Blogs and Forums: Separate or Integrate?
Do you have a WordPress blog and have been considering adding a forum? Are you running bbPress, Simple:Press or any of the other forum solutions, or do you have plans to?
If so, you might be wondering whether or not there is a way of integrating your blog with your forum – or indeed, if you should spend the time doing so.
This is a difficult decision to take, as doing so can result in some problems for your blog. These might be software issues, or they might be problems that are caused by a change in the way your blog is viewed by your visitors.
Many questions and things to consider about this situation have been covered in our previous article, Should I Add a Forum to My Blog?, but here I want to offer thoughts based on my experiences of managing integration – and reasons why you might opt to keep things separate…
Integrating a Blog & Forum: How It Should Work
If you added a forum to your blog, would you be concerned about how the two entities interacted?
There are two ways of managing a blog and forum pairing, separation and integration. The former we’ll move on to later; for the latter, however, how does having a blog with comments that are synced to automatically created forum threads sound to you?
Pretty swish, I should imagine, but beware – there are drawbacks. We’ll talk about the software issues later, but if your blog and forum software can be successfully integrated, you should try out the available options using a test version of your blog.
Beyond the user-base potentially fracturing or abandoning the comments portion of your blog in favour of standard forum posts, they might only use the comments, creating an illusion of a busy forum when in actual fact you have a busy blog that is merely mirrored by the forum software.
Another bonus might be to promote original posts from your forum into articles on your blog, but again this can have some issues; if you have a following that is particularly interested in you and your team’s posts, they might be unhappy that something has been “promoted” from your blog by an apparent “non-entity”.
Overall, if you can get the balance of posts synchronized between you blog and your forum right, you should be able to have some success with this arrangement. It is wise, however, not to sync every single post from your blog, however, as this can make the forum appear to be nothing more than a bot-controlled wasteland.
Keeping the Forum Separate
Your alternative to integration is separation. While this may not make sense at first, separation is potentially the better solution.
This way, you can keep the main conversation in the blog posts while using the forum for other types of content, such as finding new contributors, discussing spin-off projects or perhaps other ventures that you’re involved with.
A forum can also be used as part of the editorial process, although you may find that a plugin such as Editflow has everything you need in this respect.
Despite any urge you might have to integrate a forum with your WordPress blog, it might just be the case that keeping the two entities separate in all but layout is the best thing that you can do …
When Software Fails
You can be pretty confident about WordPress – when it fails, there are always instructions and tools available via Google for easy resolution. But what about forum software?
What happens when an update fails, or some other issue results in half of your website being unavailable?
This is something that you will need to think about with any forum software. While bbPress is a plugin that is more closely related to WordPress than any of the others, even failures with this plugin can lead to problems. Meanwhile I’ve experienced issues with Simple:Press failing, leading to some messy issues with databases and uninstalls.
As a result, you need to spend time choosing the right forum software. Ensure you are comfortable with it, that you can integrate it as required, and that it will do what you want it to. However, you should opt for stability and reliability over features.
What Do You Think?
I’ve compiled this article following my own experiences with bbPress, Simple:Press and WordPress (not to mention some other more famous forum applications) – but I’m just one guy. What are your experiences with blending forums with WordPress? Do you prefer to integrate content or would you rather keep it separate?
The comments box awaits your thoughts!
Image: ©iStock.com / Palto