Why You Need A Forum & How To Add One To Your WordPress Site

Why You Need A Forum & How To Add One To Your WordPress Site

This tutorial will teach you how to setup a forum on your WordPress site in less than an hour!

I recently decided to add a forum to the site which offered a number of benefits. However it wasn’t all that straight forward to setup and took me a while to get everything working as it should.

So this step by step guide will make it a breeze for you without any of the head ache!

Why Bother Adding A Forum?

I added WordPress forums to the site to solve a problem. I was getting lots of emails everyday asking for advice which was eating into a lot of my time per day.

This was a problem because not only was I spending a lot of time doing that – but the answers I provided stayed locked up and weren’t for everyone’s benefit.

So adding a forum to the site solved those problems.

Other Benefits

There are a huge range of other benefits to adding a WordPress forum-

  • User Generated Content – Every time someone creates a new post that creates a new page on the site
  • Engagement – People have a reason to return to the site
  • Community – It allows my readers to interact and help each other
  • Helpful – The forum is a valuable & helpful resource in itself as people discuss & interact
  • Long tail traffic – All of these new forum posts have potential to rank for long tail searches

My Results So Far

I launched the forum 40 days ago on the 18th October 2012. In that time-

  • 126 users have signed up
  • 64 topics have been started
  • 279 replies have been made

Check out the traffic stats for the forums so far-

Not bad eh? The forums now account for 12.95% of my overall traffic and is highly engaged spending an average of 12 minutes on the site browsing 7.55 pages per visit.

On top of that Google also sent me 548 visitors to forum pages-

Hopefully your starting to see the long term benefits of having your own forum!

Stats Update

As of the 21st February 2012 the forum now has-

  • 404 users
  • 231 topics
  • 954 replies

This has resulted in an extra 65,447 pageviews from 5,841 unique visitors.

Google alone has sent 5,052 visitors to the forum that on average visited 5.15 pages across 7 minutes 30 seconds.

You can keep track of the blogs & forums growth via the monthly income & growth reports.

The User Journey

One thing I wanted to cover quickly is while WordPress does make it relatively easy for people to register on the site it doesn’t really provide the best user journey.

For example the login pages don’t match the design of the site and there is no obvious register/login/logout links on most WordPress sites.

I also wanted new members to be added to my blogs mailing list.

I spent considerable time tweaking the user journey through trial & error and will show you my personal solutions below.

Planning Your Forums

The first thing you need to do is decide what forums you will offer. You don’t want to be so specific that you end up creating lots of forums that confuse the user, but you don’t want to go to general either.

For this site I personally went with-

  • E-Commerce
  • Hosting & Domains
  • Link Building
  • On Page SEO
  • Social Media
  • Video
  • Tutorial Requests

Take time to think about the forums you will offer and make a note of them, you’ll need this later on!

Installing BBPress

First of all download and activate the BBPress wordpress plugin.

Then go to Settings > Forums and configure to your personal preference.

Ensure that under the Theme Packages header you choose the bbPress Default option

I have included a screenshot of my settings below-

Creating Your Forums

Now from the WordPress Dashboard select Forums > New Forum

In the title area enter the forum name and then add a short description in the content area.

Once your happy click on Publish and your first forum will be up and running!

Repeat this process for each of the forums you want to create but don’t start using them just yet, there’s a few more things we need to do first.

Tweaking & Additional Plugins

In order to make the forums a bit more user friendly and just better all-round there are a few plugins we need to install & configure.

If you want to add any other features then check out the full list of bbPress plugins there are quite a few to choose from!

GD bbPress Tools

This plugin add a range of functionality to the forums including-

  • BBCode support
  • Quoting
  • Signatures

It also allows you to tweak a lot of the more advanced options.

Download, install and activate the GD bbPress Tools plugin.

Then head to Forums > Tools and tweak the settings to your personal preference.

Here are my settings, everything else I left at default-

Once that is done, you can move on to the next plugin!

Theme My Login

The user registration / login process doesn’t really deliver a consistent user journey but this can be fixed with Theme My Login.

This will integrate the login form with your page templates seamlessly.

Download, install and activate the Theme My Login plugin.

Click on Pages > Add New and create a login page similar to the screenshot below. Don’t forget to include the shortcode in the image below-

Once you have done that publish the page and in the URL make a note of the page ID.

http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/wp-admin/post.php?post=1137&action=edit

In the URL above the ID is 1137

Next go to Settings > Theme My Login and type the page ID in and tick all 3 options. Here are my settings-

If you click on Permalinks you can also define the slugs to use for your login, register, lost password and profile pages -

If you click on Modules you can enable other settings/options modules to customise even further.

Personally I have-

  • Custom E-mail
  • Custom passwords (nothing additional to configure)
  • Custom user links
  • Theme profiles
  • User moderation

E-Mail Options

Here you can customise the e-mails that get sent out upon new user registration, password resets etc

I have left everything at default except for the new user registration e-mail which I have as-

Hi,

Thanks for registering on my blog!

Why not head over to my forum and join in with the conversation http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/forums/

Your username and password are below for your reference-

Username: %user_login%
Password: %user_pass%

Thanks for signing up!

Matthew Woodward

You can put whatever you want in that e-mail, I plan to improve these by linking out to social profiles & key content.

User Links

In the User Links settings click on Forum Participant and delete the dashboard line.

Themed Profiles

In the Themed Profiles settings enable Theme Profiles for all users and restrict admin access to Forum Participants-

Moderation

In the moderation settings choose if you want to enable e-mail confirmation or not.

GD bbPress Widgets

Download, install and activate the GD bbPress Widgets plugin.

This add some new wordpress forum based widgets that we are going to use alongside the next plugin.

bbPress WPTweaks

This will add a custom sidebar to our forums that only displays on forum pages / topics.

Download, install and activate the bbPress WP Tweaks plugin.

Go to Settings > bbPress WP Tweaks and select Page.php click on Save Changes

Next go to Apperance > Widgets and you will see the new bbPress sidebar on the right.

Add widgets to this as you please – see the screenshot below for my setup-

Aweber Integration

I also wanted new forum members to be added to my Aweber list. If you want to do the same then setup a new list in Aweber.

Download, install and activate the Aweber Registration Integration plugin.

I know it says the plugin hasn’t been updated for a while but it still works!

Once installed go to Settings > Aweber Integration and add your form ID and list name.

If you need help with that follow the instructions at the top of the settings screen.

Redirect After Login

The only place people can login / logout of the site is in the forum sidebar. By default when people login they get taken to the homepage which offers no benefit. Instead they should be taken to the forum.

In your themes functions.php file add this code-


add_filter('login_redirect', 'plugin_admin_redirect');
function plugin_admin_redirect($redirect_to, $url_redirect_to = '', $user = null) {
return '/forums';
}

Ideally though the user should be taken back to the page they logged in from but I suck at coding and couldn’t work that out.

Test Test Test!

That is the setup complete and hopefully it didn’t take you all that long!

Have a browse around your forums and check that everything is looking good and as you want it to.

Create a test user and go through the user journey yourself, ensure your test user gets added to your Aweber list.

Start a test topic and post a test reply – if your happy delete all the test data.

Going Live!

If everything looks good then it’s time to push your forums live.

What I chose to do was add a link in the main navigation bar that reads ‘Ask A Question’

I positioned this on the far left as it will attract a lot of attention from the eye and if anyone wants to ask me a question they will see that option before reaching the ‘Contact Me’ option which is purposely positioned on the far right (least attention).

This helps to ensure a steady new flow of users and questions while keeping my inbox clear for my clients.

I also added 2 widgets to the sidebar that are visible across the rest of the blog, these are a list of the forums and a list of popular topics.

Want more great tutorials like this? Just enter your email and click “Sign Me Up!”

Peace Out

Well that brings me to the end of the tutorial – your WordPress site should now have a fully functional forum for your visitors to enjoy.

If you get stuck then post a comment or better yet, jump over to the forum ;)

If you use this guide to create a new forum let me know in the comments below and I’ll link it from this post!

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58 Responses

11.27.2012

Great tutorial I actualy thought you had coded that forum yourself, looks like a great plugin..

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

I can't code to save my life :P

Reply

Michael Cox Reply:

I'm same, can make stuff bold and center stuff but thats about it,ha

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Yeah you’ll probably notice things get broken/fixed at random across the blog ^^

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Serge Reply:

It’s the buddypress plugin for WordPress ;) you can check the page source for the div containing forum the forum and google the name=”xxxxxxx” portion [if it's not obviously staying what the plugin name is already].

I know this because that’s how I found out. I wad looking to add a forum for users on a redesign that I’m working on ;)

Reply

Serge Reply:

Oops. Didn’t see that the comment was ancient xD

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11.27.2012

Awesome tutorial. Really tempt me to have my own forum since I also get questions a lot from people in Indonesia about wordpress, seo, and stuff. :D

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Well what are you waiting for =D

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angello Reply:

I just love how you push people to start, many people really need a start up kick, you are not selfish as many other people.
i now this comment is so old but i just saw it today

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Well success is only a decision!

Reply

11.27.2012

What do you think about the possibility to add a forum on an internet marketing agency website?

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

This would certainly allow you build relationships with leads and reenforce your authority on the topic.

Reply

Good overview on bbPress integration. Couple of quick questions: was the forum part of the original website development concept or more of an after-thought post-launch? If the latter, would you have opted for another, more well-rounded open source CMS platform or stuck w/WP?

As a side note, about the redirect post-login, you could take advantage of some of the plug-ins out there like http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/peters-login-redirect/, mod'ing the plug-in or *hand-coding* using a combination of PHP server variables and/or session vars/cookies to track previous pages. You may find this helpful as well -> http://digwp.com/2011/08/how-to-redirect-logged-in-users/.

Keep up the great job Matt!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

No it was created as a solution to my busy inbox.

I would always choose wordpress as my CMS of choice – you can do so much with it and I haven't ever had a problem getting it to do what I want it to do.

The forum integration options were limiting if I'm honest but I'm quite happy with how it turned out and is much better than having to use a separate forum system that isn't as tightly integrated.

I looked at plugins and funnuily enough the tutorial you have linked and plugins were to bloated and I know it can be solved with just a few lines of code.

I know it's just a case of changing-

return '/forums';

to something else – I've tried a few things but can't get it working

Reply

DDWM Vancouver Website Design Marketing Reply:

MatthewWoodward.co.uk – good to know; always enjoy others' insights into app usage. While WP offers incredible flexibility, easy installation and administration, always like to hear about others' experiences – load times, user experience, etc. Dabble in several open source platforms and have our own, so feedback can be invaluable. Played w/BuddyPress for a whille, but never used WP in the various ways you have so far.

With respect to the login redirect, this may work:
http://www.longren.org/wordpress-tip-redirect-to-previous-page-after-login/

… and from the source …
http://wordpress.org/support/topic/any-way-to-redirect-to-previous-page-after-login

Quickly tried both on test servers here as a matter of curiousity, and it seemed to work fine, but then that was on a default install. Haven't a clue what you have installed for other plug-ins, which may or may not work well w/this hack.

Good luck. ;)

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Well I have just spent the last few days speed optimising the site and have it loading in less than a second now according to pingdom

The only thing I haven’t done yet is CSS sprites because if I try to figure that out anymore this week my computer is taking a sharp exit out of the window :P

Thanks for the links will take a look at them once I’ve got the speed optimisation down – i’ll be adding a few new funky features as well :P

Reply

11.29.2012

Nice tutorial Matt. I've built a couple of sites in the past with forums and WordPress on the same domain. Although I've never used BBPress I imagine its quite limited as a board compared to more mainstream scripts like vBulletin, IP Board and phpBB. The way that I built them was to install WordPress on the main domain, and then create a subfolder like – example.com/forum.

I would then create a new database and install the forum into that folder, which gives you two seperate databases and platforms on the same domain. If one of them is hacked or gets corrupted you don't lose both the forum and the WordPress site. The only thing about this method is there are two seperate backends and logins and its not as integrated as the solution you are describing here. There are bridges available for some platforms which will add a user from the forum database to the CMS database and viseversa, but anyone who can code should be able to workaround this problem to prevent your users having to sign up twice, once for each platform. For a simple forum I prefer your method, but for those people who prefer the bigger scripts my method will work to allow you to use WordPress as the CMS.

Anyway, I look out for your emails now and read every one as I know you put effort and thought into your blog posts. Keep up the good work my friend :)

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Yes it is quite limited really and does only offer the basics although you can add a lot of missing functionality via plugins.

Who knows it might come to the point in the future that I will need to move it to a dedicated forum script as it grows but integration is my main concern.

It's a shame that no one has created a bridge to display something like vbulletin within a wordpress theme while still maintaing a proper URL structure – I've seen people iframing it in but its less than ideal.

Good news your looking out for my emails now – that means I'm doing something right =D

Reply

Isaiah Joseph
11.29.2012

can this be add to genesis theme? I have been trying for hours, please help.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

While I don't have any experience with Genesis myself you might want to check out http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/bbpress-genesis-extend/

Reply

12.17.2012

How do you get the link at the bottom of your forum pages to "Login or Register". In my installation it only says "you must be logged in to create new topics". There is not link to login or register. I have the login widget for the sidebar but would love that link below the forum posts as well.

P.S. Thanks for the tutorial. Really great and clear instructions. It's helped me out a lot.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Awwww man that was done by hacking one of the BBPress files directly, I cant remember which file it was now but if you just open some up and search for part of the text string you'll find the code and can add the a href stuff around it.

If you find which file it was please update here and I'll add it to the post with credit and a link!

Reply

Matt B. Reply:

Hi Emily and Matt,

Perhaps the plugin has been updated since this post, but I just went into the BB Sidebar widget and added “mydomain.com/register” to the “register URL” field. Refresh and the link should be there.

-Matt

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

She isn’t talking about the URL itself, she is talking about a custom bit of text I hard coded into them forum templates.

Reply

3.16.2013

Hi, awesome resource Matt, I’ve used for my website.

I just wanted to add a little tip. If you have trouble with the forum sidebar not displaying correctly, it’s probably because of GD bbpress Tweaks having trouble with your theme, so instead, install the Content Aware Sidebar plugin (but still install GD bbpress Widgets). Works awesome.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi Manu,

I didn’t have that problem but thanks for the extra tip for anyone that does!

Reply

6.16.2013

Hi Matt,

I have a little problem with the forum that i just instaled.

On you main site.com/forum it says “Forum” (PrintScreen: http://imageshack.us/a/img856/5726/j15p.jpg),

But on my site, if I create a now forum it changes the title name on site.com/forum with the mane of the forum that I just created wich is “Cereri” (PrintScreen: http://imageshack.us/a/img199/5017/ut08.jpg).

What can I do to keep my site.com/forum page with the title unchanged?

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

I’m pretty sure thats in the main BBPress settings – I would check but I have a plugin conflict which stops me accessing the BBPress settings :P

Reply

6.22.2013

Hello Matt, thanks for this great tutorial. I have a small problem please. I use the heatmap lite version theme for my site but i don’t seem to be able to get this forum plugin settings to work. Please is there a way to go around this? Thank you

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

Your not really giving my any details to be able to help you. All I’ve got so far is you installed it, doesnt work.

Reply

9.6.2013

Hi Matt

Regarding the Aweber integration. What happens if somebody registers with your forum but they are already registered on your main email list? Or vise versa! Does it recognise this or do you have 2 seperate aweber lists that contain duplicate contacts?

Thanks for all the great info

Jason

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hi,

So I have an automation rule setup that anyone that joins the forum list automatically gets added to the main list which triggers the autoresponder for them if that makes sense.

When you do a broadcast to more than 1 list it auto removes dupes

Reply

headeulogy Reply:

how do you set it up so that they are automatically added to aweber email list?

Reply

10.2.2013

I have gotten aweber integrated, and when a test email registers in the forum it shows their name and email information in the plug in, but no confirmation email is being sent by aweber, just one from my wordpress site, and none of the test emails are being added to my aweber account.

Thoughts?

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Which plugin are you using?

Reply

Hey matt

i once installed bbpress long time ago and got many spammers abusing my forum ..hope that does not happen to you

cheers
jj Digitalgrog

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Happened a couple of times but easy to deal with :)

Reply

10.17.2013

Hello Matt,

Great tutorial! I do have one question, while trying to view my newly created forum I get this error:

Fatal error: Class ‘WP_Post’ not found in /home/content…..theme-compat.php on line 375

Have an idea on what it could be? I appreciate any help.

Anthony

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Sounds like your theme hasn’t been coded properly.

If you change to another theme temporarily, does the error go away?

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Anthony Reply:

Just tried it with two different themes and still the same error. Should I reinstall the plugin? Looks like the ‘WP_Post’ is not being found within bbPress plugin files?

Thanks for your help!

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Hmm to be honest I’m not entirely sure then =\

Reply

matthewbarby
10.22.2013

Awesome, awesome, awesome! I’m starting the mammoth task of setting up a travel forum on my travel blog – a lot of fund in store for me there!

Just a quick question – I’ve been searching online and have looked everywhere within BBpress but can’t find how to change the title tag on the forum index page (i.e. /forums/). Any ideas?

Matt

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Thats an area I’ve been looking at moving into recently ^^

I found bbpress to be pretty awkward with title/meta tags and gave up =\

Reply

matthewbarby Reply:

Nice – well, if you wanna have a chat at any point about the travel side of things then you know where I am. In case you didn’t know, my travel blog is http://www.meltedtsories.com.

Speak soon mate.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Looks pretty sweet will have a deeper delve into the content at some point!!

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matthewbarby Reply:

Ignore that – Just as I submitted this comment I realised that I had missed something. Problem solved.

Just in case anyone has the same issue, you can do it within Yoast’s WordPress SEO>Titles and Meta>Post Types>Custom Post Type Archives>Forums

Matt

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Winning ^^

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10.27.2013

Thank you soooo much! This was amaze.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

glad it helped!

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1.4.2014

Please give me the link to your forum.
I like to see that.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

Here you go http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/forums/

Reply

2.12.2014

Hey matt working on setting this up on my blog, ran into a few problems with theme my login?

Nowadays it looks like the settings are different from what you picture here.

I’m running into this weird error where if I go to selfmadebusinessman.com/wp-admin
or
selfmadebusinessman.com/wp-login.php

I put in my admin info and I get an error that reads

“More Information Required: Correct Username, Correct Password”

and that’s it, any ideas?

Reply

Dave Reply:

actually it looks like I am having this problem with only one username and not the others, maybe my assistant is logged in under the same one? IDK, will wait on it tomorrow, at least the others work. if you have any ideas let me know

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

Let me know how you get on :)

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Matthew Woodward Reply:

If you disable the plugin does it still happen?

Reply

3.11.2014

I followed all of your instructions (outside of the Aweber integration) but my forum looks VERY basic out the box.

Did you have to do any custom styling to get your borders, layout, and colors like they are?

See examples HERE: http://screencast.com/t/L3osWteyKh
and HERE: http://screencast.com/t/9FqFLImC

Any ideas? Yours looks so much cleaner with the layout you are using. I don’t need anything fancy now, just something to looks clean and user-friendly.

Reply

Matthew Woodward Reply:

I didn’t do anything fancy, must be your theme =\

Reply

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