When it comes to WordPress, most people will think of blogging. Yes, it is indeed a blogging CMS, but over the years, it has evolved to more than a blogging platform. In fact, there are tons of stuff that you can do with it, including transforming it into a forum. Nope, we are not talking about the popular bbPress, but the lesser known SimplePress which is not found in the WP plugin repository.
SimplePress is a forum plugin for WordPress. It is free to download and use and once activated, it transforms your site into a fully functional forum with just a few clicks. It also comes with plenty of configuration options and support for custom plugins and themes.
1. Download, extract and place the simple-press folder in the “wp-content -> Plugins” folder. In the dashboard, go to the Plugins section and activate the simple-press plugin.
2. Once you have activated the plugin, go to the Forum section and click “Perform Installation”.
The installation will create a “sp-resources” folder under the “wp-content” directory. This is the forum-specific folder and all the configurations files, custom plugins and themes will be placed in this folder. It will also create the necessary database table to hold the forum data. Lastly, it will create a “Forum” page where you can view all the forum activities. Once it is installed, you can go to http://yousite.com/forum and view the forum in action. This is how it looks like with the twentyeleven theme:
3. On the Forum section, there are tons of things you can configure, from Groups, SEO settings, Moderators, Users, Users permission, Maintenance to install custom plugins and themes. If you have experience in administering a forum, you will not have problems handling these options. For those who have never handle a forum, there are also “Help” buttons on each section so you can easily click to view the instructions for configuring the options.
4. The forum has a “default” theme. You can download new themes from the SimplePress site (only 3 basic themes are free). To install the theme, first place the theme in the “wp-content -> sp-resources -> forum-themes” folder. Next, in the WordPress dashboard, go to “Forum -> Themes” and select the new theme.
As can be seen above, it is very easy to integrate a forum into your WordPress site. With a few clicks, you can get a forum up and running. I have tried bbPress previously and found that it requires more configuration than SimplePress. For that, I really appreciate what SimplePress has done to make the whole setting up process a breeze. On the other hand, bbPress has better support and there are tons of plugins (free and useful) that you can use. And if you are a developer, it is much easier to modify bbPress code than SimplePress since it is more similar to the WordPress structure. SimplePress is free to download and use, but there is absolutely no support for the public. You will need to sign up as a member (with a subscription fee) to receive support, access the documentation and download custom plugins and themes. One thing though, you won’t be able to view what custom plugins and themes they have until you have signed up as a member. I am not sure how many of you will sign up for a membership before you know what they have to offer, but for sure, they won’t get my business based on the non-existent information on their site.
What do you think?