6 Best WordPress Forum Plugins to Create a Discussion Board (2019)
Looking for the best WordPress forum plugin to create an online discussion board at your WordPress site?
Whether you’re looking for a high-powered solution to handle a huge community or just want a simple place for your customers or readers to communicate, you’ll be able to find a great WordPress forum plugin on this list.
In total, I’ve collected six free and premium options. Let’s jump right in so that you can start creating your community…
6 Best WordPress Forum Plugins in 2019
ForumWP is a modern WordPress forum plugin from the same team as the popular Ultimate Member plugin, which is used on over 100,000 WordPress sites.
Released in 2019, it’s one of the younger plugins on this list, but it comes with a great minimal design and user experience.
With Ajax and modal interactions, ForumWP eliminates a lot of situations where visitors would otherwise have to load an entirely new page, which I think makes for a slick experience. For example, members can create a new topic from a modal, rather than navigating to a new page. Similarly, they can log in from a modal.
It includes a neat “likes” feature that lets members like topics or replies, as well as an option to sort by likes.
Each ForumWP user gets their own profile. But, if you want even more power, the developer has a dedicated integration plugin to connect ForumWP to the aforementioned Ultimate Member plugin.
The developer also has plans to add features for post moderation, “solved” tags (great for a Q&A forum like StackOverflow), voting (like Reddit), and more.
Price: Starts at $99 per year
bbPress is the OG WordPress forum plugin, launched all the way back in 2004 as a solution for the WordPress.org support forums (which it’s still used for today). Since then, it’s been updated to keep with the times and it’s available as a free plugin at WordPress.org.
The core bbPress plugin is pretty lightweight. There aren’t a lot of features there – it uses custom post types to help you manage forums and topics and will get you a working forum, but it’s pretty barebones.
However, what makes bbPress flexible is the fact that there’s a huge third-party extension community. So if you need some extra functionality, there’s a decent chance you can find a third-party extension for it.
Additionally, if you want to create a more social feel to your forum, you can integrate bbPress with BuddyPress to add more detailed profiles, private messaging, and more.
If you want to check out a live demo of bbPress, just head to the WordPress.org support forums.
Price: 100% free, though you might want some premium third-party extensions
wpForo is a popular freemium WordPress forum plugin that comes with a pretty good built-in feature list, as well as the ability to integrate with plugins like BuddyPress and Ultimate Members to ramp up the social feel of your forum.
It’s from the same developer as the popular wpDiscuz comment plugin, which you might’ve heard of.
The core wpForo plugin is free and then there are various premium add-ons that you can purchase as needed.
The free version gives you a drag-and-drop editor to set up your forums and categories, as well as a lengthy settings area where you can:
- Restrict access to certain forums
- Create a custom reputation system based on post counts
- Translate your forum text strings (great for localization)
- Customize the looks of your forum
- …plus plenty more – you get a lot of options
Then, you’ll also find premium add-ons for features like:
- Ads manager
- Private messaging between users
- Automatic blog cross-posting
- myCred integration
- Attachments and embeds
- User custom fields
Price: Free core version. For premium, you can purchase individual add-ons or a bundle starting at $99
Simple:Press is a well-established WordPress forum plugin that’s been around for over 12 years. Because it’s been around so long, Simple:Press has built up a lengthy feature list and it’s probably the most feature-rich WordPress forum plugin on this list. It also uses its own custom database tables rather than regular WordPress custom post types, which is unique in comparison to many of the other plugins.
In total, Simple:Press comes with over 70+ add-ons and themes…so yeah – lengthy feature list. However, it’s also modular, so you don’t have to bloat your forum with features that you don’t plan to use. I recommend checking out the full feature list if you’re interested, but here are some of the highlights:
- Private messaging
- Lots of moderation tools, including automatic filters
- Gamification with badges and ranks
- @ mentions
- Polls and surveys
- Post ratings
- User bans
The only downside is that the default design looks a little dated in comparison to the other forum plugins on this list, though it includes different themes and gives you options to customize your forum’s styling:
Simple:Press has a limited free version at WordPress.org, but I think the premium version is where the magic happens with this one.
Price: Starts for free. For premium, you can purchase individual add-ons or a bundle starting at $99
5. Asgaros Forum
Asgaros Forum is a lightweight, 100% free WordPress forum plugin. In looks, it has a lot of similarities to wpForo, but it doesn’t have quite as many features.
I think this one can be a really great option if you just want something simple that looks good out of the box, but it doesn’t have the deep feature list that some of the other plugins offer.
Still, you get some nice features like:
- Activity feed
- Integrated ad management
- User groups
- View counts
- A pretty nice user profile page
And like I said, I think it has a really nice clean, out-of-the-box design. Plus, it’s 100% free, which is tough to argue with.
Ok, Discourse is not technically a WordPress forum plugin, but hear me out anyway…
Discourse is open-source forum software that you can either:
- Self-host – this is kind of like WordPress.org
- Pay Discourse to host it for you – this is kind of like WordPress.com
It’s super popular and it includes a distinctive design that you’ve probably interacted with.
Beyond its popularity, the reason why I’m including Discourse on this list is that the developers offer an official WP Discourse integration plugin at WordPress.org.
This plugin adds a few useful features to connect your Discourse forum with your WordPress site. You can:
- Automatically create a new forum topic when you publish a blog post. You can also automatically embed forum replies as comments on the blog post.
- Associate WordPress accounts with Discourse accounts.
- Use WordPress as the Single Sign On (SSO) provider for Discourse. That is, people can log in to Discourse by logging in to their WordPress account.
So if you’re willing to host your own forum software outside of WordPress, Discourse could be a great option and is pretty easy to connect to your WordPress site thanks to the integration plugin.
Price: 100% free if you self-host it
Get Started With Your WordPress Forum Today
So which one of these is the best WordPress forum plugin? Well, as is usually the case, that answer really depends on your needs.
If you want the absolute most features and options, give Simple:Press a look. wpForo also has a good number of features, and bbPress can be pretty flexible because of the huge third-party extension marketplace.
Finally, consider the possibility of self-hosting Discourse instead of going for a straight WordPress forum plugin. While it adds a little complexity to your setup, Discourse is great forum software and it’s pretty easy to integrate into WordPress thanks to the integration plugin (though you’d still need to make your Discourse forum match the rest of your site’s design).
Any questions about which is the best WordPress forum plugin for you? Ask away in the comments!