The Best WordPress Forum Plugins for 2021

Creating an active community around your website is key to succeed in the online world. That’s why WordPress forum plugins came into the picture a while ago and their usage has been on the rise ever since. In this post, we’ll have a look at some of the best forum addons for WordPress that will help you increase engagement on your site.

However, before we talk about the plugins, let’s better understand the context of forums. Before Facebook became popular around the world in the early 2010s, forums were so widespread that they covered almost every single topic: cars, sports, gardening, fashion, kitchen, art, and many others. People with the same hobbies and interests were able to gather together creating topics/discussions, sharing experiences, exchanging tips, and so on. Then, when Facebook came into play, many forums became fan pages or Facebook groups.

Even though some online independent forums started to dwindle in size and quantity, the idea behind them remained untouched. And that explains why many large forums are still going strong. Forums like Reddit, Quora, Github, Medium, and many others are still very popular around the world.

The biggest WordPress websites are aware of this trend so they use forum plugins to improve their engagement and build a community.

Why Use WordPress Forum Plugins

Besides helping you create a community of people with the same interests, high-level WordPress forum plugins also offer other features like a Q&A board or social network relating functionalities. With these tools, you can build your community and provide value to your users.

Benefits of forum plugins

Still unsure why your site needs a forum plugin? Let’s have a look at some of their benefits:

  • Create a community: Having a WordPress forum creates an inevitable bond between a website and its customers. If you give them a common space where they can learn more about their interests and make new friends, they will feel a part of that space and come back often. So you can use the forum as a platform to spread the word, get your products known and loved by loyal visitors.
  • Solve customers’ problems: WordPress forums can be a great way to solve your customers’ problems too. Set up a Support discussion box in your forum so people can ask for help. If the problem has already been discussed, you won’t even have to provide support. People will discuss and help each other unless the issue is new or very unusual and you’ll have to be the hero yourself.
  • Improve SEO: Using WordPress forum plugins helps you boost your SEO too. Forums attract users looking for information or help and create new content. Should you have a thread that is so attractive with long discussions and plenty of valuable knowledge, chances are that the thread will become so popular that it tops SERP rankings. And your SEO and domain authority will go up.

See the power of WordPress forum plugins yet? Now that you know why they’re important, you have to decide which one to choose. There are many options out there and it can be tricky to know which is the right one for your site. So today, we’ll have a look at the best forum plugins for WordPress and help you find your best fit for 2020.

Best WordPress forum plugins for 2021

The best WordPress forum plugins are:

  1. bbPress
  2. BuddyPress
  3. Discussion Board
  4. DW Question and Answer
  5. WPSymposium Pro
  6. WPForo Forum
  7. Forum Engine
  8. Sabai Discuss
  9. ForumWP

Let’s have a look at what each of these tools has to offer.

1. bbPress

bbPress has been in the game for a long time and it’s one of the forum plugins with the best reputation. It offers many functionalities and it’s very easy to use so it’s an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced uses. Moreover, this is an open-source tool, which attracts many developers to contribute to it. The advantages are clear: regular updates with bugs fixed and new features.

In short, bbPress’ main features are:

  • Various customization tools for editing colors, adding shortcuts, visual editor, and more
  • 200+ extensions to upgrade your forum (avatar, attachments, social sharing)
  • Easy-to-use with simple steps for setting up forums
  • Multisite forums available, you can manage them all from one dashboard
  • Multiple templates with different colors and styles
  • Many more

Price: Save the best for last. bbPress is 100% free of charge.

2. BuddyPress

Just like bbPress, BuddyPress has long been one of the most respected forum plugins. Being another official WordPress plugin, it enjoys a lot of privileges since it has similar coding practices and standards.

So what exactly can you do with BuddyPress?

  • Multiple forum features such as user profiles, activity streams, groups, messaging, and more
  • Third-party plugins integration enabled, which means that you can combine it with other add-ons to build an even better forum
  • Open-source platform with regular updates
  • With its wide range of features, you can build your social network

Price: And to compete with bbPress in terms of becoming the most-loved WordPress forum plugin of all time, BuddyPress costs you absolutely nothing.

3. Discussion Board

Discussion Board is another top WordPress tool for building a forum that emphasizes discussions, messages, and Q&A. It lets you add a new post time, registration, and login form. Then, your users can set up topics, questions, and reply to others.

One of the features that make Discussion Board stand out from other tools is the ability to assign user roles. This means that you can work out who can do what: those who can access your discussion board, who can make comments, or just view them.

In short, some of its main features are:

  • User-friendly and easy to set up
  • Multiple features for you to explore such as automatic setup, anti-spam fields, shortcodes, and more
  • It allows you to assign user roles as elaborated above
  • You can create sub-forums and set different user permissions for each one
  • Mobile-friendly

Price: Discussion Board is a freemium tool: there’s a free version with basic features and the premium package which starts at 49 USD per year.

4. DW Question and Answer

One more alternative for those who simply want to have a professional Q&A platform on their site is DW Question and Answer. You probably know Quora, don’t you? This plugin works just like it, which explains why it’s one of the best WordPress forum plugins.

So what other features does it offer?

  • Immediate search by keywords
  • 11+ languages supported
  • Captcha support to fight spam
  • Shortcodes
  • Users can vote for answers. The most voted answers will appear at the top so they can easily be spotted
  • Advanced Permission Setting (APS) to limit what each user role can do in the discussions
  • 8 widgets

Price: DW Question and Answer has a free version with basic features. For more advanced features, you can get the premium version that costs 29 USD.

5. WPSymposium Pro

WPSymposium Pro is one of the top WordPress forum plugins because it is the ultimate alternative for BuddyPress with even more features. So it won’t give you just a Q&A system, but a full-fledged social network.

Its main features include:

  • Social network elements: user profiles, activity wall, email alerts, the ability to send friend requests and join forums, and more
  • Shortcodes that allow color adjusting, fonts, and button customization
  • Multiple independent add-ons
  • Detailed documentation

Price: WPSymposium Pro is a premium plugin that starts at 59 USD for 12 months. There’s also a lifetime version for 99 USD (one-time payment).

6. WPForo Forum

WPForo Forum is like the modern version of bbPress. The color scheme is trendy and the thread organization is up-to-date. Besides this, it comes with modern and responsive forum layouts and styles. In short, there are great chances that you will master using WPForo Forum in no time.

Apart from that, this WordPress forum plugin also comes with:

  • Built-in SEO and catching functions so you can target the right audience
  • Translation ready to serve customers from different countries
  • Antispam and Akismet included
  • Social media share buttons
  • 4 layouts and designs
  • 6 color styles

Price: The best part is that WPForo Forum is free of charge. It earns revenue from selling add-ons, which range from 11 USD to 95 USD.

7. ForumEngine

Developed by Engine Themes, ForumEngine is a little bit different from the rest. As suggested from the title, it is an “engine” optimized for more social interaction that turns your site into a discussion hub. And interestingly, this is a theme. So by using this theme, you will also have a forum.

But what else can this forum plugin do?

  • Interactive forum at its peak: users can post, like, pose questions, reply, and more
  • User badges system
  • Many customization and styling options to adapt the forum to the look and feel of your site
  • Ajax live search integrated
  • Plenty of widgets with multiple functions

Price: ForumEngine is a paid theme that starts at 49 USD for 12 months of support. If you’re not sure if this tool is for you, you can check out their demo.

8. Sabai Discuss

Sabai Discuss earns its place in the top 10 best WordPress forum plugins partly thanks to the good feedback it gets on CodeCanyon: 4,5 out of 5 stars from nearly 300 reviews. This tool is a great option for those who want to build their forums like a discussion stream with Q&A related tools, voting system, and abuse report system.

Some of the main functionalities that Sabai Discuss offers are:

  • Points systems integration, like MyCRED and Cubepoints
  • Voting and user reputation system
  • Flexible access control that allows you to restrict users from seeing certain boards
  • 05 shortcodes and 09 WordPress widgets included for designing purposes
  • Abuse report system that lets other users tell you in case of misbehavior
  • Great support service

Price: Sabai Discuss is a premium add-on that’s available for a one-time payment of 23 USD.

9. ForumWP

Released early this year, ForumWP quickly became one of the best WordPress forum plugins for 2020. With a very clean design, this tool is known for having a modern look, for being extremely fast, and easy to set up.

Apart from those functionalities, ForumWP comes with 3 basic modules and 4 premium ones that you can purchase and create the forum that best fits your needs.

To sum up, this plugin’s main features are:

  • Fast and lightweight
  • Modern design and user experience at their highest
  • Easy to use, perfect for beginners
  • Different layouts
  • 3 basic modules and 4 premium ones

Price: ForumWP is a premium plugin that has 3 plans. The cheapest one starts at 99 USD/year for 1 site.

WordPress Forum Plugins: Which one should I choose?

All in all, if you want to build a community around your site to improve engagement and SEO, installing a forum plugin for WordPress is an excellent move.

All these 9 options are great in their way but if you’re not sure which one to pick, the key is to keep in mind your needs. Do you need a sophisticated forum with a lot of functionalities or do you just need something that does the job for a start? If you’re new to this kind of tool, you could start with bbPress or BuddyPress as they both have huge communities and are free.

On the other hand, if you have experience with forum tools and you want something with premium features, ForumWP and Sabai Discuss are two very trustworthy options.

What other forum add-ons do you know that should be on our list? Please let us know in the comment section below!