We tested the best WordPress forum plugins so you can start building a community of like-minded people fast.
And for free!
(Okay, you can also choose a premium plugin and unlock many more features.)
It’s easy to add community and forum sections to your website with a plugin (no coding needed).
A forum can serve many purposes: support forums, sports clubs, dating sites, question-and-answer websites, discussion boards, fitness clubs, and any other group activity.
Also, forums can add to SEO. The content in any forum thread may answer a specific Google search.
And this is our favorite thing about owning a forum:
Once it gets going, you can get as involved as you want or stay away from it, focusing only on moderation, monetization and growth. It’s totally up to you.
This post covers:
- What are WordPress forum plugins?
- Why add a forum on your WordPress website?
- 10 best forum plugins for WordPress
- How to build your own forum website
- The best forum plugin for WordPress
- Frequently asked questions
What Are WordPress Forum Plugins?
A WordPress forum plugin is a simple (yet powerful) tool to add a complete forum to your website or blog.
The package includes everything you need to start with creating a forum immediately.
Enjoy the templates, the forms, the styling features and the necessary functions for the best user engagement.
Note: A free plugin (which also comes with a pro version) usually has limitations, but it’s an excellent start. On the other hand, unlock the true potential by going premium.
Why Add A Forum To Your WordPress Website?
There are many benefits of adding a forum to your website. One of the core ones improving your overall online presence (unless you’re building a forum-only website).
Use a forum to build a loyal community, grow trust and help users find the right information fast.
It’s also a fantastic way to chat with like-minded people, provide opinions and share knowledge, tips and tricks.
You can also create a support forum for any service or product.
And you can also start seeing SEO improvements after a while of running an active forum.
A forum can reward your business greatly.
Friendly tip: Don’t start with the forum section if you have just built your website or don’t yet have a decent following (but you’re good to go if you have a clever marketing strategy – more below). It’s better to avoid a non-active forum.
Benefits of a forum:
- A user engagement boost
- Build a loyal community
- Increase trust
- Share tips, tricks, opinions, etc.
- Support (forum)
- Helps SEO
10 Best Forum Plugins For WordPress
|bbPress||Free||The best overall solution for building a forum in WordPress (for free!).|
|BuddyPress||Free||The best overall solution for creating a community website (0 fees!).|
|wp-Foro||Free||A great multipurpose plugin for forums and Q&A pages.|
|Asgaros||Free||Your best solution to build a niche forum.|
|PeepSo||Free||Use it for social networks and memberships.|
|AnsPress||Free||Do you want to build a question-and-answer site? Make it happen with AnsPress.|
|Discussion Board||Free||Build a community-oriented website that takes little time to realize.|
|Sabai Discuss||$24||Use the many advanced functionalities to create a powerful forum for all your needs.|
|Simple:Press||$199/year||An endless collection of features to realize any forum idea.|
|DW Q&A||$39||Do you want to create a Quora or Yahoo Answers lookalike? DW Q&A is the way to go.|
Many free plugins can help you add a forum to your website, from basic but highly efficient bbPress to feature-rich plugins. You can take your pick depending on the specific needs of your forum.
bbPress is an excellent plugin for adding a forum to your WordPress website.
It follows the same coding practices as WordPress, working smoothly with WordPress and with all WP themes. (You won’t need to modify it to fit any theme.)
It’s not too rich in features as it’s built to be lean and fast, but many add-ons can hugely extend the plugin’s functions.
It’s simple to set up with a one-click install, and you can manage and moderate everything from one central account. You can get your forum to look how you want with effortless customizations (0 coding!).
You can source content for your forum with RSS feeds and help users create their forums and generate content. It has built-in support for Akismet, so you can keep spam at the door.
bbPress is the plugin you need to add forums to posts and pages and allow readers to leave a comment or start a conversation.
It is a great way to start a new topic, encourage readers to join the comments section, and allow interesting discussions to develop.
- Lightweight base
- Easy to manage and maintain
- Step-by-step setup
- Great for small/niche and large forums
- It can be too basic for some users (need to use add-ons to add more functionality)
It’s free from the WordPress repository.More info / Download
You cannot speak of bbPress without referring to BuddyPress simultaneously. Best pals!
BuddyPress is a social network plugin that provides a base for forums to take off. Like bbPress, BuddyPress follows WordPress coding standards. Thus, it easily integrates with WordPress and works smoothly with most WordPress themes and plugins.
You can create groups and rely on many extensions that add to the forum/community functionality after the plugin activation.
Registered users can create profiles, social connections, activity streams, private interactions, and more. You can also opt to reward any activity with points.
Make it more engaging!
Like bbPress, BuddyPress is also kept intentionally lean, leaving users to add only the needed features. You can get the plugin to track blogs, posts, comments, and even custom post types (using a bit of code) globally if you have the WP Multisite enabled.
What we also like is that the plugin is available in many languages.
- Compatible with any niche and industry
- Regular updates
- Great support and documentation
- Easy installation and use
- Membership gateway
- Great for beginner and advanced users
- Some users find it too basic
It’s a free plugin you can download from the WordPress repository.More info / Download
wpForo can help you build both small and large forums.
It offers three different layouts: A simple layout with forum and topic lists that shows topics and post author avatars, an extended list that shows the next level of information, and a question-and-answer layout that serves as a discussion board.
Note: You can also take a peek at our best question-and-answer WordPress themes for an even quicker start.
You can build a community similar to Stack Overflow with ease.
Customize the bulletin board however you want so it fits in with your theme and branding.
You’ll also find a built-in user group system with a user rating system based on the number of posts.
Users can create beautiful profiles, become members, and vote up or down any question or answer. Turn on the functionality you need and make it a fun experience for everyone.
The drag-and-drop feature makes forum management and moderation easy. You get all the tools to run your forum successfully.
It is a perfect platform to ask questions and receive answers. Plus, add-ons are available for embeds, ad managers, private messages, etc.
wpForo is responsive with built-in SEO, a cache system, and anti-spam. It also helps to migrate data from different forum plugins, which is very helpful.
- Integration with other plugins
- Handy SEO functions
- Ready-to-use layouts (that save you a lot of time)
- Supports multiple languages
- Drag and drop forum management
- Members profile system
- Add-ons can get expensive (if you need many)
A free forum plugin for every WordPress user.More info / Download
4. Asgaros Forum
Asgaros Forum is a lean, fast, and simple forum plugin to quickly set up a lightweight discussion board.
All you need to do is create a new page and add a shortcode; then, you’ll have a forum running in minutes.
Yup, it really is as simple as it sounds.
To access the forum, add the page you create to the menu. Afterward, you can manage posts, topics, and guest postings, create sub-forums and user groups, and make the forum searchable. (The search function is a MUST!)
The plugin supports many languages and WP multisite and is developer-friendly with many hooks and filters.
What’s also cool is that you can easily ban users from the user edit screen on the WordPress dashboard.
Besides, you can track activity within the forum, upload files, moderate, grant permissions, and access stats.
- Novice-friendly installation and configuration
- It’s Google-friendly
- Allows you to create polls
- Tracking statistics
- Multisite and multi-language compatible
- More regular updates and improvements would make it more promising
You can get Asgaros on WordPress.org for free.More info / Download
PeepSo is slightly different from the WordPress forum plugins you find in this collection.
You can create a modern, clean, and engaging social network within your WordPress website with PeepSo.
How cool does that sound?
Instead of hiring a coder and a designer (and paying a hefty fee), you can now make it happen with a simple yet powerful plugin instead.
The features of PeepSo are endless. And you can always take things to a whole different level by upgrading to the premium plan.
However, you can start immediately with the free version and even keep using it forever if it suits your needs (but it might get a bit limited once you grow your network).
Front-end user profiles, custom reactions, blog post integration, email notification, real-time user notifications, built-in security, and RTL support are some of PeepSo’s specialties.
Style it accordingly and go live in little to no time.
- Great for newbie users
- Quick styling
- Compatible with LTR and RTL languages
- Easy to monetize
- User profiles with custom fields
- Many activity functions
- (Expensive) Subscription-based premium plan
- Free: Front-end user profiles, hashtags, built-in search, real-time notifications
- Ultimate Bundle ($199/year): Chat, gamification, ads, Easy Digital Downloads, audio and video files
AnsPress adds a proper question-and-answer system to your WordPress website, like QsAns or Quora.
Instead of building an entire site, you can add a Q&A page to an existing one.
You can use it with any theme and any type of website, but that’s not the only way to use this plugin.
We found that AnsPress also works great as a FAQ site for its internal Q/A board or a support ticket forum.
It is fast and developer-friendly and supports multi-languages, shortcodes, reCAPTCHA, email and push notifications, and more.
AnsPress also allows tags, categories, labels, comments, featured questions, sorting options, voting on questions and answers, user profiles – yes, it has many practical features.
Even though we think AnsPress should be updated more frequently, we still dig its performance and optimization.
Yup, we recommend it if you need to set up a Q&A website!
- Featured questions and best answers
- Recent activities and history report
- Media attachments
- 6+ free add-ons
- Some usability issues can be present (but are very rare)
A completely free WordPress question and answer plugin (download from WordPress.org).More info / Download
7. Discussion Board
Job boards, school websites, technical forums, eCommerce, and any community forum will find Discussion Board useful in adding a helpful forum to their website.
It will automatically create pages and insert shortcodes to have a working forum attached to your website after activation.
It allows you to permit users to log in and register on the front-end and cut down on spam by requiring new users to click on an email link to complete the registration process.
You can use the anti-spam fields in the registration form to control spam further.
Besides, you can register new users in a specific role, assign various access levels to different roles, and block registrations (from specific emails).
The plugin has simple styles to match any theme and includes shortcodes for topic archives, recent topics, and log-in forms.
Another beneficial feature is that users can edit their comments (which reduces stress in case of mistakes).
The pro version of the plugin adds additional features like multiple discussion boards, topic status, categories, tags, image uploads, user profiles, and the WYSIWYG editor.
You have everything to build a discussion board!
Discussion Board Pros:
- User registration approval
- Anti-spam protection
- Subscription to boards
- Media file uploads
- Top posters and comments
- 14-day money-back guarantee
Discussion Board Cons:
- Free version (can be) too basic
Discussion Board Pricing:
- Free: User management, front-end login, spam reduction, shortcodes
- Basic ($49/year): 1 site, all other features
- Pro ($89/year): Unlimited sites, all other features
8. Sabai Discuss for WordPress
Sabai Discuss for WordPress is minimalist and is essentially a Q and A forum.
Still, it is rather similar to a proper forum and can build up into a knowledge base. It can also double as a helpdesk portal for WordPress.
Many great options!
Anyone can create profiles and ask questions on the front-end. Others can chip in with answers and comments and attach files to questions, answers, and comments. (The comments appear inline.)
Sabai Discus is search-friendly, helping users with autosuggest options for quick finds.
Questions and answers can be categorized and filtered using custom fields with a visual form editor. You can configure the plugin for 40+ different permissions, such as reputation and role.
It’s possible to set up private RSS feeds for members only, allow guest posting, and import and export files with the help of a CSV importer/exporter.
Moreover, you can install multiple plugin instances and work with the available five shortcodes and nine widgets. Sabai Discus is ajax-powered and packs in many elements and template files.
Sabai Discuss Pros:
- Regular updates
- Built-in search for questions and answers
- Up and down votes
- Works with WordPress translation plugins (supports RTL)
- Allows guest submissions
Sabai Discuss Cons:
- Customer support can be slow
Sabai Discuss Pricing:
- Regular license ($24): 1 client, 1 end product (can’t charge users for it)
- Extended license ($120): 1 client, 1 end product (can charge users for it)
Simple:Press is a free plugin that can scale to match the needs of any forum. It has a huge plugin library, which you can use to add functions.
The plugin is light and fast, enabling you to easily create sub-forums and moderate comments. Simple:Press integrates with many plugins and services, like Share This, BuddyPress, MyCred, Slack, Sitemaps, Gravatars, and TinyMCE.
The many themes and templates make customization easy.
It’s possible to create public and private forums, stick them with ranks and badges, and implement a permission system. You can create powerful user groups, enable private RSS feeds for members only, and store components outside the plugin.
Besides, you can use image thumbnails and enlargements, custom smileys, and custom icons.
Comprehensive search options, forum stats, optional support for WP shortcodes, and email notifications are available to simplify your life.
Also, if you register as a member, you can access the plugin’s support forum for one-on-one help and plugin discounts.
- Scales with you
- Built-in statistics
- Private and public forums
- SEO-friendly structure
- Help text throughout the plugin + support + documentation
- Expensive pro plans
- Free: Forum groups, unlimited forums, custom icons, custom avatars
- 1 site ($199/year): All features
- 5 sites ($358/year): All features
- Unlimited sites ($644/year): All features
10. DW Question & Answer Pro
If you are interested in adding something slightly different to your website, skipping the traditional forum thing, DW Question & Answer Pro is the plugin you should check out.
It is a tool that creates and questions and answers type of page, similar to Quora or Yahoo Answers. You can create an entire web space based on it or add it as an extension to your existing website.
The choice is yours.
DW Question & Answer Pro features are outstanding, offering you to create a complete Q&A-style website in a snap.
Also, without any prior coding experience.
Some goodies include question form, voting, views counter, email notifications, instant search, and reCAPTCHA to avoid spam. Furthermore, DW Question & Answer Pro plugin also comes with two custom shortcodes and seven widgets.
DW Q&A Pro is fully compatible with any WordPress theme, allowing you to integrate it flawlessly.
DW Q&A Pro Pros:
- Effortless question management
- Private and public questions
- Instant search (live results)
- Predefined themes and styles
- Multiple permissions settings
DW Q&A Pro Cons:
- Bugs can appear from time to time
DW Q&A Pro Pricing:
- Free: Limited features (but still a great start to your Q&A platform!)
- Regular license ($39): 1 client, 1 end product (can’t charge users for it)
- Extended license ($130): 1 client, 1 end product (can charge users for it)
How To Build Your Own Forum Website
Creating a community or a forum is a great way to build up an audience for your website. It can keep your website on a reader’s radar and improve SEO.
The plugins in this list will help you add a forum to your WordPress website or build it from scratch.
But let’s say we’re building a forum from scratch, so here’s how we’d do it.
Domain & Web Hosting
You must first sort out a domain name and web hosting to realize your forum idea.
When it comes to a domain, it’s really up to your which name you pick, but we prefer simple domain names.
As for hosting, you are welcome to start with a shared one. But we recommend switching to managed hosting as soon as your forum grows.
This way, you’ll avoid slow forum loads, which is a big no-no for every user.
Luckily, the forum itself doesn’t need a lot of resources, but your users’ interactions do (when you have MANY forum members!).
Note: Once you have a domain name and choose the right WordPress hosting, it’s time to install WordPress.
Some hostings’ have it pre-installed, or you can ask their support to do it for you. But it’s easy to install WordPress yourself, too.
WordPress Forum Theme Or Plugin
We recommend working with a WordPress forum theme if you’re starting from scratch.
It’ll save you a lot of time because it has many built-in features and functions that you can use to build your forum website quickly.
On the other hand, you can install a WordPress forum plugin if you want to expand your current website.
We did the necessary testing to guarantee that all the plugins above are reliable and easy for beginners but also powerful enough for experts.
Here’s the tricky part: How do you grow your forum if you don’t have an audience?
That’s when (fake) marketing comes into play.
What’s the deal with “fake?”
Creating fake accounts (sock puppets), starting threads and making your forum look “alive” even though it’s not.
Just don’t be TOO obvious!
However, it’s still important that you use other channels to promote your forums, like blogs, email marketing, social media, etc.
Many users think that throwing together a forum with the approach of “setting and forgetting” is the way to go.
Well, IT’S NOT!
Running a forum can mean a lot of work. Not necessarily in its initial stage but as soon as it starts growing.
You definitely need to add forum rules for everyone to read – and it’s best to ban users who misbehave so they don’t harm others’ user experience.
You need to control EVERYTHING.
Especially spam and malicious users, trolls, too. (Hint, including a little bit of trolling as part of your marketing strategy can work, but don’t overdo it.)
The Best Forum Plugin For WordPress
Deciding on the best overall plugin for building a forum website is impossible.
Why? Because all the plugins that we shared have unique features. And every user has unique needs.
That’s why we added ten, so here’s something for everyone.
First, we recommend choosing bbPress if you’d like to build a forum. It’s a simple yet powerful solution to start immediately. And it’s free.
Second, go with BuddyPress plugin if you need to set up a community.
And third, pick AnsPress for establishing a question and answer platform. (BuddyPress and AndPres are also free!)
Frequently Asked Questions About Forum Plugins
Does WordPress have a forum plugin?
Yes, WordPress has multiple plugins that you can use to build a forum. But one of the most popular (and the one we recommend the most) is bbPress. It’s free and open-source, ready for all your ideas.
How do I create a (free) forum using WordPress?
The easiest and quickest way to create a free forum using WordPress is with the bbPress plugin. It’s a basic and powerful solution with all the features you need to start immediately.
How do I monetize my forum?
You have multiple options to monetize your forum, of which our favorites are: paid memberships, selling advertisements (ad networks or sell directly), affiliate links, donations and exclusive forum merch.