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Using bbPress Forums to Community Power Your WordPress Blog

A couple of weeks ago I had an email from Terry Ng from Kineda (a great fashion site) telling me about how they’d been using WordPress and bbPress together to create an innovative site. I asked Terry if she’d tell us what they’ve done and how they’ve done it. Here is her guest post on using bbPress and WordPress together.

Kineda is a blog where young trendsetters come to read about the latest in fashion and lifestyle. It’s a very large and fast paced niche that is constantly changing, and keeping up with all the various trends is virtually impossible. Like many bloggers, I’d often receive letters from readers asking if I had seen such and such. The answer was usually no. After a flurry of such e-mails one afternoon, I figured why not harness the knowledge of my readership. After all, a million eyes are better than two right?

Kineda-1

The idea of the Kineda Lookbook was born. The Lookbook would be a way for readers to share the trends they discovered and bought into without having to go through me to do so. The big question was how to make this as simple for a large group of non-tech savvy readers. My initial thought was, “Why not allow everyone contributer access to my WordPress install?” Readers could submit their ideas directly, and all I would need to do is hit the lovely approve and publish button. I gave this idea a trial run for a week, and soon discovered that my WordPress dashboard became an unmanageable nightmare. WordPress just wasn’t built with a half million contributers in mind.

Back to the drawing board I went. A few years ago, Kineda was run solely as a forum. It was a great community and an easy way for readers to share ideas, but lacked direction because of the range of topics anyone could create. It was because of this lack of direction, that I moved Kineda to it’s current blog format where I could provide the focus the site needed. Now if I could guide the forum topics created by readers, I’d be half way to finding a solution to power the Lookbook.

I set out to find compatible forums for WordPress that I could modify for this project. The three criteria were:

  1. Lightweight but extensible
  2. Built with CSS (I’m a stickler for web standards)
  3. Seamless integration with WordPress

The two big forum guns, vBulletin and phpBB were definitely out of the question since they’re way too bloated and built primarily with tables. I then looked at open source solution Vanilla which seemed like a winner, but unfortunately failed on integration with WordPress. A completely different code base and database schema meant management would be difficult during version changes. Vanilla does offer a plugin to share logins between the two systems, but it’s very fickle with the which version of WordPress it works with. The other drawback is the plugin only works with new users, forcing existing users to re-regiser. Unacceptable in my mind.

The logical choice was bbPress, made by the same great folks that bring us WordPress. bbPress is extremely lightweight with a focus on integration, speed, and web standards while keeping the package as small as possible. And although bbPress is lean and mean, it does offer an extensive plugin system like WordPress to extend it’s capabilities.

The pairing of the two softwares would create the basis for Kineda’s Blog and community powered Lookbook combo.

Other examples of highly customized bbPress and WordPress pairings are 9Rules Notes (now called Chawlk) and Technorati’s Support Forums. These unique communities are based on bbPress’s flexbility to be extended with almost any functionality imaginable. Think WordPress plugins on roids!

The first and most important step to your new bbPress and WordPress community should be seamless integration. Users will be frustrated and discouraged if they have to login once to your blog and then again to your forum. An easy guide on how to integrate bbPress and WordPress can be found on Kineda.

Once you’ve integrated the two, you’ll need to theme your bbPress install to match your WordPress blog. Themes work exactly the same as they do in WordPress.

Next, you’ll need to customize your bbPress install. There are hundreds of plugins for bbPress, but I’ve highlighted an important few that will help you get started on building your new online community. Many are similar to the ones used to power Kineda’s lookbook.

I hope this has been helpful in looking beyond WordPress to enhance your blog and the community around it.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Edward Lomax says:

    This is a great idea which I’m going to have to look into further. I don’t think I’ve explored the “forum” aspect of building a community because I didn’t want to take on the technical battle.

    With bbPress it looks pretty simple, and since it works like WordPress with themes and plugins (which I already have experience), it makes the proposition of adding a forum less daunting.

    Thanks for the info.

  2. Shanel Yang says:

    A great post for possible future use! I’m bookmarking it and filing it away for safekeeping. Thanks, Terry!

  3. Edward Lomax says:

    Interested in more info, I went to the links in the post. Links to the example sites didn’t work… and the link to bbpress was the wrong link.

    The proper link is http://www.bbpress.org

  4. Martyn says:

    Not heard of this, looks interesting having wrestled with phpbb and simple machines forums in the past.

    As Edward Lomax said the link needs correcting! But thanks for showing examples. So many talk about a product, but never show it in use!

  5. I recently installed a bbpress forum on Retro Garden (http://www.retrogarden.co.uk/forum), it took me about 3 hours to convert the WordPress template to bbpress’s structure, and it was relatively easy.

    I’m sold on bbpress, and the plugins just add to it. It’s perfect, lightweight and rather easy, and doesn’t appear to suffer the spam nature as most forums. bbpress uses akismet to keep spam in check.

    Only criticism I can find is that there isn’t the wealth of plugins available for it like WordPress. In theory, as they use the same engine, most plugins would be able to be plugged in to bbpress. However, it’s things that WordPress doesn’t have or need (such as an invite/referral plugin) that is a little lacking.

  6. Nice info Darren..Certainly a great post for use good use..

  7. It is a good forum..
    I just think whether where is blogger.com forum??
    maybe there’s a tips??

  8. Enjoyed the write up. Integration between bbpress and wordpress couldn’t be easier with the latest release. Setting it up and integrating into my current wordpress installation took me less than five minutes. Bbpress allows you to integrate during the install, just install it into the the same database and insert the information during the bbpress install and you’re good to go. Simple as that.

    http://bbpress.org/documentation/integration-with-wordpress/

  9. yeah, your link in the post is not right. Thank for sharing! I’ll check it out.

  10. Neil Duckett says:

    I’ve been visiting Kineda for a while now … living in Japan the Japanese flavour of the site appeals to me.

  11. Liz says:

    What a fantastic idea. The site looks great, and it’s always cool to learn the secrets behind such smoothly-designed communities.

  12. Greg says:

    Terry, great job with Kineda. Super design. As it happens, we also have a fashion site based on WordPress/bbPress integration ( http://www.youlookfab.com ).

  13. Ryan Mac says:

    I don’t think this would be worthwhile for me on my blog
    By a great idea none the less

  14. shorant says:

    Does bbPress support threaded or tree view in its forum? I am looking for a forum script that offers threaded view, and so far vBulletin is the only feasible option I found.

  15. I’m a bbpress fan too because it’s very easy to modify. While it needs a lot of features it’s fast and even a developer with limited PHP skills is able to write plugins.

    @darren, don’t recommend the “Allow Images”, this takes the user in trouble while using other plugins. The others are fine ;)

  16. Marie Casas says:
  17. Marie Casas says:

    Apologies.

  18. Rami says:

    I was inspired by these 10 reasons to choose bbpress and this beautiful wordpress integration you describe highlights the real advantage of bbpress. The possibilities here are endless, not possible with other forum software.

  19. stephen says:

    Great article, clearly written for easy reading.
    Hmmm. Will buy your book ASAP.

  20. Ed Healy says:

    Kineda is 100% WordPress? Color me impressed.

  21. Sarah says:

    This looks fantastic and really helpful to a new blogger like me. I’s like to put forums on my blog and didn’t know how.

    I notice there are adverts on this blog – an MPU sized slot, a banner ad and a sky. I thought wordpress didn’t allow adverts. Does anyone know how come this blog has ads?

    Thanks everyone, and Kineda.

  22. Sangesh says:

    Kineda is impressive. Unique design on top of that. Quite a site, a Japanese networking kinda site I believe.

    But I did not find any bbPress…

  23. Terry Ng says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words! :)

    @ Ed: Kineda is part WordPress and part bbPress. Not quite 100% WordPress.

    @ Sangesh: bbPress can be found when you visit the Lookbook. This is the portion of Kineda that is run by bbPress and not WordPress.

  24. Ed Healy says:

    @Terry: Does bbPress play well with WordPress 2.3?

    I ask because I’d love to use it on my podcast site. Unfortunately, podPress doesn’t play well with the latest (2.5.1 ?) version of WordPress.

    If bbPress plays well w/ WP 2.3, I can use podPress and bbPress on the same site – and be a very happy camper.

  25. BBpress is a good piece of software and I started using it on my site a few weeks ago.

    But I’m having trouble integrating it with my WordPress blog. If I log in on WordPress I’m prompted to log in again for BBpress. Doing that logs me out of WordPress. If I then log in to WordPress again, I am logged in to both, but it would be better if I could just login to both with one click. I’m also concerned it may present an obstacle to entry for my visitors.

    I posted a requested for help in the BBpress support forums but so far nothing. Can anyone else help?

  26. broady says:

    I had made very bad experiences with own forums, also standard-software-solutions, all my forums was destroyed by script-kiddies, had make a database backup but it is not possible to transfer the old database into the new forums-software, there are years of work all away:-(( so think it over, if it is a good idee to install your own forum, it many work and kids try to destroy it …

  27. _pewter says:

    mmm…looks like a tastier solution than those other bloated pieces of junk that dominate the forum spectrum.

  28. this is an excellent post , I’m grateful to you, thanks.

  29. Adam Kayce says:

    This is great, thanks. I found the “integrate in 3 easy steps” article on your site, first, and then this, which rounds it all out.

    How awesome.

  30. I agree phpBB is bloated, no kidding!

    I installed the bbPress alpha a few days ago (for some of the same reasons) and was able to customize it quickly. http://www.satnightspecials.com/

  31. mr_azri says:

    Great site! Nice to see others sharing these ideas