Discussion forums have been around for almost as long as the Internet itself. Even before the World Wide Web, people used terminal server bulletin board systems to share information and discuss topics. In fact, my first Internet experience in 1998 revolved around chat rooms and discussion forums on AOL (boy, I miss those quiet days).
Modern discussion forums retain the core idea of a now very mature concept – sharing information and discussing topics – but have evolved into a lightweight WordPress plugin that can be installed in minutes.
I’m talking about bbPress – This WordPress forum software is built by the people who create WordPress itself. In this article, I’ll explain exactly what bbPress is, why you might need it, and show you how to install it.
Why you need bbPress
- it’s light. Forum software is traditionally bloated, riddled with security holes, and really drains your server. The latest version of bbPress (v2.5.13) is easy to use and open source – so you can adapt the plugin to your needs.
- It is fully integrated with WordPress. This benefit goes beyond ease of installation. bbPress utilizes the WordPress user management system and provides access to a vast repository of WordPress plugins where you can find a large number of specific bbPress compatible plugins.One of them is Partner Press, a template for a WordPress-based social network that actually uses bbPress to power its forums.
- Customization is easy. bbPress offers unique advantages over other forum software when it comes to custom styling your forum.Since it’s built for WordPress, there are many amazing themes such as Total WordPress Themes) is designed for bbPress, so changing the look of the forum is as easy as changing the theme.
If you want to create a traditional bulletin board or a new social network, then bbPress may not be for you (although check out BuddyPress as a basis for the latter!)
However, if you want to add a community element to your existing blog or customer support area, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better than bbPress.
What is bbPress?
Any website owner should know what’s going on in their plugins. bbPress is just three custom post types, some layout templates, a shortcode system, a few widgets, and CSS code. That’s why it’s called lightweight!
custom post type
The three custom post types are:
- forum: It contains every discussion forum you create, allowing to create a hierarchy of forums
- topic: which contains each discussion thread (title and opening line)
- reply: which contains each individual reply to the topic
Standard layout templates are suitable for most situations. For example, the theme layout will display a list of themes with the following information:
- topic name
- who started this thread and which forum did they start it
- Number of people participating in the conversation (voice)
- Topic replies
- (probably) how long ago was the last reply and who did it
Various elements can be styled with CSS to better suit your blog, but if you want to make major changes to the structure, you’ll need to be familiar with PHP or buy a similar theme all Provides built-in custom styling options.
Shortcodes and Widgets
bbPress makes it easy to display various elements of a forum through a series of shortcodes and widgets. This is actually a very powerful feature that allows you to think about usability and responsive design.
For example, you can use a shortcode and a widget to create a page that lists the latest topics and highlights the most popular posts in the sidebar. If you decide to prefer a more traditional forum layout with categories listed, you can switch in minutes.
To give you a sense of flexibility, check out the codex to see all 19 bbPress Shortcode.
The included widgets are:
- Forum list
- recent reply
- recent topics
- Topic view list
- Login widget
- Statistical data
The login widget is especially useful, showing a login form to visitors and a profile link to logged in users.
If you decide to give bbPress a try, installation couldn’t be easier.
Install bbPress from the WordPress Directory
Just search for bbPress in the WordPress plugin directory, hit install, and you’re done (or, if you want to use the plugin as a basis for development, or just for a closer look, you can download it from WordPress plugin repository).
Install bbPress via a WordPress theme
Your other option is to install the plugin through your WordPress theme (if it offers an option). For example, the Total WordPress theme is not only fully compatible with bbPress, but also includes a ready-to-use, easy-to-import bbPress demo.
Just go to Themeforest and buy Total (one of the highest rated and popular drag and drop WordPress themes on the web), install and activate it, then navigate to Theme Panel > Demo Importer (notes: This is exclusive to Total, most themes won’t include this awesome and easy-to-use feature).
From here search for “bbpress” and click on the demo to get started.
After clicking Total, you will be prompted to install any required plugins, including bbPress in this case. Each plugin can be installed and activated with a single click.
When done, Total gives you the option to specify which parts of the demo to import. For the Total bbPress demo, make sure the XML sample data, images, theme customizer settings, and all boxes for widgets are set up to make your site look the same as the live demo.
Once the import is complete, you should see a message similar to the above. This means your sample content and bbPress are ready!
Basic bbPress Setup
After installing and activating bbPress, you will see three new custom post types in the admin menu, as well as the bbPress page in the settings menu.
Before you dive in and create the forum of your dreams, spend some time in the settings menu.navigation Settings > Forum.
In particular, you’ll need to adjust your spam settings, including:
- Throttle time: Minimum number of seconds allowed between new replies from the same user
- Anonymous posting is allowed: Disable this to require users to register an account to post topics or replies
Once you’ve done this, it’s a good idea to create some sample forums, threads, and replies (preferably from several different user accounts) before you start tweaking the design. With dummy data, you’ll be more likely to find things that need to be fixed with CSS, especially on mobile. Fortunately, if you choose to use the Total theme sample demo, you can go ahead and customize it!
To customize bbPress, you really need to be a developer…or use one of the cheats below to style your forum without knowing how to code.
Option 1: Use your theme settings
First, if you do decide to use a theme that offers additional bbPress options, you should look there first.navigation Appearance > Customize Edit options.
Specifically bbPress section (like the one in Total) to choose the default page layout for forum, topic, and user pages.Then use the following settings typesetting For custom fonts and below General Theme Options For accent colors, header title choose, form modeling, Links and buttons Customize etc. to match the design with your brand.
Option 2: Use Live CSS Editor Plugin
If it happens that your theme doesn’t offer any styling options, or simply isn’t the option you’re looking for, you might want to consider a live CSS editor plugin. These plugins allow you to point, click and edit elements of your website with simple styling options (no code required). Here are two of our favorites:
- yellow pencil: This plugin is one of our favorites. Just install and click “Let’s Get Started” to start customizing your website! Want to learn more? Check out our full Yellow Pencil User Guide to learn how the plugin works and what features are included.
- CSShero: Similar to the previous plugin, CSShero provides a super easy to use point-and-click interface to edit styles, colors, fonts, spacing, and more. See how this plugin works in our CSShero custom WordPress guide.
Recommended bbPress Add-ons
As mentioned earlier, bbPress is easily extensible with tons of plugins. Below are a few that we think you might consider adding more features and options to your forum.
Ultimate Affiliate bbPress Add
Use the Ultimate Member plugin to add options for easy user registration, advanced profiles and even memberships. This scalable option is fully integrated with bbPress, so you can offer your forum members more enjoyment.
bbp style pack
Want to add some basic styling options to your bbPress forum? Try the bbp Style Pack. This free plugin adds options for custom styling, links, display features, and more.
bbPress notifications (no spam)
This plugin sends email notifications to users when new topics and/or replies are posted. This is useful if, for example, you are running a support forum and need specific people to answer questions in specific forums.
GD bbPress Tool
One of the more comprehensive bbPress plugins available, it adds BBCode support, user signatures, additional custom views, reply to quotes, and some extra admin features.
Best forum solution?
It’s lightweight, fast, and easy to install, but is bbPress the best forum solution for WordPress blogs? There’s only one way to find out – get a copy, install it on your site and start experimenting!
Now is the time to get your feedback. Are you a bbPress user? Do you think bbPress is the best forum solution for WordPress users, or do you prefer an alternative? What is your experience with adding a community element to your blog?
Please give us your answers to the above questions in the comments section below. Or if you have any other comments or questions please fire!