ForumEngine Turns WordPress Into a Forum Via Custom Post Types

EngineThemes Logo recently released version 1.0 of their latest project, ForumEngine. ForumEngine is a theme that uses Custom Post Types to turn WordPress into a forum. I caught wind of this new theme via a review published on WPLift by Joe Fylan. It’s nice to finally see theme companies thinking outside the box for once instead of whipping up the next boring portfolio theme. I have not had the opportunity to try out the theme but based on Joe’s review, there is one thing in particular that may be a showstopper for a lot of people.

Writing A Post In ForumEngine

Unfortunately, in order to use this theme, you’ll either need a brand new WordPress install, separate WordPress install, or be willing to see your existing content disappear.

With ForumEngine installed on your site, the site now functions as a forum, which the threads accessed directly from the homepage. Any existing posts that might’ve been on the site or those you create afterward activating the theme will now no longer be accessible, essentially removing the main functionality of WordPress: creating posts so bare that in mind if you wish to use this alongside a regular blog – you would need a separate installation. – Joe Fylan

I remember when the discussion around bbPress 2.0 was taking place. It was suggested that using a plugin that utilizes custom post types be used. At the time, bbPress was transitioning from being stand alone software into a WordPress plugin. Now we have a theme that is using custom post types and if I remember correctly, community members like Justin Tadlock frown on this practice. I reached out to John James Jacoby to get his thoughts on this theme as well as how its implementation compares with bbPress.

bbPress 2.x does use custom post types, and actually uses three of them. Forums is only a post type because of a lack of taxonomy term meta, otherwise it would be a custom taxonomy. CPT’s are fine, though it’s too bad it completely overrides the blog. Seems pretty pointless to make users decide to have either a blog or a forum, and not both.

bbPress takes other things into consideration, like forum profiles VS blog author archives, separate roles for the forums VS the blog, and goes the extra mile so forums only intersect with the blog when you want it to. If a theme was really going to do this “correctly” it should probably use a CPT for topics, and comments (with a custom comment form template) for replies; that way the behavior is familiar.

Forums are such an integral part of online communities, if I were looking for forums inside of WordPress, baking it into a commercial theme that won’t work with my existing blog doesn’t sound very appealing.

While I like the design and the thinking out of the box idea in this theme, not being able to use it with an existing blog is a huge blow towards it ever becoming a popular alternative to bbPress or other forum solutions. However, thanks to the advice provided by John James Jacoby above, there are ways of going about it that make sense. I hope to see other theme providers give it a shot. At the very least, it would be good to see theme providers list native bbPress support as one of their selling points.


8 responses to “ForumEngine Turns WordPress Into a Forum Via Custom Post Types”

  1. Len says:

    Unfortunately, in order to use this theme, you’ll either need a brand new WordPress install, separate WordPress install, or be willing to see your existing content disappear.

    I’m probably in the minority but I actually like that idea. I’ve never been a fan of having a forum directly integrated with a normal site. I much prefer to keep them separate which is why I usually stick with SMF or phpBB etc. FluxxBB is a nice relatively lightweight alternative.


  2. chris mccoy says:

    looks really nice, might have to pickup a copy


  3. Jeffro says:

    @Len – I’ve never been a fan of merging the two either after my experience with using a phpbb bridge with Joomla. Boy did that backfire on me when the bridge developer stopped working on it. That meant that whenever Joomla or phpbb updated, I had to wait for an updated version of the bridge. Needless to say, it didn’t take long to get screwed. Thankfully, the developer helped people unbridge their sites.

    Still, I don’t think it’s cool to see content on the site disappear in favor of a forum. How does that make any sense? Instead, a seperate WP install on a sub-domain seems to make more sense. But that seems like a lot more work than just installing a forum plugin.

    @chris mccoy – It does have an appealing design.


  4. Len says:

    @Jeffro – I don’t care for the “vanishing content” part either. What I was referring to was the separate installs. The few times I set up bbPress I used separate installs for them too.

    Of course I’m a throwback though. I still like the old bbPress 0.9 :)


  5. Jeff, I don’t know if you recall, but the forum discussion actually started here on the WP Tavern forums. I had finished the plugin for a couple of clients at the time (who I eventually moved to bbPress). JJJ really helped me nail down the concept for the plugin.

    I like bbPress, but I still don’t think it’s the solution I want to see. This is just from a personal viewpoint. It’s a great plugin though.

    Like JJJ said, ideally forums would be a custom taxonomy rather than a post type. To me, the ideal structure would look like this:

    * Forum – taxonomy
    * Topic – post type
    * Reply – comment type

    When you get right down to the meat of it, forums are essentially no different than a category/post/comment structure, just like blogs. The big hurdle with WordPress handling forums like this is term (taxonomy) meta. There’s a good bit of tinkering you’d have to do to make comments become “replies”. Then, there’s some query-related stuff, but WP has gotten a lot better in that area in the last few years.

    As far as this theme is concerned, I don’t like the idea. Forcing users to have separate installs is going to automatically lose you a ton of potential users. You already know how I feel about themes creating post types, so I won’t get into that. If they had created this as a standalone plugin, I would’ve definitely installed it and even considered building themes for it.


  6. Jeffro says:

    @Justin Tadlock – I remember vaguely the conversation we had in the forum. Awesome to see that you notice the close similarities between what bbPress does and the typical WordPress blog post.

    When WPTavern get redesigned, the next step will be integrating bbPress to not only act as the forum, but it will also act as the commenting system as well. How we’ll accomplish this is beyond me but after conversations with JJJ, I know it’s achievable.

    As for the ForumEngine theme, I was waiting for you to stop by and comment. If I understand your post on this type of stuff correctly, ForumEngine is a classic example of what NOT to do with custom post types in themes?


  7. Joe says:

    Thanks for the mention Jeffro.

    It does look like a great theme, but has certain drawbacks

    I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has been using it in anger?


  8. Rechip says:

    They have inegrated the Blog feature in the latest version. It still lacks mutiple author though. But, as admin you can make all the blog posts….I’m just waiting for few more tweaks like addition of FB and Twitter like the PSD design from here

    Its a welcome move for people like mw who don’t want to move to vBulletin forum which is way too costly and cumbersome.



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