If you want to build an online community by adding a forum to your site the you do not need to develop it from scratch (unless you want to develop your own forum). There are a lot of open source forum softwares that you can use on your WordPress site. The most popular WordPress-based forum is bbPress.
bbPress is forum software that is made by creators of WordPress. It allows you easily setup discussion forums inside your WordPress powered site. Also, bbPress is extensible, meaning you can add additional add-on plugins to extend the functionality of your forum.
In order to add a bbPress to your website you need to install a bbPress Plugin:
- Login to your WordPress Dashboard and navigate to Plugins → Add New:
- Search for bbPress
- Locate the bbPress plugin and click install
- Activate the plugin
- In order to learn more how to manage bbPress Forums please refer to the Getting Started with bbPress
- Go to Appearance → Menus to add your forum page to the menu.
bbPress comes with a default forum template, so you do not need to style and develop it by yourself. Of course, if you want to adopt your theme’s styles then you need to customize it a little bit. Some WordPress themes already come with a bbPress support, so your forum has the same styles as your theme. For example, you can check my tdMinimal and tdPravda themes that come with a custom bbPress styling.
Sometimes css customization is not enough for changing bbPress layout. In this case you need to add your own template files. I did it in my The Breaking News theme. You can see that this theme has its own forum archive page, single forum page and single topic page.