All websites that are present on the internet have one common goal – they wish for a large number of visitors to their website. Websites strive hard to increase viewership, to develop a wide readership base. They may or may not intend to monetize the website at some point of time.
So, how do you get visitors to come to your website and spend some time on it ? It is a given that content must be top quality to catch and hold a reader’s interest. Beyond that, one sure fire method to maintain readers interest in the website, is to get them involved in discussions in topics of relevance to the website or to the post. Adding a forum is a great way to start and get a conversation going. It will encourage repeat visits from users.
This brings us to bbPress. bbPress is open source forum software designed for WordPress. The plugin can be used to add forums to posts and pages, for readers to leave a comment or start a conversation. It is ideal for setting topics, receiving comments and allowing discussion among readers.
bbPress has over 300,000 active installs and there are hundreds of awesome WordPress theme built to support this awesome forum plugin. Here are our favorite ones.
The authors have kept bbPress small and light so that it functions efficiently. But there are a number of great add-ons that you can add to get bbPress to work just the way you want. Pick and choose add-ons, so your forum can have the handpicked features that you want for it.
WP User Avatar
You must have noticed a small sized constant image that always shows up against the names of persons on the internet, especially in forums and author pages. This image is called avatar. WordPress normally uses Gravatar to upload these images.
With WP User Avatar, you can upload any photo from your photo library, just the same as your post. Your very own default avatar can be set up and you can disable Gravatar avatar. A standalone avatar can be uploaded to the front page, and contributors and subscribers can upload their own images of specified dimensions and specified file size. A shortcode that will work with all themes can be used in posts.
A premium version is also available which can crop avatar and use webcam to get avatar images instantly. The avatar can also be uploaded to Amazon S3 or Dropbox.
Rating Widget allows users to rate posts, pages and comments by embedding thumb and star ratings in them. It is the most popular Five Star Review System. The free version allows unlimited ratings upto 1 million page views per month, but comes with the branding of Rating Widget.
The widget is customizable and can be used with any browser. Any number of ratings can be created and with the review editor, you can customize the rating and place them where you want in your post or page. You can add a ‘Top Rated’ widget in your sidebar for top blogs or posts. You can create and manage ratings right from your WordPress dashboard.
The Starter version which is free from branding, will allow 50000 page views per month and upto 1000 ratings, unlimited votes and email support. The Professional version has a Management Dashboard and throws in analytics. Visitors can be identified by IP and it is ideal for voting contests. It comes with SSL/ HTTPs support, 250000 page views per month and 3000 ratings. The Business version adds full moderation, real time analytics and fraud alert.
To encourage active participation, websites often award points or changes or rewards to users. MyCRED is an adaptive points management system that helps to manage a points program. You can build a reward system with this plugin and allow users to accumulate reward points for posting comments.
The points can be adjusted manually at any time. Multiple point collection programs are supported. Any addition or deduction of points is logged immediately and the user can visit the log to keep track of the points. You can set limits or conditions for points.
It supports many popular plugins and has many in-built add-ons that can carry out more complex functions like points transfer or converting the points to purchases at stores. Some premium add-ons are also available.
Anti-Spam by CleanTalk
Clean Talk scrutinizes the filled in forms and user behavior to screen spammers. This plugin, once installed sends the details of to Clean Talk services and an assessment is made whether the message should be allowed or marked as spam. A list of email addresses used by spammers or spam bots is built.
Spam is detected with 99.9982% accuracy and automatically email addresses, domains and IP addresses are blacklisted. It protects all forms – contacts, comments, registration – and existing users and comments can also be checked.
An advanced option ‘Spam Firewall’ can be enabled, which allows you to block spam even before it reaches your website by preventing the webpages from loading. It will block requests from bad IP addresses.
This plugin is a complete anti-spam solution for login, comments and contacts of WordPress sites without having to go through CAPTCHA.
Content Aware Sidebars
Content Aware Sidebars is a plugin that will help you to create any number of sidebars to display almost any type of content. You can also display specific sidebars to specific users. Dynamic, custom sidebars can be created which will merge with or replace the host sidebar. Complex content can be created, and some sidebars can be displayed only to logged in users.
Publishing schedule can be accommodated in the sidebar. Sidebars can also be displayed according to conditions , such as specific author posts only will be displayed to specific readers.
GD bbPress Attachments
If you want to add an attachment to forums or replies, you can do so through the WordPress media library. You can set limits to the number of attachments and the attachment size for each forum. Images will be displayed as thumbnails and the attachment will be embedded in the topics and replies.
You can see the attachment count for the topics and replies in the admin panel. In the individual edit pages, you can view the list of attachments and the upload errors. GD bbPress Attachments supports about a dozen languages.
The premium version of this plugin is GD bbPress Toolbox Pro, which displays an attachment list in the admin panel and offers control over attachments. Font icons can be used. This version has many other bbPress related features.
GD bbPress Tools
GD bbPress Tools adds a number of functions to your bbPress software. With this plugin, a user can affix his signature or a quote, a reply or a topic.
The plugin supports 30 BBcodes, and allows a user to view search results. It integrates with the toolbar menu and allows additional custom views. The premium version has a few additional features like a few more BBcodes, email notification control and powerful attachment features.
There are some add-ons that are not so popular, in the sense that the number of active installs is about 1000 or less. They have not been updated for close to a year, but they serve a very specific function and have earned a star rating close to 5. So, I do feel that they deserve a mention here.
- bbPress Mark as Read – With this plugin, you can mark threads as read or unread. These threads can be accessed from your bbPress profile page.
- bbPress Private Replies – Readers may want to share private information such as URLs or passwords with the forum moderators or original posters, without making it public. This plugin will come in handy.
- bbPress Live Topic Suggestion – When members are creating new topics in the forum, this plugin will offer them the option of continuing in an existing thread. The suggestion will be made when they are typing the topic title. This will help to keep a thread more interesting and at the same time help in streamlining comments and replies.
- bbPress Topic Count – You can use this plugin to show the total count of articles, replies or posts or any other class under the avatar of the author. You can keep tabs how active or inactive a particular author has been.
- bbPress Canned Replies – When your forum is receiving a lot of responses, it may be difficult to respond to each comment individually. This plugin will allow you to create and insert pre-defined responses to forum topics. Canned Replies will open up as a sub menu option under the main forums menu.
- bbPress Report Content – With this plugin, your forum users have the ability to report inappropriate content or spam. When a user clicks on ‘Report’ tab, the post is tagged as reported and only a moderator and above can ‘Un-report’ it.
- bbPress Private Groups – With this plugin you can put different users into groups and different groups into different forums. The forums can be marked as Private or Public individually. Group titles and description will be visible, but access will be restricted only to members, others being directed to a sign in page. This is an awesome plugin and we use it on our forum.
- Buddy-bbPress Support Topic – This plugin is designed to manage support requests. The settings for each forum must be set individually. The support status can also be edited in bulk from the list of topics. We are using this plugin for our theme support forum as well.
- Better bbPress Signature – Adding signature by users is allowed in almost every forum software. But this feature is absent in WordPress and this plugin will help you to add it. Signature of users can automatically be embedded in topics and replies.
That’s my list of handy and useful bbPress plugins. Do you have any to add to the list that has helped you with your forum ? Do share it with readers here.