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Community building is its own sweet reward. Who doesn’t like the idea of a virtual space where your targeted audience comes together to share ideas/Q and A/ wrangle/ et al?

The next question, of course, is whether it can be done on WordPress. The answer: Come on. It’s WordPress. It can handle anything. Checkout

So for those looking to build a virtual Common Room/ Frat-house/ What-Have-You, here’s a list of top 5 plugins to make it real:

1. BuddyPress

BuddyPress

Price: Free (licensed GPLv2.0 like WordPress.org). Paid ‘extensions’ can be found as regular WordPress plugins (“BuddyPress compatible”)

Available at: WordPress Plugin Repository

You can’t put ‘WordPress’ and ‘community’ in a sentence together and not end up talking about BuddyPress at some point. Figured we’d just get it over with now.

I sound resigned, because really, there’s no better plugin for community/network-building than BuddyPress. Attempts have been made and failed spectacularly. BuddyPress continues to reign supreme.

It’s feature-packed and free, ‘nuff said.

This plugin packs practically everything you would need, and more, for creation and management of communities: Member profiles, Activity feeds, User groups, Messages, etc. And that’s just the beginning.

With BuddyPress core features as the foundation, you can begin layering more features with BuddyPress-compatible plugins to add even more configuration options and variety on top of your user-network.

Recommended: Start with W3 Total Cache (Check it out here) and work your way up as needed.

2. bbPress

bbPress

Price: Free (licensed GPLv2.0 like WordPress.org). Paid ‘extensions’ can be found as regular WordPress plugins (“bbPress compatible”)

Available at: WordPress Plugin Repository

bbPress is like a skinny, lanky Loki to BuddyPress’ Thor.

This plugin is another one that started or ended up being adopted by Mullenweg and co. (like WooCommerce in 2015). Regardless, the core plugin on its own is light, easy to setup and integrate, and highly extensible with other WordPress plugins and bbPress add-ons.

The plugin only adds basic forum functionality to your website. But with creative customization and crafty themes, it will work for all sorts of visual ambiance. Case in Point: Support forums for WPMU-DEV, Woothemes, and dev4press.

3. Sabai Discuss Plugin for WordPress

Sabai Discuss plugin for WordPress

Price: $23

Available at: Code Canyon

This is one of the best-selling WordPress forum plugins on Code Canyon.

Sabai adds extremely filterable and easy to navigate ‘discussions’ and ‘Question and Answers’ streams to your website. It lets you create custom fields (for the search filters), and has a visual form editor to create the search forms. It comes with 9 widgets, 10 email notification templates, and more.

Design tinkering-capabilities aside, the plugin itself is pretty smart. It has code snippet highlighting, ‘featured’, ‘flagging’ (for spam moderation) and ‘favorite’ Q&A, Role/Reputation-based access system, and more. Think Stack Overflow, focused on you.

The fact that it is also translatable and supports RTL is no surprise (good plugins and themes do that), but it sure cements the faith in the plugin. It uses JavaScript responsibly (for improved interactivity) and needs no FTP connection to update.

Plugins like these make me happy. They pose fewer problems for users to fret over later. The only damper comes from the fact that it is probably late for an update, but if you are a web development company that knows what it’s doing, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

4. WP Pro Forum System

WP Pro Forum System

Price: $21

Available at: Code Canyon

Another easy-forum plugin and it’s so shiny you can almost hear it.

Pro Forum highlights code snippets, lets registered (to your website) users create topics, replies, and comments using the TinyMCE editor WordPress packs as default (improved with some shortcodes). The topics can be made sticky (for when certain topics come up all the time).

Users can add/upload images, set access permissions on their content (Privacy). It works well with your theme and can be further customized easily.

It’s a lovely, no-nonsense plugin that sticks to the necessary and drowns the rest.

5. DW Question & Answer

DW Question & Answer

Price: Free core plugin. Free and paid add-ons (optional)

Available at: WordPress Plugin Repository

The best things in life are free. This plugin is (mostly) one of them.

DW’s Q&A plugin covers all the basics and goes the extra mile too. Users create, edit, and delete questions, moderators order/delete them. Everyone can search using the thorough filters. There is a voting feature (best answer), content privacy (depends on user submitting the question), sticky discussions, ‘follow’ discussions, et al.

It supports CAPTCHA and at least 11 languages. It has email notification system. There is a free add-on that enables Embed question and Social Sharing, which is perfect.

The entire plugin is like a beautifully decorated suite with furniture choices available. You can work those in as desired.

Endnote

There are more, and there will be more community and forum plugins since the trend is taking hold. The plugins mentioned here are in no way latest, but they are coded for efficiency and they are reliable.
That’s all you need from a good plugin really.

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