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?
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:
- Lightweight but extensible
- Built with CSS (I’m a stickler for web standards)
- 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.
- bb-avatars – Allows users to define their own Gravatar or avatar
- Private Messaging – Allows users to send messages to each other
- bbPRess Polls – Allows users to add polls to topics
- Private Forums – Show forums only to users with appropriate roles
- Memberlist – Display all active members
- Allow Images – Users may include images in their posts
I hope this has been helpful in looking beyond WordPress to enhance your blog and the community around it.