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5 Best Plugins to Build Community Forums on WordPress

5 Best Plugins to Build Community Forums on WordPress

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.

Finding New Web Development Clients

Finding new web development clients is not always an easy task.  Even the best web developers that are freelancers have a hard time finding new clients most of the time.  This is usually due to the fact that just because you are a web developer, does not make you a salesperson for web development services.

If you really want to land new clients you will eventually have to contact them, or you will have to hire someone else to contact them.  So first you need to decide if you can afford to hire out the sales parts or do them yourself.  But, before you can even consider selling your services, you first need to find them.

So here are some good places to locate new web development clients that are willing to pay you what you are worth.  This list does not include some of the large freelance sites, because they pay very little and there is just way too much competition.  Yes you can make money on a freelancer site, but you are going to work your ass off for it and you will probably not make as much as you would if you focused on the methods shown below.

Methods of Finding Leads and Clients

Build an Amazing Website

No matter which method of advertising, or prospecting you choose, you will always need a website. You will need a website to show off your portfolio, skills, testimonials and to collect leads or allow the visitors to contact you.

Not only should you have a website, but it should be very well designed, easy to navigate and mobile friendly. Make sure you site uses Google Analytics to track the progress of any advertising you do, and make sure you use Google Webmaster tools to check if there are any errors with your site.

Keep your site updated and connect all your social profiles to it.  You should at least have a Twitter, Linkedin, Google Plus and Facebook account.  Also, make sure that each account is well designed and has lots of activity.  This is because a potential employer will usually checkout your profiles and make sure you are who you say you are, and that you have an active profile.  Especially on Linkedin.

Most web developers are already familiar with SEO and how to run a server, but if you are not then you should at least learn the basics of SEO and the correct methods of building traffic to your website.  A good, healthy website, with quality links, content and social media marketing can bring in enough leads organically and save you thousands of dollars.

Get Local Listings

Also make sure you list your site is all local regions, with as many local directories as possible, such as Google Local, Yelp, Super Pages, Yahoo Directory, your local chamber of commerce and so on.  You want to make it as easy as possible for your local customers to find you.  Most leads that close are within a 50 mile radious, so keep that in mind.

Even if you are focusing on the entire world, you should first focus locally, then branch out as your business grows.  Your website will let you know when it’s time to grow, as it will start to get leads from other states, countries and so on.  Your keyword list will grow and then you can focus your marketing on a wider radius.  It is far easier to build a localized business than a national or worldwide one.

On Page SEO

Just in case you are wondering, SEO is not dead, and I doubt it ever will be.   The reason is that it’s part of the Internet, so unless the Internet dies, SEO won’t either.  However, it has changed greatly and I have been doing SEO since 1998, so I’ve see it all.  The most recent changed with the Google Panda and Penguin updates as well as all the other updates, have made it pretty risking to do SEO.  But if you stick to the rules you will be fine.

Just make sure you keep up to date with whatever Matt Cutts is saying, as he gives lots of hints on what is good and what is bad in the SEO industry.  In my experience, if you create high quality, original content and know how to promote it well, then there is no need to spam the search engines.  Good content will obtain quality links and comments and that is what matters most, which brings me to the next part, blogging.

Blogging for Leads

You might be a web developer, but that does not mean you like to write, however you should try spending a few thousands on advertising and see how many leads you get, then you might consider it, as it’s the best way to build traffic to your site and traffic that is highly targeted can turn into a gold mine of leads.

Just make sure your blog is highly focused on your customers, not on web development in general.  You need to put yourself into the mindset of your target client, what would they be looking for?  How can you help them?  Why would they want to work with you?  Then write around these ideas to draw in this type of reader.  Make sure you always use a call to action at the end of your post, and in the side banner you can have a newsletter to ask them to sign up for something, such as an ebook.

Remember, you want to focus on clients, so your ebook should be something like, “How to hire a web developer” or “5 Things to ask your web designer”, something along those lines, and not “How to learn web development” as this would not focus on the customer, you would draw in other web developers and that would not increase leads.

So always focus on the leads, when you are writing.  It will take a while and you should not expect to get anything for the first year, but you should post a 700-1000 word article on your blog once per day in the beginning.  I know this seems hard, but so is having to get  a job in McDonalds, if you write down all the possible headlines once per week, then every day choose the one that seems easiest and before you write it, add some more headlines for the next day.

Once you have your blog running at about 500, high quality articles you will get lots of traffic coming in.  The key is quality, problem solving and making sure it’s promoted.

I hope this information helped some  of you, if you have any comments please post them below.

Thanks for reading.

What is Joomla!

So you are searching the Internet for a content management system and you want to know what Joomla! is? This article will explain the basics.

What is Joomla!

Joomla! is a very powerful, open source, content management system, which will allow the user to build almost any type of website their imagination can come up with and all with very little web design knowledge and skills. In fact, some web hosting companies allow Joomla! to be installed with one click via their control panel. We have been using Joomla! for over 8 years now and it’s a fantastic system.

Extensions

You can expand your site easily with extensions, you may be familiar with WordPress, which is also a content management system and is also powerful, but Joomla! is more focused on content management whereas WordPress is more focused on blogging. However, WordPress is still a very powerful content management system and I will give an overview of it later on in another post. Joomla! is used on millions of websites worldwide for sites ranging from 1 page landing pages, to massive online communities. Joomla.org runs off their own software and it has a lot of traffic, which shows it can handle it.

You can install extensions for almost anything, such as SEO, newsletters, online stores, social networking platforms and the list goes on. There is a huge community of developers that build themes and extensions for Joomla! and you can find them on their website: http://www.joomla.org. You can also submit your own extensions to them, we have created several, some of free and some are paid, it’s a good way to get some extra money and traffic to your site. Here are all our plugins in case you want to take a look: http://www.webdesignservices.net/free-joomla-twitter-plugin.html

Joomla! Resources:

Joomla!’s main website: https://www.joomla.org

Download Joomla! https://www.joomla.org/download.html

Joomla! Documentation: https://docs.joomla.org/Main_Page

Joomla! Extensions: http://extensions.joomla.org

Joomla! Templates: https://www.joomlart.com/joomla/templates