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Integrating Forums with WordPress

24 Apr

+ 3

There are three viable options if you want to leverage WordPress as your Content Management System, yet want to offer your users a way to interact in a forum.

  • bbPress
  • phpbb
  • vBulletin

bbPress

bbPress logo
bbPress is a very lean forum solution for WordPress written by Automatic.  It is a great idea for a quick and dirty forum that works.  Theming works similarly to WordPress – so if you enjoy writing themes in WordPress, this will be easy.

I had to install it in a subdirectory. Trying to install it in the same directory as WordPress causes a battle over index.php since they both need it.

For the most part, you just need to install it, and follow the directions. Here are my tips:

  1. Make sure bb-config.php is writeable.  I didn’t find that out I needed to until I got an error message.
  2. When it is asking you for the “salt” strings, you can go here to view it if needed: /wp-admin/options.php
  3. I didnt read this until after my first attempt, but by following this you should be fine:
    http://www.wpmods.com/integrate-wordpress-bbpress

Mods:

Latest Discussion For WordPress – This will allow you to see the forum posts in your wordpress sidebar

Notes:

If you can’t get to the bbPress Admin Site after integration, just delete the following keys in your bbPress database that refer to the WordPress database.

bb-press-database-fix

After spending several hours trying to figure out how I broke the bbPress Admin Site, I gave up and just installed bbPress into the WordPress database.

phpBB

phpBB logo
phpBB is a much more robust (bloated) forum.  And the integration is done with one major plugin, WP-United.

You must follow directions exactly.  There are about 30 files you need to edit, and if you zone out and start watching ESPN, it isn’t going to end happy for you.

There are over 20 code changes you need to make in the phpBB files, and the instructions sometimes say “replace”, “add before” and “add after”.  It is easy to overlook these and add your code after a line instead of before.

Once it is installed, you can use various Template Tags in your WordPress theme to show forum posts and statistics.

Theming is also really nice – there are files you can edit just like bbPress.  You just need to learn some of the phpBB conventions they use in the HTML.

Notes

  • I couldn’t get the logged in user to show logged in under comments.
  • Basic features like adding users by an administrator requires an additional plugin.
  • If you have to upgrade phpBB in the future, you will have to make all those edits all over again.

vBulletin

vBulletin logo
vBulletin is extremely robust, but so much so that it is really hard to figure out where to configure various settings.  But because of the large user community, a simple google or vBulletin forum search will tell you where to look.

vBulletin is not free like phpBB or bbPress, but you do get what you pay for.  You get free Technical Support, and for a little more money you can even get free telephone support.

You can view an online demo on their site before you purchase, and if you buy it and change your mind, you can get your money back within 30 days.

The major benefit with vBulletin is that it opens the door for you to start charging for paid membership.  vBulletin integrates with many payment providers and can charge one time or recurring.

Mods

vBulletin-Wordpress Bridge:  This will map vBulletin user groups to WordPress user groups and allow single sign on.  Just make sure you follow the instructions and go to fast.  (Do the test post before you go and turn it on all the way.)

Simple vB Login – This gives us our login form on the WordPress side.

If you want to access the vBulletin user, you need to put “global $vbulletin;” in the login_inc.php and possibly the header.php of your theme.

Hidepost (custom) – The normal Hidepost plugin allows you to hide content from various user groups.  I changed hidepost to look at $vbulletin user instead of wordpress user (although you may not always have to do that).

Notes:

  • Logging into vBulletin is confusing.  You can login at vbulletin.com, but all your user information is on members.vbulletin.com.  And then you have to add an email address to your account to access vbulletin.org where the user community and mods are located.

Summary

  • If you think a forum would be nice, but you don’t know if it will be successful or not, go with bbPress.
  • If you want a full featured forum, no matter how complex, go with vBulletin.
  • If you think you would EVER want to have a paid membership with hidden content, you must use vBulletin.
  • If you like the idea that you can email or call someone for help, use vBulletin.
  • If you like the features of vBulletin, but you REALLY don’t want to spend the money, then go with phpBB.

Thanks for the link Scott.

I wrote an article the other week about which forums integrate with WordPress (publishes this Monday).

PhpBB is definitely one of the best free forum scripts. Though I like Simple Machines a little more, plus punBB is good too.

Good post :)

Hi Kevin,

I am doing a talk on this subject in a few hours – I will mention that they will be able to read about those too on Monday. Heck, it will probably be a better post.

These were more of my notes for my speech than a great post. I plan to come back and fill it in more after the talk.

[...] Scott Elkin discusses the basics of integrating WordPress installations with forum software packages, specifically bbPress, phpBB, and VBulletin. Presenter’s notes on this talk are available here. [...]

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