forum index page by clicking on the link in the main menu.
Integrating bbPress with your WordPress Theme
In most cases, you would probably want to open your forum for new registrations. To do that, you need to open your website for registrations.
Simply go to Settings » General, and check the box next to “Any one can register” to allow registrations on your website.
Don’t forget to click on the save changes button to store your settings.
Now that your website is open for registration, the first thing that your forum participants would look for is a registration page.
Let’s make one.
Simply create a WordPress page, and give it a title, e.g. Register. Add shortcode
[bbp-register] and publish the page.
You can now preview this page. It will show a user registration form to all non-logged in users.
Another page your users would need is the lost password recovery page. This is where they will be recover their lost passwords.
Create another WordPress page and give it a title e.g. Lost Password. After that, add this shortcode
[bbp-lost-pass] and publish the page.
Finally, you need to add a login form to your website so that forum users can easily login from anywhere on your website.
bbPress comes with a handful of widgets and one of them is a login form widget.
Go to Appearance » Widgets and simply drag and drop Login Widget to your sidebar or any other widget area.
You will be asked to provide the URLs for the registration and lost password pages you created earlier. After entering them you need to click on the Save button to store your widget settings.
Now a login form with links to registration and lost password recovery pages will appear in your sidebar. Logged in users would see their usernames and a logout link instead of the form.
Managing bbPress Forum Settings
Unlike other popular forum software, bbPress has a very simplified configuration page. To manage settings for your bbPress forums, go to Settings » Forums page.
The default options on this page would work for most forum websites. We’ll take a look at all of them, just in case you want to change anything.
The first option you would see here is to ‘Automatically give registered visitors the participant forum role’. You can select a user role or uncheck the option to manually assign user roles to each user when they register.
The next option adds a 10-second delay between subsequent forum posts to prevent forum flooding and spam. You can increase or decrease the delay period here.
The Editing option allows users to edit their forum posts 5 minutes after they publish them. You can uncheck this option but that would prevent your users from correcting spelling errors or edit their posts if they missed something.
After that, you’ll find the forum features section. From here, you can turn forum features on and off.
Below that, you’ll see forum display features. From here, you can select a bbPress template, number of posts and topics to display on forum pages and inside the forum RSS feed.
Finally, you’ll see options to select URL slugs for different sections and forum pages. Slugs are the SEO friendly URL names used by WordPress.
The default URL slugs are meaningful and SEO friendly out of the box but if you need to change them, then you can do so here.
Don’t forget to click on the ‘Save changes’ button to store your forum settings.
User Roles in bbPress
WordPress comes with its own user role management system which allows you to assign users roles with different permissions.
bbPress extends the WordPress user roles by adding its own five pre-defined user roles with different capabilities.
1. Keymaster – The website owner or the WordPress administrator is automatically assigned the Keymaster role when they install bbPress. A Keymaster can delete and create forums, can create, edit, delete all posts, topics, forums.
2. Moderators – Users with moderator user role have access to moderation tools, which they can use to moderate forums, topics, and posts.
3. Participants – This is the default user role, participants can create and edit their own topics and posts, they can favorite and subscribe to topics.
4. Spectators – Spectators have a read-only access to public forums, topics, and posts.
5. Blocked – When a user is blocked all their capabilities are blocked. They can still read publicly viewable topics and posts, but can not participate in the forums.
Extending and Promoting Your bbPress Forum
Now that your bbPress forum is all set up and running. It is time to learn how to extend and promote it.
Let’s start with the appearance first. bbPress works with any WordPress theme and themes can also add custom styles to bbPress.
All top WordPress themes come with custom bbPress styles to make your forum look beautiful.
For more choices, see our pick of the best WordPress themes for bbPress.
Next, you would want to add new features to your forum so that you can quickly get new members and grow your online community.
The following are some of the plugins that will help you grow your online forum much quickly.
RafflePress allows you to create viral giveaways and contests in WordPress. These interactive contests and giveaways are a sure-fire way to instantly get a ton of new users to your online forum.
See our guide on how to create a viral giveaway contest for more information.
For more information, take a look at our guide on how to make a membership website.
Want to know which forum topics and discussions are more popular on your website? MonsterInsights helps you easily track all your website traffic using Google Analytics.
WPForms is the best WordPress contact form plugin. It allows you to easily create beautiful forms for your website. You can also use it to create custom login page, user registration page, or to add surveys and polls to your bbPress forum.
We hope that this article helped you learn how to add a forum in WordPress and how to install and configure bbPress. You may also want to see our complete WordPress SEO guide to help you get even more traffic.