How to create a forum in WordPress using Posts Table Pro (2 methods)

January 19, 2021

If you use WordPress.org to build your website, one of the things you’ll benefit from is its inherent flexibility. In other words, you can use WordPress to do a lot of things that aren’t apparent at first glance. This includes the ability to create a forum for your website or online community.

Since WordPress isn’t set up to handle forum functionality by default, you’ll need an additional tool or two. For instance, you can use the Posts Table Pro plugin to organize and display all your forum threads, topics or replies in a neat table layout. There are two methods for accomplishing this, using basic WordPress features or one of the best WordPress forum plugins like the BuddyPress plugin or bbPress plugin.

A GIF example of a forum in action.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through both ways to create an SEO-friendly forum with Posts Table Pro. Before that, let’s talk about why you might need to create a forum in the first place!

Why you might want to create a forum in WordPress

Forums, like StackOverflow and Quora, have been a staple of the internet for some time now. In fact, they can seem almost ‘old-school’ in comparison to newer social networks and social media tools.

An example of an online forum.

However, forums still come in handy on various types of websites. Here are just a few reasons to create a forum for your WordPress website:

  • Forums enable you to communicate directly with your site’s users through a message board (also called a discussion forum). You can answer their questions, provide advice, solicit opinions, and even just chat.
  • In addition, forums let your community members interact with each other. They can form connections, help one another out, and build a sense of community.
  • If you provide products or services, you can even create support forum so customers can get help quickly.

When it comes to building any type of forum website, we like to recommend WordPress. It’s a beginner-friendly yet very powerful platform. If there’s anything you want to do with it that isn’t built into the platform’s core – such as create a forum – you can usually get the job done with the right plugins.

How to create a forum in WordPress using Posts Table Pro (2 methods)

There are several dedicated plugins that help you create a forum on your WordPress site. However, many of them provide a few customization options. If you want more control over how your forum looks and functions, you’ll want to pick up the Posts Table Pro plugin:

This is a versatile tool that lets you create a table and insert it into any page or post in your site. Is displays information in a highly-customizable table layout, and you can determine exactly how it appears and works. You can even enable forum users to search, sort, and filter the table to find what they need quickly.

To see what Posts Table Pro can do in a broad sense, we’d suggest checking out the dedicated demo site.

Visit the Posts Table Pro demo!

Right now, we’re going to focus on how it can be used to create an SEO-friendly forum in WordPress. First, we’ll explore how to turn your entire site into a forum using the platform's built-in features. Then we’ll walk through how to use Posts Table Pro in combination with best WordPress forum plugins for WordPress such as bbPress or BuddyPress that also work on WordPress multisite.

Posts Table Pro
The easy way to create a create a forum in WordPress.

Method 1: Turn your WordPress site into a forum

Let's start with the simplest way to create a forum in WordPress (or WordPress multisite), by using regular pages and/or posts as forum topics. You can do this using only Posts Table Pro and WordPress’ built-in functionality. You don't even need a complicated WordPress forum plugin. This method works well if you want to turn your entire WordPress site into a forum, or add a forum to an existing website.

How it works

  1. You'll add each forum 'topic' or 'thread' as a separate page, post or custom post in WordPress.
  2. Users will interact with the forum by adding comments at the bottom of each topic/thread. This uses the comments system that comes with WordPress itself. You get all the benefits of WordPress comments, such as nested comments, Gravatar images, and more. (Or if you prefer, then you can replace this with a dedicated comments system such as Disqus (free version).)
  3. Your forum will be displayed in a table layout, with each topic or thread listed on its own row in the table. You can choose what other information to display on the forum page, such as the date you created the thread, categories, tags, etc. This way, people will be able to find the topics you cover through search engines like Google.

It's straightforward to set up, and simple to use.

Setup instructions

To begin, you’ll want to purchase the Posts Table Pro plugin. Then you can install and activate it on your WordPress site, following this setup guide. Don’t forget to activate your license key as well.

Get Posts Table Pro!

Next, you’ll need to decide whether to use posts or pages for your forum topics (forum posts). Posts are usually the better option, given their inherent flexibility and the fact that they have comments turned on by default. However, either content type will work. Or if you're already using posts and pages for something else, follow this guide to create a dedicated custom post type for your WordPress forum.

Whichever content type you decide to use for your forum, make sure that each page/post has a WordPress comments form at the bottom. This is how your audience will interact on the forum.

After that, you can set up the table that display the contents of your forum. To do this, go to Settings > Posts Table Pro from the WordPress dashboard. Under Post type, select either post or page (or any other WordPress post type):

The post type option in Posts Table Pro.

Technically, this is all you need to do. However, you may want to use the other settings on this page to configure the way your forum table is organized.

Recommended settings

In particular, we’d suggest taking a look at the following forum settings:

  • Columns: Here, you can choose exactly what information about each forum topic will appear in the table. If the available columns aren't enough, you can also create custom fields and taxonomies and display them in the forum too. When users create new topics, they'll automatically appear in this column.
  • Content length and Excerpt length: These settings let you decide how long text snippets displayed in the table should be.
  • Sort by: You could change this to Date modified, so topics with the most recent activity will show up first, or use Comment count to prioritize the most popular topics.
  • Search filters: Selecting Show based on columns in table will place drop-down menus at the top of your new forum page, so users can find topics they’re interested in quickly.

The other settings here are worth checking out as well, of course. When you’re done making changes, hit the Save button at the bottom of the page.

Now list your forum content in a table

Then, create a new page and give it a title. This will be the ‘home’ for your new forum table.

The next step depends on whether you're using the Classic Editor or Gutenberg:

  • Classic Editor - Click the 'Insert Posts Table' toolbar button. This adds a [posts_table] shortcode to the page.
    Insert shortcode icon in WordPress text editor's toolbar.

Gutenberg - Add the [product_table] shortcode to a 'Shortcode' block.

<table id="ptp_fd3a7eccbd83a493_1" class="posts-data-table" width="100%" data-config="{"pageLength":25,"pagingType":"simple_numbers","serverSide":true,"autoWidth":true,"clickFilter":true,"scrollOffset":15,"resetButton":true,"lengthMenu":[10,25,50,100],"columnDefs":[{"className":"col-image","targets":0},{"className":"col-title","targets":1},{"className":"col-excerpt","targets":2},{"className":"col-categories","targets":3},{"className":"col-author","targets":4},{"className":"col-date","targets":5}],"dom":"<\"posts-table-wrapper understrap\"<\"posts-table-above posts-table-controls\"f>t<\"posts-table-below posts-table-controls\"ip>>"}" data-filters="false" data-order='[[5, "desc"]]'><thead><tr><th class="all" data-name="image" data-orderable="false" data-searchable="false" data-width="70px" data-priority="2" data-data="image">Image</th><th data-name="title" data-orderable="true" data-searchable="true" data-priority="1" data-data="title">Title</th><th data-name="excerpt" data-orderable="false" data-searchable="true" data-priority="4" data-data="excerpt">Summary</th><th data-name="categories" data-orderable="false" data-searchable="true" data-priority="6" data-data="categories" data-click-filter="true">Categories</th><th data-name="author" data-orderable="true" data-searchable="true" data-priority="9" data-data="author">Author</th><th data-name="date" data-orderable="true" data-searchable="true" data-priority="5" data-data="date">Date</th></tr></thead></table> shortcode added to a 'Shortcode' Gutenberg block

Both methods place a shortcode on the page, which will generate a table based on all the settings you just configured. At this point, you can save the page as a draft, or publish it to make your new forum live.

Of course, nothing will appear in your table quite yet. You’ll probably want to set up a few starter topics to get the forum going. You can do that by simply creating a few topics (i.e. posts or pages) – they’ll appear in your table automatically. It will look something like this on the front-end:

An example of a cooking forum posts table.

You can control the topics that are allowed, or let logged in WordPress users create their own by integrating with a WordPress plugin such as Gravity Forms with the Gravity Forms with user-submitted content extension (see our tutorial on how to set this up). Either way, forum members can simply click on each topic in the table to visit its actual page. Then, they can use WordPress’ built-in comments system to interact with each other and you.

The individual forum topic pages will look something like this, depending on your WordPress theme:

WordPress cookery forum plugin

Method 2: Combine Posts Table Pro with a WordPress forum plugin

The technique described above has simplicity on its side. It is a bit limiting, however, since WordPress doesn’t have a built-in way for people to view comments, respond to one another within forum threads (outside of the comments feature at the bottom of the page for each topic), or set up user profiles or user roles (like moderators).

Therefore, you may want to consider getting your hands on a dedicated forum plugin or add-on as well. There are a lot of options, such as free plugins like BuddyPressbbPress and Discussion Board Pro. These plugins add basic (and sometimes more advanced) forum features to your WordPress site. For example, the individual topic and thread pages are more interactive. A WordPress forum plugin comes with built-in custom post types which you can display using Posts Table Pro, so you don't need to create your own.

Since you can set up a forum using one of these best forum plugins on its own, you may wonder why it’s still worth using Posts Table Pro. The chief benefit is that you’ll get a clearer and more organized way of displaying threads than most forum plugins offer by default. For example:

  • Users can perform a keyword search, sort by any column, or filter by category, filter or any custom taxonomy. This makes it much easier for people to find new topics they're interested in.
  • Plus, you can fully customize what information appears on your forum page, which isn't an option with most forum plugins.
  • A Posts Table Pro forum layout will also look more modern and interactive than most forum plugins, straight out of the box.

Setup instructions

To get started, you’ll need to set up your free forum plugin first. We’ll use bbPress as our example, so first install and activate it. Then, purchase and install Posts Table Pro as well. Again, make sure to activate your license key.

After that, go to Settings > Posts Table Pro. As in the previous section, you’ll want to check out the Post type option. However, this time you'll have a few more choices:

Create a WordPress forum with Posts Table Pro

You’ll want to pick whichever option corresponds to individual forum threads in the plugin you’ve chosen. For bbPress, this is called topic. Be careful not to select forum, since this will display each forum on your site on its own line (rather than one forum’s threads).

If you prefer, you can create a separate page for each forum thread and use Posts Table Pro to display the replies. If you do that, then you'll want to select the reply post type instead.

Then, you can customize the rest of the settings on this page as you see fit. For specific recommendations about which options to check out, see the previous method. The important settings here are the same.

Save your changes when you’re done tweaking these settings. Then, create a new page and give it a name.

If you're using the Classic WordPress Editor, select Toolbar Toggle and then Insert Posts Table to place the required shortcode on that page:

Create a new forum - page for a bbPress forum.

Or if you're using the Gutenberg editor, just add the [posts_table] shortcode to a Shortcode or Paragraph block.

This is all you need to do in order to get your forum page up and running. As before, the table will be empty for now. You may want to create a few test threads, so you can see what it will look like:

An example of a Posts Table Pro support forum.

Users will then be able to select individual threads in order to see their contents and post responses:

A forum thread in bbPress.

How to add a bbPress forum topic filter

If your online forum contains lots of topics, then you can add a 'Topics' filter dropdown above the table of bbPress forum topics. You can do this by adding tax:topic-tag to the 'Filters' option on the Posts Table Pro plugin settings page.

This is an excellent option if you've ever wanted to filter by topic in bbPress, as this isn't normally possible straight out of the box.

bbPress filter by topic

How to list bbListing bbPress replies

In the previous sections, I assumed that you will be listing bbPress topics in a table and that users will click through to view each topic.

Alternatively, you can list the actual replies in a table. It would look something like this:

bbPress forum list replies

With that, you’ve successfully learned how to create a forum in WordPress!

Posts Table Pro
The easy way to create a create a forum in WordPress.

Conclusion

Forums are a handy feature on just about any small business or community-focused website. Their simplicity makes them a versatile tool – you can use your forum for support, feedback, or simply helping your audience connect with one another and new members.

While WordPress doesn't include the functionality you’ll need out of the box, you can create your own forum easily using Posts Table Pro. You can use it in one of two ways:

  1. Turn your WordPress site into a forum, using posts and pages as topics.
  2. Combine Posts Table Pro with a dedicated WordPress forum plugin such as bbPress.

Do you have any questions about how to use Posts Table Pro to create a successful forum in WordPress? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image credit: Neal Stimler.

12 Comments

  1. Jibra Ahmed Sheikh
    October 2, 2020 Reply

    Thank you sharing, I really appreciate it.
    Can you please tell me what if we are try this on B2B eCommerce For WooCommerce Store?
    I mean if we create forum on sub domain and keep running our B2B eCommerce Store on the main domain.
    Is that going to work?

    • Edge
      October 5, 2020 Reply

      Hi, Jibra Ahmed. Thanks for letting us know this was helpful. I believe doing that would be fine as they are effectively 2 separate websites.

      Should you have any other questions, you can also contact us via our dedicated Support Center.

  2. Zubair Hussain Khan
    October 1, 2020 Reply

    Very helpful guide, I think using forum plugins is the easiest way to create forum on wordpress.

    • Jae Narra
      October 1, 2020 Reply

      Hi Zubair,

      Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you find our article helpful!

      Should you have more questions about our Post Table Pro, please let me know.

      You can also get in touch with us via our dedicated Support Center.

  3. Mike Mason
    June 9, 2020 Reply

    I'm working with a client who would like a Forum where users get an email on topics they are signed up to and can respond via email which posts their responses into the website Topic.
    Does anyone know of a WP Forum which does this?

    • Edge
      December 22, 2020 Reply

      Hi, Mike. Thanks for your interest and my apologies for the late reply. For what you describe, you can look into using Posts Table Pro with one of the WordPress forum plugins mentioned in Method 2: Combine Posts Table Pro with a WordPress forum plugin in the section above about How to create a forum in WordPress using Posts Table Pro (2 methods).

      Let me know if you have any other questions. You can also get in touch with us much quicker via our dedicated Support Forum.

  4. Bahati
    December 14, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for that guide

  5. Semidot Infotech
    September 3, 2018 Reply

    nice Article!!!
    'Post table pro' is a good option, however, is it possible to create the forum through 'simple machine forum' in wordpress?

    • Katie Keith
      September 3, 2018 Reply

      I'm not familiar with SMF, but there seem to be a couple of free WordPress plugins that integrate the two and allow you to have SMF forums on your WordPress website. If this creates a WordPress custom post type for the forum topics/posts then you will be able to display them in a table using Posts Table Pro.

      • Semidot Infotech
        September 3, 2018 Reply

        Thank you Katie for your great response. Will try to do ASAP :)

  6. John Gayle
    August 22, 2018 Reply

    If you use WordPress to build your website, one of the things you’ll benefit from is its inherent flexibility. In other words, you can use WordPress to do a lot of things that aren’t apparent at first glance. This includes the ability to create a forum for your website.

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