Forums are a great tool to foster discussion and connection on the internet. With some of the best WordPress Forum plugins out there, it is easier than ever to create your own online community.
In this post, we’ll provide you with our list of the most helpful WordPress forum plugins to help you get a forum up and running on your site.
Key Features of the Best Forum Plugins (What to Look For)
For those looking to create an online community, WordPress is a great platform to build on. When looking for a forum plugin, it needs to be able to do the job well. Look for these features of the best forum plugins:
User Accounts and Dashboards: User registration and management should be simple and efficient so users can register an account with ease and you can track user activity, receive real-time updates, and engage with the community.
Customization of Styles and Layouts: Look for a forum plugin with a wide range of customization options to help you create a forum that matches your brand’s style and layout, from color schemes to custom fonts.
Advanced Moderation Tools: To keep forums clean and spam-free, look for plugins with a variety of moderation tools that allow administrators to manage the content of their forums, including features like moderation queues, flags, and automatic spam filters.
Simple to Use: You want a simple forum that does not inhibit a community from growing, with a user-friendly interface and clear navigation to help users find what they’re looking for and participate in the community with ease.
Option to Subscribe to Topics and Receive Notifications: Subscribing to topic notifications is an essential feature for keeping users engaged with the forum. Participation is key in keeping the forum interesting and worth visiting.
Compatibility: Make sure your forum plugin is compatible with essential plugins and themes you will use on your site.
The Best WordPress Forum Plugins
Most would agree that the two most popular WordPress forum plugins are bbPress and BuddyPress. Although these plugins are free and provide a core foundation for building forums, they are often used with other themes and plugins to get a more polished design and user experience. Some of the best membership plugins and LMS plugins have built-in forums using bbPress and BuddyPress integration. So, we’ve expanded our list to include other plugins and themes that can help you build online communities with the tools you need.
Here they are:
1. Answers by Creative Minds (CM Answers)
Answers by Creative Minds (a.k.a. CM Answers) is a Q&A-style WordPress forum plugin designed to help you build engaging communities around answering questions. Its forum-like layout and functions focus on questions versus topics—making it perfect for creating a Stack Exchange/Quora-style forum. The basic free version has enough features to start, but the pro version is what makes Answers a great choice for building forums.
Key Features for CM Answers:
Forum topic views and answer counters
Forum-related email notifications for administrators and users
Sorting options in the question and answer pages
The forum template can be easily customized
Ability to monetize forums with PayPal/Stripe integrations
Not only is CM Answers a great tool for building a Q&A-style forum, but it also offers unique features that set it apart from other forum plugins. For instance, website owners can use it to replace the commenting system on regular blog posts (without the need for a comment plugin). And, the forums can be monetized which is an ideal choice for thought leaders and bloggers who want to create a paid community around their offerings.
CM Answers is for you if you…
Need a total Q&A forum solution
Have been kicking around the idea of creating a paid community (similar to a paid Facebook Group or Discord server)
CM Answers Pricing: $39 per year
ForumEngine is a WordPress theme that makes it easy to turn your site into a discussion forum. Yes, theme. We’ve included it for those who may want a complete forum solution (or website) without having to build and design one yourself. A theme may be of particular interest to those who want to run a community forum on a separate WordPress installation on a sub-domain or in a root folder (eg. community.example.com or example.com/community).
Key Features of ForumEngine:
Frontend style customizer with other frontend controls
Adaptive design for mobile use
User badges and achievements
Live notification system
One of its standout features is its detailed styling function, which gives you complete control over the look and feel of your forum. That, and individual users can customize styling their way with a front-end styler.
ForumEngine is for you if you…
Have the flexibility to use a theme versus a plugin for your forum solution
Want to pay a low Lifetime (LTD) price for the software
Like an active developer who listens to feedback and posts updates regularly
ForumEngine Pricing: $49 per year
bbPress is an incredibly popular WordPress plugin that makes it easy to add a forum to your site. Developed by some of the same team behind WordPress.org (the open-source project)—bbPress has an air of familiarity that is classically WordPress. We like that it seamlessly integrates with membership plugins like MemberPress and Paid Memberships Pro so that you can easily add a forum to your membership site. It even integrates with Lifter LMS to create a community forum for your online course as well.
Key Features for bbPress:
Ability to create multisite forums
Customizable forum templates
Forum spam protection through Akismet
Fast, light, and built to WordPress standards
Extend your forum with numerous free, third-party plugins
Allow users to subscribe to topics and specific forums
The key feature and advantage of bbPress are that it is completely free and open-source. This means that you can go to the website and download the plugin without having to worry about any upsells or hidden costs. And since it is developed to the highest standards, free and open source feels pretty good.
bbPress is for you if you…
Want a lightweight and reliable forum plugin
Want a free solution that works without a lot of design options
Use a membership or LMS plugin that already has built-in integration for it.
bbPress Pricing: Free
4. Asgaros Forum
Asgaros Forum is a lightweight and straightforward WordPress plugin that makes it easy to add a forum to existing websites. It’s designed to provide all the basic features of a forum without getting bogged down in unnecessary features and bloat, making it an ideal choice for websites that need a small and simple forum.
Key Features of Asgaros Forum:
Users create profiles that come with notifications and personal feeds
Users have access to media uploads within the forum
Forum statistics and analytics
Guests can guest-post within forums
Moderation system for approval processes and forum banning
Compatible with Multisite
One of the great features of Asgaros Forum is its moderation tools. Moderators have deep visibility about who is online (in real-time), which makes it easy to keep an eye on what’s happening in the forum. Additionally, the plugin offers a simple admin page with topic/user monitoring, usage reporting, and moderation tools.
Asgaros Forum is for you if you…
Need a forum solution that can be added to an existing website
Want just enough features to open up a forum but not too many to manage
Asgaros Forum Pricing: Free
wpForo is a comprehensive and user-friendly forum plugin for WordPress. It allows site owners to easily create modern forums where their users can participate, ask questions, answer, up-vote, and subscribe to topics. This plugin brings everything you need to run an efficient and professional community, including a powerful and beautiful forum with unique features. The core features of the plugin are free, but if you need more, some affordable add-ons allow you to integrate WooCommerce memberships, GIPHY, private messaging, and many more.
Key Features for wpForo:
Easy drag-and-drop forum management system for admins
Member ratings and badges
Built-in forum sitemap, forum SEO tools, and caching system
Six end-user forum styles, including dark mode
Four forum layouts and designs
Built-in topic and forum subscription
One of the reasons why many users prefer wpForo over other forum plugins is its modern design. Other forum solutions can tend to look dated (plus forums are hard to style anyways). It includes four major layout styles for site admins to use and six styles (sometimes called skins) that individual users can use to customize their experience (including dark mode!).
wpForo is for you if you…
want a modern-looking forum option out of the box
Enjoy the core features and don’t mind paying for the occasion extension/add-on
wpForo Pricing: Free with Paid add-ons available
6. WP Discussion Board
WP Discussion Board – WordPress Forum Plugin is a user-friendly and practical solution for those looking to add a forum to their WordPress site. With a simple setup and a form-driven front-end design, this plugin is accessible to users with no prior WordPress knowledge.
Key Features of Discussion Board:
User management for forum administrators
Frontend user self-serve and management
Spam reduction tools
Shortcode library to show forum on other pages and posts
Designed to look beautiful and work with any theme
The Discussion Board offers a minimalist and modern forum that can be placed anywhere on your WordPress website. The user registration process is streamlined and effortless. Overall, Discussion Board is easy to look at which isn’t the case with every forum plugin out there.
Discussion Board is for you if you…
Like the idea of using form submissions as part of the forum experience
Need dedicated moderation and spam protection tools built-in
WP Discussion Board Pricing: Free; Paid plans start at $49 per year
BuddyPress is a powerful plugin developed by the same team behind bbPress and WordPress. It goes in a slightly different direction than bbPress in that it can transform your website into a social media network. BuddyPress can work with any WordPress theme to help you create an online community complete with user profiles, messaging, and networking options. It’s ideal for business owners and bloggers who want to build a community around their content and product.
Key Features for BuddyPress:
Users can control profile visibility
Admins can create custom profile fields
Friendships and friend connections
Public and private messaging
Forums are often great for creating community. BuddyPress goes the extra mile and brings social networking functionality directly into a WordPress website. It offers an exciting alternative to traditional forums and comment plugins with less emphasis on “staying on topic” and more emphasis on community engagement.
BuddyPress is for you if you…
Like the idea of building a social network for your users directly on your site
Want community engagement that goes beyond forums
Don’t mind the extra setup that is entailed in creating social features
BuddyPress Pricing: Free
8. Sabai Discuss
Sabai Discuss is a premium WordPress plugin that offers a unique take on forums. It combines the best of both worlds by offering both a discussion stream and a question-and-answer tool, making it ideal for those who want to create a community-driven Q&A website, a discussion forum, a knowledge base, or even a helpdesk portal.
Key Features for Sabai Discuss:
Discussion Stream makes it easy to stay on top of new activities with a streamlined information feed
Voting engine for threads within the forum
Upvote or downvote questions
Moderation system with user reporting
Forum users can use the frontend markdown editor
One of the standout features of Sabai Discuss is its attractive and easy-to-read interface. It’s designed to look like a Q&A platform like Quora or Stack Overflow, and it does so in a way that’s both functional and visually appealing. This makes it a great choice for those who want a forum that feels modern and engaging.
Sabai Discuss is for you if you…
Enjoy purchasing products from Envato Marketplace
Need a Q&A-based forum setup
Sabai Discuss Pricing: $24 (LTD) with 6 months of support
Simple:Press is a feature-packed WordPress forum plugin that offers a sleek and customizable interface. Its threads are clean and have simple colors that complement your website’s content. The free version is fairly basic, but you can enhance its functionalities by purchasing a premium plan. Ideal for businesses that are planning for very large and complicated communities.
Key Features for Simple:Press:
Forum ranking and badges
Upload avatars or use Gravatar or WordPress avatar
Forum statistics for the admin
Member profile options for users
Simple:Press touts itself as an enterprise solution. If you are looking for a robust and complex community forum, Simple:Press aims to be the ideal plugin for your needs.
Simple:Press is for you if you…
Have enterprise-level dreams for your community
Don’t mind paying a pretty penny for advanced features
Want a modern-looking forum
Simple:Press Pricing: Free; Paid plans start at $199 per year
What are the Best WordPress Forum Plugins?
Our list of the best WordPress forum plugins provides you with a glance into what’s available to you as you build your online forum. Should you want to monetize your community, you can consider using bbPress with a membership plugin like MemberPress or Paid Memberships Pro. Or you can use CM Answers or Simple:Press .
If you are after a forum theme, check out Forum Engine as it is a complete forum built into a theme instead of a plugin.
When choosing any plugin on WordPress, it is important to look at features and pricing carefully. This means paying very careful attention to what is (and isn’t) offered with each pricing tier. WordPress offers many great free and cheap options for forum plugins. Enjoy building your community.
Featured Image via M. Ageng sumantri / shutterstock.com