Which Forum Script Should You Use With Your WordPress Powered Website?

I’m a huge fan of discussion forums. They are a fantastic way of encouraging people to return to your website on a daily basis. I’ve ran several forums over the last 10 years and still actively participate in a few as well. Forums thrive on websites which have a lot of content for visitors, so they work well with established blogs and content websites.

There are a lot of forum options available to you, some good, some not so good. For WP Mods I chose bbPress, the lightweight forum solution from the makers of WordPress. This integrates with WordPress well and allows you to use your blogs database for user roles i.e. visitors don’t need to sign up to both your blog and your forum since one login will work with both.

Many other forum scripts allow this too using what is known as a WordPress bridge. The bridge makes sure that member information is shared or copied from the blog database to the forum. This is worth doing if you require visitors to sign up to your site to read the content or make a comment.

However, for most websites I don’t think the user information needs to be shared between WordPress and the Forum script as 99% of people will only be signing up to the forum. And as I showed two weeks ago, it is very easy to customise the design of a forum so that it blends in with the rest of your website; all you need to do is make sure it uses the same stylesheet and has the same header and footer.

So don’t be put off by how well a forum script integrates with WordPress as most of the time the forum works better as a stand alone script anyway and users will not even know a different script is being used since the design is similar to the main site (doesn’t have to be but I think it looks better!).

Today I will be looking at some of the best forum scripts on the web and looking into the pros and cons of using them. I hope this article makes your decision of which forum to use much easier :)

* List is in alphabetical order for easy reference :)

Premium Forum Software


Fusion BB – $149

A basic forum script which is difficult to recommend because of it’s high price tag.

Fusion BB Forum Software

Pros: Includes portal and gallery modules
Cons: Expensive, Lacking advanced features
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Fusion BB


G Forums – $29

G Forums is another WordPress plugin which lets you add a forum to your site. However, it works differently from Simple Press. Instead of adding a forum to your blog, it changes your blog to a forum by using displaying blog posts as forum posts.

gForums WordPress Forum Script

Pros: Easy to install
Cons: Expensive for such a basic script, Why change WordPress into a forum when there are fantastic forum scripts available for free, Using G Forums would require you to have two WordPress installations on your site
WordPress Bridge: Since this plugin changes WordPress from a blog to a forum, there is no way currently available to integrate G Forums with another blog

Download: G Forums


Invision Power Board – $149.99

Invision has come on leaps and bounds since I used it frequently years ago (when it was free). It has now pushed away from the opposition and become the only viable contender for vBulletins crown.

Invision Power Board

Pros: Lots of advanced features, Great Support, Thousands of hooks and plugins available
Cons: Expensive
WordPress Bridge: A bridge existed for the older free version of Invision. No bridge currently exists for the current version though a WordPress to IP Content converter is rumoured to be released sometime this year.

Download: Invision Power Board


UBB Threads – $139

One of the oldest forum scripts on the net, UBB Threads has been kicking around since 1997. In my opinion the software looks very dated now. This script costs $139 and there are much better free options available elsewhere.

UBB Threads Forum Software

Pros: Includes optional portal
Cons: Very expensive, Dated script, Lacks a lot of features
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: UBB Threads


Ultra BB – $99

An ok forum script which doesn’t do enough to justify it’s high price tag.

Ultra BB Forum Software

Pros: Decent features
Cons: Expensive, Not enough features to justify price, Better alternatives available for free
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Ultra BB


vBulletin – $195

In my opinion vBulletin is by far the best forum software available on the web. Retailing at $195 for an owned license, vBulletin is the most advanced and feature rich forum script available today.

vBulletin Forum Script

Pros: Advanced Features, Easy to customise, Frequent updates, Great support, Huge modification community
Cons: Expensive
WordPress Bridge: A bridge exists for vBulletin 3.8 but nothing is currently available for vBulletin 4.0 (the latest release). Has some limitations but apparently the bridge works ok once it’s set up.

Download: vBulletin


WowBB – $99

A terribly poor forum script which hasn’t been updated in years. Strangely, it is still being sold for $99. Avoid this one.

Wow BB Forum Software

Cons: Expensive, Basic script which is very dated, Not updated anymore
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: WowBB

Open Source Forum Software


Advanced Electron Forum – Free

A lesser known forum script which resembles an older version of phpBB.

Advanced Electron Forum

Pros: Free, Integrated shoutbox and news system
Cons: Small support community (though active), Less features than other free forum scripts
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Advanced Electron Forum


bbPress – Free

bbPress is a lightweight forum solution from Automattic, the developers of WordPress.

bbPress Forum Script

Pros: Free, Integrates with WordPress well, Fast, Easy to Customise
Cons: Very basic script, Limited features, Very little modifications and plugins available
WordPress Bridge: Integrates with WordPress easily. You can integrate bbPress with your WordPress blog during the installation process.

Download: bbPress


BeeHive Forums – Free

A strange forum script which uses frames to display pages. The project hasn’t been updated much in the last year therefore it’s not software I would recommend.

BeeHive Forum Script

Pros: Free
Cons: Uses frames, basic script, no recent updates and poor support
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: BeeHive Forums


Deluxe BB – Free

A basic forum which hasn’t had an official update for around a year.

Deluxe BB Forum Software

Pros: Free, Easy to use
Cons: Basic, Inactive support community
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Deluxe BB


E-Blah – Free

Whilst not as popular as many other open source forum scripts, E-Blah is a good script and has some interesting features.

E-Blah Forum Software

Pros: Free, Includes portal option, Some unique features
Cons: Quite basic compared to some other scripts, Small support community
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: E-Blah


Elite Board – Free

By their own words Elite Board is ‘Simple Yet Advanced’. However you will find it difficult to see any advanced features on this script. Even their support forum is littered with PHP and MySQL errors.

Elite BB Forum Software

Pros: Free
Cons: Basic features, Poorly designed, Buggy
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Elite Board


Flux BB

Based on the code from PunBB, Flux BB is almost identical to it’s parent script. It’s too similar at the moment though we should see Flux BB development go in a different direction from PunBB over the next year or so.

Flux BB Forum Software

Pros: Free, Fast, Easy to modify
Cons: Identical to PunBB, Still a relatively new project so future is unknown
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Flux BB


FUD Forum

A fast forum script which has some good features such as the ability to import XML feeds and sync with usenet groups and mailing lists.

FUD Forum Software

Pros: Free, Some interesting unique features
Cons: Basic design
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: FID Forum


Group Server – Free

Group Server is a really basic forum script so it’s suitable for those who need a very simple forum solution.

Group Server

Pros: Free, Perfect for those who don’t want anything fancy
Cons: Very basic
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Group Server


HaveFnuBB! – Free

A light forum option which would suit those who aren’t looking for anything fancy.

HaveFnuBB Forum Software

Pros: Free, Simple design, Easy to use
Cons: Basic features
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: HaveFnuBB!


IceBB – Free

A fast open source forum solution which has been around since 2004.
iceBB Forum Software

Pros: Free, Fast, Nice design
Cons: Lacking advanced features
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: IceBB


J Forum – Free

Quite blatantly a ripp of version 2 of phpBB. No releases in over a year so this is another one to avoid.

J Forum

Pros: Free
Cons: Rip off of phpBB2, Inactive community, Not been updated in over a year
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: J Forum


Meta Forum – Free

A basic forum script which uses Ajax. It’s currently still in a beta stage.

Meta Forum

Pros: Free, Easy to use
Cons: Very basic
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Meta Forum


Mini BB – Free

A simple forum script which boasts a lot of great features. Perfect for those who are looking for a basic forum script.

MiniBB Forum Software

Pros: Free, Easy to use, Fast
Cons: Lacks a lot of modern features
WordPress Bridge: There is an official guide on how to synchronize miniBB with the existing membership and an official guide on how you can integrate miniBB with a WordPress theme.

Download: Mini BB


mvnForum – Free

A forum script which comes in 2 versions. The open source version is free. The enterprise edition is a ridiculous $1,499. There is much better forum software available for free. Look elsewhere.

mvnForum

Cons: Very basic, Lacking in features, Better alternatives
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: mvnForum


MW Forum – Free

A basic open source script which uses Perl (most forums use PHP). What it lacks in features it makes up in speed.

mwForum

Pros: Free, Very fast
Cons: Basic
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: MW Forum


MyBB – Free

A free forum solution which has a decent archive of themes and plugins. Worth checking out.

MyBB Forum Script

Pros: Free, Good selection of free themes and mods, Active community
Cons: Lacking some advanced features
WordPress Bridge: A bridge called WordBB is available which merges the user tables. It requires a plugin for MyBB to be installed in order to work.

Download: MyBB


MyProBB – Free

A forum script which looks very similar to an old version of phpBB.

My ProBB Forum Software

Pros: Free, Easy to use
Cons: Basic, Lacking many features
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: MyProBB


NovaBoard – Free

A free forum script which has a good design, is fast, and is easy to use. Worth checking out.

NovaBoard Forum Software

Pros: Free, Easy to install, Alternative design, Regular updates
Cons: Lacking in features, Small support community
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: NovaBoard


Phorum – Free

First developed in 1998, Phorum is one of the oldest forum scripts on the web. Unfortunately, it’s development has fell behind some other open source scripts.

Phorum Forum Script

Pros: Free, Easy to install and modify
Cons: Quite basic, Dated features
WordPress Bridge: There’s a big demand for a WordPress bridge in the community but it nothing has been released as yet.

Download: Phorum


PhpBB – Free

One of the most popular free forum scripts on the net, phpBB has been around since 2000. You may have come across it before as auto installers for it exist in most cPanel hosting areas. Worth checking out.

phpBB Forum Script

Pros: Free, Large collection of free designs, Easy to use
Cons: Lacks some advanced features
WordPress Bridge: A few bridge plugins exist such as PHPBB Single Sign On and WP United.

Download: phpBB


PunBB – Free

A great alternative to other popular open source forum scripts such as phpBB, PunBB has quite rightly build up a loyal following of fans.

punBB Forum Script

Pros: Free, Quick, Easy to modify
Cons: Lacks advanced features
WordPress Bridge: Nona available at present

Download: PunBB


Quicksilver Forums – Free

A free forum script which is based on the Mercury Board forum software. Unfortunately, the script hasn’t been updated since 2008 so it’s highly unlikely you will get any support in their support forums.

Quicksilver Forum Software

Pros: Free, Easy to use
Cons: Basic, Not updated anymore
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Quicksilver Forums

SEO Board – Free

A really basic looking forum script.

SEO Board Forum Software

Pros: Free
Cons: Basic, Poor design, Inactive support community
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: SEO Board


Simple Machines – Free

From the dust of Yet Another Bulletin Board came Simple Machines. SMF is my favourite free forum script as it’s easy to use and has a good choice of free template designs available.

Simple Machines Forum Script

Pros: Free, Very easy to use, Easy to customise design
Cons: Not as advanced as some other scripts
WordPress Bridge: There are lots of WordPress plugins which bridge the user tables. Try out WP & SMF, SMF2WP or SMF Bridge.

Download: Simple Machines


Simple Press – Free

Simple Press is a free WordPress plugin which adds a forum to your WordPress blog. Since it is a plugin and not a forum script, Simple Press integrates perfectly with WordPress. Therefore you do not need to spend time customising the forum as it will use your blogs design.

SimplePress Forum Script

Pros: Free, No need to integrate design, Perfect for those who do not want to spend time skinning their design
Cons: Not as advanced as other scripts, Limited number of forum skins available
WordPress Bridge: N/A

Download: Simple Press


TairoBB – Free

A basic forum script which isn’t updated much anymore.

TairoBB Forum Software

Pros: Free, Easy to use
Cons: Very basic features, Inactive support community
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: TairoBB


Ultimate PHP Board – Free

A simple forum script which has not been updated since 2009.

myUPB Forum Software

Pros: Free
Cons: Basic, Lacking advanced features, Inactive support community
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Ultimate PHP Board


UseBB – Free

A lite but super fast forum solution. A good choice for those for those who like minimalism.

UseBB Forum Software

Pros: Free, Good design, Updated regularly, Very fast
Cons: Lacks some advanced features
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: UseBB


Unclassified NewsBoard – Free

An older styled open source bulletin board system that hasn’t been updated since 2009.

Unclassified NewsBoard Forum Software

Pros: Free, Easy to use
Cons: Basic features, Basic design, Not regularly updated, Inactive support community
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Unclassified NewsBoard


Vanilla – Free

A lightweight forum solution which is perfect for those who aren’t looking for a lot of features. The admin area looks very similar to WordPress so you should feel right at home!

Vanilla Forum Scripts

Pros: Free, Great design, Fast, Easy to install and use
Cons: Not suitable for those who are looking for advanced features
WordPress Bridge: This bridge for Vanilla was written 3 or 4 years ago but it supposedly still works with the latest version.

Download: Vanilla


Viscacha – Free

A free forum script which has an integrated content management system.

Viscacha Forum Software

Pros: Free, Easy to use
Cons: Quite basic, No need for a CMS if you are using WordPress for your main site
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Viscacha


XMBForum – Free

A lightweight forum script which was popular a few years ago. It hasn’t been updated since early 2009.

XMB Forum

Pros: Free, Decent range of of themes available
Cons: Lacking some advanced features, no longer updated
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: XMB Forum


Yazd – Free

The oddly named Yazd is a very simple script which hasn’t been updated in some time. It looks very dated in my opinion.

Yazd Forum Software

Pros: Free
Cons: Not updated anymore, Basic, Looks very dated
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Yazd


Yet Another Forum – Free

An open source discussion forum script which uses the ASP.net programming language. The default design is big, fresh and colourful. Worth checking out, though make sure your host is able to run ASP scripts.

Yet Another Forum

Pros: Free, Good design, Easy to use
Cons: Lacking advanced features
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Yet Another Forum


Yet Another Bulletin Board – Free

A perl forum discussion script which is nearly 10 years old, YABB is one of the better looking free forum scripts.

Yet Another Bulletin Board

Pros: Free, Good design, Easy to use
Cons: Small support community
WordPress Bridge: None available

Download: Yet Another Bulletin Board


Other Forum Scripts

A list of some lesser known forum scripts which aren’t updated that frequently. You may have came across them in your search for the right forum script.

  • bttlxeForum – A rip off of version 2 of phpBB. The main difference being it’s programmed in ASP rather than PHP.
  • BurningBoard – Incredibly expensive for a very basic script. Not recommended.
  • DevoyBB – A dated script which hasn’t been updated since 2005.
  • dnfBB – A horrible looking script which was programmed using ASP.NET. Only worth mentioning this terrible software so that you don’t use it!
  • Drupal Forums – Primarily a content management system, Drupal has a forum module which adds a basic forum to a Drupal installation.
  • EvilBoard – A poor script which hasn’t been updated in years.
  • Forumotion – A free hosted forum solution.
  • FUD Forum
  • JavaBB – A Java based forum which is based on phpBB.
  • Lefora – A free hosted forum solution.
  • Mercury Board – Official forums not working due to error so best avoiding this one. However, if you like the look of this board be sure to check out Quicksilver Forums as it’s based on the Mercury Board code.
  • n2 – Still in early beta.
  • Nabble – An incredibly basic hosted forum solution.
  • OvBB – A lightweight forum script which imitates vBulletin 2.
  • PapyrusBB – A simple looking script which hasn’t been updated since 2008.
  • SamePage – A basic forum script which has a stupidly expensive pricing scheme.
  • VikingBoard – Another dated script which hasn’t been updated in several years.
  • Zoho Discussions – A hosted forum service with prices ranging from free to over $75 per month, depending on how many forum rooms you use.

Overview

I have used the several of these forum scripts over the years. Some of them I used on a few occasions whilst I just tried out others to see if they were in any good. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses.

I encourage you to try out a few different scripts to see which you prefer; both from a usability and an administrator point of view. My personal recommendation would be to try bbPress or Vanilla if you want a basic forum which is fast loading, Simple Machines, PunBB or phpBB if you want a feature rich forum script which doesn’t need to you hand over any money, and vBulletin or Invision Power Board if you want the best forum software money can buy.

I’d also recommend checking out the WordPress plugin Simple Press if you don’t fancy spending time customising the design to match the rest of your site.

I would love to hear what your favourite forum software is and why. Please feel free to post a link to your forum if you have one as it will allow others to see how a forum can be integrated with a website.

Good luck,
Kevin

This article was authored by:

Kevin Muldoon is a professional blogger with a love of travel. He writes regularly about topics such as WordPress, Blogging, Productivity, Internet Marketing and Social Media on his personal blog and and provides technical support at Rise Forums. He can also be found on Twitter: @KevinMuldoon and Google+.

Kevin Muldoon has authored 830 posts.Visit Website

Showing 29 Comments

  • Nice roundup here, pros and cons of all are spot-on. Used bbPress and Simple Press both in the past for simple forum add-ons and they’ve been just fine.

    REPLY
  • Kevin (Admin)

    Yeah I chose bbPress for here too. It’s a very very basic forum, but it does everything I am looking for.

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  • Thanks for the review and publicity guys (WPMods).

    I’m the project manager of NovaBoard, and it’s great that people like us!

    We like to think our software is vastly different to other offerings, and that’s why we’re currently planning our new release. The new release will take some time to code and test etc, but I promise it will be worth the wait!

    James (on behalf of NovaBoard)

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  • Kevin (Admin)

    Thanks for commentating. Yeah I liked the look at Novaboard. It’s quite a competitive market for free forum software, so I can appreciate how difficult it is for new forums to make a name for themselves.

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  • Exhaustive list!
    I prefer and recommend bbPress. It can do anything we want it to and that too very nicely without a burden on your server resources like others do.
    I would like to add that G forums which works on WordPress is a cool idea which was already discussed earlier by the community and I would like to point out that a WordPress install can be integrated with other WordPress install(s) very nicely. But the downside is that G forums is not free.

    Simple Press is also an option for those with basic forum needs but I will blend bbPress to play nicely with WordPress instead as its run faster than even WordPress (so why run Simple Press – a plugin on WordPress).

    Ashfame

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  • Kevin (Admin)

    bbPress is good. As you say, it won’t burden your server. However, it’s not perfect for a lot of forums. I added it to WP Mods as it’s perfect for support type forums. Though I don’t think it’s a great script for building a good community as it lacks a lot of features.

    I wasn’t impressed with G Forums to be honest. It turns wordpress into a forum therefore wordpress can’t be used as it normally would. So in that sense it should be considered a stand alone script and there are much better alternatives.

    Simple Press looks pretty good, certainly for those who want things to blend in with their blog easily :)

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  • thanks for doing your homework – i have tested out several and so far here are my results

    mwforum – very fast indeed – complicated install and setup – support is there but not very helpful

    fluxbb – great support community – easy install – not a whole lot of mods and themes (yet)

    usebb – simple and very fast great for simple projects and easy maintenance

    metaforum – looks to be a great script but really hard to tell if this forum is being actively developed – no roadmaps or goals set – its just kind of there – current install of it works but not all features work -

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  • Kevin (Admin)

    That’s the problem with a lot of the newer forum scripts. I think that competition is healthy and a lot of new ideas will come from new projects. However, because the size of the community is small there is less support, less updates and less mods available.

    REPLY
  • Thanks kevin but there is support community (viva themes). So no one should have any problem if one have then he can have his issue solved there.

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  • WOW, I can’t believe there are these many free forum scripts out there, but unfortunately, only a few integrate with WP

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  • I am so glad I found your blog! Information like this is always useful to me and helps me better my own blog. Thanks so much!

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • We are currently trying out Facebook comments on WP Mods.

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  • Great review, which you guys think is the best SEO friendly one?

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  • Hello everyone I just wanted to introduce me personally. If you have any queries please request. I’m sorry regarding my poor english

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  • Hi everybody I just desired to introduce myself. For those who have questions don’t hesitate to request. Sorry regarding my personal poor language

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  • Ron S

    Wondering whether bbPress supports multiple forums and multi-party realtime chats?

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  • orangefreeurl

    ï»Â¿http://alfafiles.tk/?d=4F4E17921
     
    Click above link for free downloading vbulletin

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  • Carb Backloading 1.0

    Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search Engine
    Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains.

    If you know of any please share. Many thanks!

    REPLY

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