A client recently requested that I install a forum in their WordPress website. They wanted the forum to be integrated with WordPress if possible. After installing and using bbPress and SimplePress, I decided to use SimplePress. Find out why.
The Forum Requirements
The client had specific requirements for the forum:
- If possible, the forum would be a WordPress plugin and be integrated with WordPress and WordPress users.
- The forum should be easy to use for both forum users, moderators, and administrators.
- Provide the ability to create multiple forums within the forum; for example, trainers and instructors.
- Provide the ability to restrict forums to members only with no access to the public.
- Provide the ability to create two member groups: trainers and instructors.
- Instructors can view and contribute to only the Instructors forum.
- Trainers can view and contribute to Trainers and Instructors forum.
- Provide the ability to assign multiple members as forum administrators.
- Administrators can add or remove members.
- Administrators can moderate any forum.
- Administrators cannot change forum settings.
- Provide the ability to assign moderators to a specific forum.
- The forum moderator can edit or delete forum topics or posts.
- The forum moderator can close forum topics.
- Users can create new topics in forums to which they have access; for example, an instructor can create topics or post replies to topics in the Instructor forum.
If you’ve ever worked with dedicated forum software such as Simple Machines Forum or phpbb forum software, the requirements I listed above are standard functions for users, moderators, and administrators.
bbPress – Not Ready for Prime Time
I read many positive reviews of bbPress and assumed we would use it for this project. Furthermore, because bbPress is created and maintained by Automatic, the same company that created WordPress, I assumed it would be a great forum tool.
I was wrong. Out of the box, bbPress did not fulfill any of the requirements above. In fact, the only thing it can do out of the box is to allow you to create a forum with sub forums.
Supposedly, you can create public or hidden forums in bbPress, but at the time I was testing the software, this feature did not work and was a known bug. Also, although you could create private forums, you could not assign users to groups and groups to forums. As a result, only registered users can see hidden forums and any registered users can see ANY hidden forum. What’s more, even if a forum was hidden, a public user could still see the topic titles!
From reading the bbPress forum, I found out that by using a WordPress Access-Control plugin, I could create user groups and then restrict forum access to those groups. But I after hours of testing, I could not get this to work.
And the documentation is terrible. It was very difficult for me to figure out how to use bbPress and fulfill the project requirements.
Enter Simple:Press – The Name Says it All
Because of the limitation of bbPress, I had to look for another solution. My choice was to use dedicated forum software such as Simple Machines forum, or find another WordPress forum plugin. Although Simple Machines or phpbb forum software fulfilled the requirements, they are both difficult to use for administrators.
Then I found Simple:Press. Simple:Press, out of the box, with no plugins, was able to fulfill all of the requirements I listed. What’s more, it was pretty easy to set up and has good documentation to guide you.
Simple:Press is free, but to get the plugins, which extend its capabilities, and for full documentation and forum support, you must buy a membership. A two month membership costs $39 and a 12 month membership costs $99. I know there are many people who think all software should be free, especially if it’s related to WordPress, but the price is fare and worth it if you need the plugins or the documentation.
If you need a full-featured forum that integrates with WordPress, I highly recommend Simple:Press.
Note: On the site where I installed Simple:Press, I just upgraded to WordPress 3.8 and also upgraded Simple:Press and had no problems.