CASE STUDY: Adding a Forum to a WordPress Blog
A client of mine wanted to add a forum to her blog so that her readers could create a community they could interact inside of, but away from the comment section of her site.
She wanted the discussion to be moved away from her comments so she had no moderation overhead and people could discuss to their hearts content without it mixing and being confused with her blog content.
What Are the Options
To my mind there are three options, you can have a completely separate forum from the blog, one which plugs into the same users database and closely integrates into WordPress or lastly you can get a forum plugin which works inside of your blog so administration is in one place.
In this post I want to discuss the pros and cons of the three types of forum solution for integration with WordPress.
The Distinct and Un-Integrated Forum
There are a large number of free open source forum solutions, forgive me (or leave a comment) if I miss your favourite off the list, but here are a few I have used.
These are well used and supported forum solutions with a wide range of plugins and themes to extend your solution to give you exactly what you want. They will have powerful management functions, monetisation and membership plugins.
Not integrated (easily) with WordPress so you will need to keep two separate databases on-line and your users will not have a single sign-on solution. In other words you will need to manage two distinct websites, your blog and your forum.
The Closely Integrated Forum
When I talk of a closely integrated forum solution, I am,of course talking about one solution BBPress, the forum developed by the same team which brought us WordPress.
It can work as a stand alone solution or it can use the same user DB and login cookies that WordPress uses. To ungeek this, that means you use one set of user tables and if they login to WordPress they are logged into BBPress. A very neat solution/
A single singon tightly integrated forum which makes for simpler user management. Here is a screencast on integrating WordPress and BBPress
A smaller user base than the other big forum solutions so there is not as many plugins out there, but I suspect this will grow in time as it is embraced by the wider WordPress community. I also suspect that integration will be made much easer in later editions of BBPress.
The Forum Plugin
I don’t know how many times I have said it, but where there is a WordPress problem, there is a plugin, forums are not overlooked by our stout community of plugin developers.
I have used the following forum plugin, let me know of others in the comments section below.
The forum becomes another function of your blog, and is administered from a user interface you are already very familiar with.
Limited extension, you only get the functionality of the plugin, no 3rd party plugins or themes I’m afraid.
The Final Solution
In the end, my client went with BBPress, this was because she wanted a distinct forum rather than a page of her blog with a forum inside of it.
So if you are looking to create a more interactive community on your blog over and above the comment section why not check out one of these three options.