Forum Enabled WordPress

As part of an ongoing project I’m doing, I needed to research the available forums that can be integrated into wordpress. The Client was looking for something that resembled the previous forums, namely: good performance, post stats (such as views) and it needed to integrate with the wordpress user interface.

The way I saw it, I only really had two options:

  • Install a Simple Machines Forumand use a plugin on both ends to tether the two users’ systems together
    • This would result in the most powerful forum solution, but would also mean that there would be more database calls, and a much bigger chance for update anomalies.
    • The major problem with this is that I’d be creating loads more work for myself, since I’d then have to make a skin/theme for the SM Forum aswel as the website.
  • or Use a wordpress plug-inthat has less features, but uses the same users system.
    • This would have the big benefits of blending (almost) seamlessly into the site, and should perform way better since all the user data will be on the same system.
    • The downside here is that if the theme you’re using happens to not be very efficient, then you could end up worse off than with a separate forum.

I didn’t fancy making a theme for a SM forum, so I needed to have a look at the various options even further.

The first plugin I came across was BBPress , then MingleForums , and then Simple:Press .

BBPress:

BBPress has a lot going for it, it’s made by Automattic (the guys behind wordpress), it integrates really nicely with WP and whichever theme you happen to be using, doesn’t require much set-up, and is very lightweight.

Unfortunately, this also means that it’s not very feature rich because it was made to be super lightweight, so there is a need to get third party plugins to do the job that you need.

Mingle Forum:

Mingle is one of those gems that you find, it’s feature rich, with stats, view-count and load times, User signatures, this beauty come with SEO Friendly URLs too, which is generally a positive, Forum Moderation and moderators (who do NOT need to be site admins) and has a few different skins available from the download site, and right now it’s updated frequently, and easy to install.

The main negatives are that it’s one guy, the whole package is made by one dude, which might lead to it being unsupported in the future, there are virtually zero plugins available for it, so you’re pretty much stuck with what’s already there, unless you fancy making your own extensions

Simple:Press (formerly Simple:Forums):

Simple:Press is one of those “all inclusive” projects, it’s got pretty much everything you need, Set-up doesn’t take too long, but took longer than BBPress, and was definately more complex than Mingle. Forum badges, ranks and private messages are all included from the box, all in all it’s a comprehensive solution.

Simple:Press is remarkably difficult to get much information on, it’s one of the most popular forums, It has changed name in the past, which might be signs of instability, unfortunately, you have to pay for support , and while there are themes available, you need to pay membership to get the themes, and most themes do not integrate well with wordpress , I found that it performed much slower than the other two options.

Each of the options caters for different people, Mingle is the ‘all-rounder’ of the group, with BBPress on the simplistic end, and Simple:Press on the ‘heavy contender’ side of things. It really all depends on what you will be using the forum for, how many people you will have on it, and how integrated you need it to be.

I chose Mingle Forum. It was easy to set-up, doesn’t look like it will have much up-keep,  and has a nice moderation feature, which can all be done without leaving the front-end. Hopefully this helps someone, since I found it tricky to track down information on the subject!

Let me know how you got on, or tell me about your solution, in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “Forum Enabled WordPress

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