- What sort of Members Website Are You Looking To Build ?
- Best WordPress Community Plugins
- UserPro – Popular WordPress Community plugin
- bbPress – Forum WordPress Plugin
- BuddyPress – WordPress Social Network plugin
- Why use WordPress to build an online community?
If you are interested in building a WordPress Membership site or WordPress Community, you are in the right place.
Let’s begin by talking about what it takes to build a good, sustainable, interactive community online. And then walk through the top WordPress Community plugins that can help you build a strong members community website.
What sort of Members Website Are You Looking To Build ?
Once you’ve decided you want to create a community on WordPress, you need to work out what type of community you want to create. The main thing you should consider overall is to make it as easy as possible for users to connect to each other easily and quickly. You should give your users a clear message of what they should be doing – for example offering help and advice.
There are three types of WordPress Members websites – forums, social networks or community websites. While each of them needs users to interact in a different way, the end result should always be the same. You want your customers or potential customers to talk to each other and interact with your company.
Setting up a WordPress Forum
A forum is a really popular, and fast, way to build a WordPress community. There are different WordPress community plugins which can make it really simple to create a forum without having to build them from scratch. These types of WordPress community work really well if you sell an unusual product or offer a specific service. You will already have an interested customer base who will be happy to discuss topics relating to the industry.
Planning to create a WordPress Membership Community ?
Community blogs give WordPress users the chance to make their voices heard. The content is user generated, meaning a well-run community will look after itself. Publishing your own blog posts takes time and by using a WordPress community plugin for blogs you can make your customers do the work for you. When thinking about content, try to make it relevant to what your business offers. Reviews or tip-based articles are great at creating added value on your site.
Creating a WordPress Social Network
Social networks are like revamped forums. This gives the users a greater sense of belonging. Some WordPress community plugins for social network can allow users to create customized profiles, usernames and build friends lists. For this reason, WordPress social networks are one of the most valuable tools at getting repeat customers and building your brand. It shows you care about your clients enough to give them their own space to talk to one another.
Creating a Members Forum / Community
If you’ve been in business a while, or even if you’re just starting out, you should have a good idea of who your customer is. But you can go one step further and create a user persona for the type of members you want in your WordPress community.
What are User Personas?
A user persona is a set of characteristics that you believe represents your clients. This should include their age, gender, backgrounds, goals, and values.
By understanding who the members of your community are, you can work out what they want. Would they respond better to a forum, community blog or social network?
By looking at site analytics and user research data you can understand who they are and what they want. This allows you to choose the right WordPress community plugin and tailors it to answer all their needs and motivations.
Monitoring your WordPress community
After you’ve decided which type of community you want, you need to work out how, and who will be monitoring it. Moderators are usually chosen from members of your online customer base that have proven themselves to be responsible and make a worthwhile contribution. As well as keeping spam at bay and making sure posts are of an interesting and relevant nature, moderators can also create topics and keep the conversation flowing when you are unable to step in.
Monitoring your WordPress community is also very important for growing your business and ensuring its success. You should watch what topics and themes matter to your clients and community then tailor your approach and services to match this. Communities are about listening as well as talking. Set rules for your members and a clear procedure if they break them. This will encourage good quality posts and discussion while weeding out troublemakers or spam bots.
Best WordPress Community Plugins
Here’s a list of the most popular WordPress Community Plugins. These plugins are especially designed for setting up a community website using WordPress.
UserPro is one of the best WordPress community forum / membership plugins for blogs and integrates seamlessly with hundreds of other WordPress plugins. You can use UserPro to create a community.
It includes the ability to follow / unfollow users, verify accounts, content restriction, one click sign up and file uploads by members. This is just a small list of features for this versatile plugin which creates stunning front end user profiles. It has around 16 addons for any additional features you may need for your members community – like payments, social wall, user rating / review, amongst others.
UserPro has a fully responsive design which makes it look absolutely flawless on any screen size, may it be tablet, laptop, smartphone or any other device. It comes with unlimited CSS ability.
This fully customizable plugin also comes with five ready to use skins (color schemes) if you just want to set it up and not modify it using CSS. It also has unlimited Google Fonts support and more than 350 FontAwesome icons for your profiles.
It is available in 12 languages and is also translation ready. Every user can be given a search engine optimized URL automatically on sign up. Unlike many plugins, UserPro allows your users to sync their Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Vkontakte, LinkedIn and Instagram profiles to enhance the experience. Users register with their email address and can set a password to protect their account. UserPro also offers a front end password reset and change function so users will never have to see the back end of your site. It also allows customizable email alerts, replacing those from WordPress. You can also add user badges and achievements to help interaction in your new WordPress community.
- Create multiple front-end registration forms
- Content Restriction Options –
Restrict entire page or post for specific user roles or for Verified Accounts. Lock the complete site or just a particular page for users who aren’t logged in
- Badges & Achievements –
Assign badges to user roles automatically or selectively (manually)
- Enable social connect and instant profile sync via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Vkontakte, LinkedIn and Instagram
- Member Directory Search, Member Listing Layouts
- Social Activity Stream –
Show a list of recent user activities like new registrations, new posts, new comments, new follow alerts etc.
- Smooth integration with more than 100 WordPress plugins, including, WooCommerce, BuddyPress, bbPress, etc.
- Synch with BuddyPress profiles easily and effortlessly
- UserPro offers content restriction which gives an option to the user to show website to only verified users, registered members and to specific user roles.
- Tons of addons to make your community website even more amazing!
bbPress – Forum WordPress Plugin
This WordPress forum community plugin is perfect for creating your own forum. It was created by Automattic. The same group that is behind WordPress itself so you can rest assured it will work exactly how it says it will. The incredibly simple design allows you to add a new WordPress user role called “participant”. These “participants” can create topics on your forum. bbPress is focused on integrating with your site and speed which will make it easy for your clients to use.
It is an open source product with neat code. The main focus of bbPress is speed and security which are the two most important things to users of online forums. It’s a great all round forum plugin. While it doesn’t have some of the frills of a social network plugin, for businesses who choose a forum it’s the best WordPress plugin.Let’s walk you down the necessary steps needed to get started on using the bbPress lightweight standalone extension for forums by WordPress.
Here are some subtle but very critical differences you need to know about bbPress. bbPress 2.0 is the plugin while bbPress 1.0 is a standalone product which comes prefixed in WordPress. Many people get confused by the term, Buddy Press. Well, in layman’s language, Buddy Press is a plugin which comes containing the bbPress function. Think of BuddyPress as a Facebook for forums.
If the form plugin gets installed correctly, then you will see the following added entries: Forums, Topics, and Replies menu options. Hover your pointer’s device on the “Settings” tab to reveal and display a cascading style menu which outlines the main settings for the newly installed and activated bbPress. Here are some of the design, editing and form customization tricks you can perform using the main plugin settings:
- Setting the throttle time for the post
- Pre-program the post editing function. You can set it to lock 10 minutes after posting
- Tick the Allow Favorites, Subscriptions and Revisions boxes
- Do not tick the Allow Anonymous Posting box. Doing that gives other users the rights to create their topics
Another useful sub-setting on the plugin is the Per Page function. Use it to set the particular page settings for instance, how many topics you want to have on a topic or how many replies per page. Additionally, you’ll see the Per RSS Page menu sub-header, and it is used to set the RSS page settings for the bbPress WordPress powered plugin.
It is highly recommended you edit the Single Slugs and the Archive settings on a newly activated bbpress plugin. Try and come up with a unique URL slug which bears a strong correlation to the main mantra or topic discussed on the forums. It makes it easier for crawl bots to sniff out your content and proceed to index it better. Don’t forget to save all changes on the Forums icon.
- Downloading and installing bbPress
- Search for the plugin on the WordPress plugins repositories and then click install
- Alternatively, download the bbPress plugin SRC files to the computer and then upload them to the root directory via an FTP connection
- Once installation is complete, click on the prompt written activate plugin now
- Refresh the admin page URL to reload with revised settings
Creating Your New Forum
Head to Forums option on the Admin page and click it to start creating your first forum. It’s advisable to leave the settings on the top-right part of the admin page alone for now. The settings are for declaring whether the privacy settings of the new discussion hub.
We might want to add colors which blend in with our existing CSS themes and styles. It’s possible to edit the default CSS Style Sheet themes by adding our own CSS source codes to the root directory of our plugin.
Everybody hates spammers. They can frustrate your forum building efforts to the extent you just want to quit, the good thing, however, is that the bbPress software comes with an inbuilt capacity to deter and prevent spammers from taking over the conversation with their ads and promos.
There are plenty of BBPress plugins out there, that you can use as add-ons to make your BBPress community complete.
BuddyPress – WordPress Social Network plugin
If you’ve been doing even a little bit of homework around social network plugins, you probably know what BuddyPress is already. This WordPress community plugin is designed to be used for social networks. Users can make their own profiles, create group chats and message each other privately. Unlike a forum plugin, it has many more features that offer your customers that little bit extra. The software is sophisticated and allows for add on features through WordPress’ plugin system. It is best described as a “social network in a box”.
BuddyPress can be used to build a WordPress community with hardly any hassle or technical know how. Uses include colleges or universities, internal communication at large companies or even niche interest groups. It comes with several components which can be turned on or off. So it is fully customizable and adaptable to your site. This social networks plugin can be integrated with bbPress to add that little something extra, like profiles, to a WordPress community forum. Read on to learn more about features that help answer the question – What is BuddyPress?
BuddyPress is centered around user profiles. This allows visitors to a website to create an account where they can provide additional information to identify themselves. Users can upload pictures, provide contact and social information, and write ‘about me’ pages to create a presence on the site.
Beyond basic fields, webmasters can configure user profiles to include additional fields that users can then fill out. This would be great for customizing a profile for a particular niche website.
Friendships & Groups
Beyond creating user profiles, BuddyPress allows these users to connect with one another in two key ways. The first is via friendships. This means users can connect to other members of the site and begin to build relationships. The second way users can connect is in groups. Groups allow users to form communities centered around shared topics and interests, and provide additional growth and traffic to a website.
BuddyPress also incorporates private messaging features both between individual users as well as groups of users. By utilizing this feature, members can connect with one another without leaving a website. The tool provides an inbox-based system for keeping track of messages, as well as the choice of making a message private or public.
Streams & Notifications
The tool also provides additional features to show activities users have engaged in. BuddyPress can keep track of these activities and show them in various pages on the site, such as in a user profile or a group page. Also, BuddyPress gives users the ability to receive notifications when key events happen, such as when a new post is created, or another user adds them as a friend.
BuddyPress comes with a full array of documentation and support options. These can be accessed from the ‘documentation’ tab on the BuddyPress website. Users can access a getting started guide, features guide, and developer resources all from one convenient location.
Best of all, BuddyPress is one of the WordPress community plugins that is completely free to use and is open-sourced which gives developers the freedom to adapt and change the underlying code to fit their needs.
The developers of GeoDirectory, a popular Directory Plugin for WordPress active on more than 10,000 websites, created UsersWP.
One of the 1st bottleneck that are usually found in Directory website is the high number of listings and a heavy sized database.
If you want your directory to be really fast and well performing, you must keep everything else as lightweight and lean as possible. Using a resource hungry plugin to manage profiles may become challenging when traffic grows.
The same argument in our opinion is valid for high traffic e-commerce, magazine and news websites. Also on every other website where user profiles are just a secondary section of the visitor experience.
That is why they created UsersWP.
They needed a User Profile Plugin for WordPress that is lightweight and extremely streamlined. It takes few minutes to setup because there are very few options. Still it is extremely flexible and extensible.
The free version of UsersWP includes :
- Registration form
- Login Form
- Edit Account form
- User Profiles + Drag & Drop profile builder for unlimited custom fields
- User Directory
- Lost/Forgot Password Forms
Because UsersWP comes packed with strategic hooks filters and actions, coders will be able to extend it without limits. Users can easily overwrite and customize Templates in child theme.
WordPress usermeta aren’t a good fit for Directory of Users with many custom fields each. That is why most User Profile Plugin for WordPress fail at scaling. They don’t use smart database structure and queries thought out for scaling without limits.
UsersWP uses custom database tables and a custom PHP API to overcome this limitation and it can scale according to your needs.
Currently there are 14 add-ons for UsersWP and many other are being tested and they will be released soon, making it one of the richest User Profile Plugin for WordPress in terms of integration too.
Currently this are the available add-ons offering an integration with another popular plugin:
The most popular e-commerce system for WordPress and beyond. The integration will allow to show orders and product reviews within the user’s profile.
Display listings submitted and listings reviewed within the user’s profile. You can also show their favorite listings.
Easy Digital Downloads
Show downloads and products in each user’s profile. Downloads being the item purchased and products being the items created and sold.
BBpress is the official WordPress forum plugin. With the integration you can show forum topics, replies and favorite in each user’s profile.
Wp Job Manager
WP Job Manager is a very popular Job Listing plugin. This integration will let you show a Jobs tab in each user’s profile with the Jobs listed.
This integration allows to capture the user email at registration and add it to a subscription list for your newsletters.
Several add-ons provide community features:
- Online Users
- Profile Progress
- Restrict User Signups
- Social Login
The developers will release many new add-ons soon.
The add-ons currently under beta testing are:
- Roles: to extend the default WP user roles system
- Online Users: to show who’s online
- Advance Search: to search users by custom fields
- Mycred: to assign points and badges to users for their actions on your website
Why use WordPress to build an online community?
We live in a society where social media has become as important as printing brochures or advertising. Nowadays, attracting customers is all about getting the mixture of digital and social interaction right. Community blogs and social networks are where readers become customers.
Cultivating followers and creating a good reputation is done through strong communities. This is why building a WordPress community is so important. And this is achieved using the various WordPress community plugins that are available.
Business owners in the know have already latched onto WordPress forums. As a way to reach out to potential clients and build stronger relationships with their customers.
WordPress is powering nearly a quarter of the entire web – a whopping 24%.
This figure is growing every day and it makes it even more crucial to make sure your site is as good as it can be. Actually creating a WordPress community can be difficult, but not impossible.
So we’ve listed three of the top WordPress community plugins. Whether you choose a forum, social network or community blog these are the best plugins available to make your WordPress community grow and grow. Remember to consider what type of community would be the best, how you will monitor it and what features you need it to have. You also need to think about compatibility, speed, and integration when choosing the best WordPress plugin for your site. As research shows, these are the most important features for users of online communities.
Do you have any experience with any of these community profile plugins? Or are just getting started with building a member website? We would love to hear from you about your experiences, challenges and tips ! Leave a comment and share…