WordPress with a forum and online store

On one of the sites I manage, I really wanted to add an online store and a forum with a single login. Unfortunately, that turned into a little nightmare. My initial idea of course was to go with bbPress and WooCommerce. While WooCommerce is a great plugin that I’m very familiar and used to work with, bbPress was kind of a new thing for me. Honestly, I did my best to like it but it’s simple not there yet.

I am quite experienced with forums. At some point I even made some sort of resolution to stop being so active on few of them. For the one I wanted to create I had the entire forum structure and organization already done on a moqup. Unfortunately, bbPress is simply not in a state that would allow you to create a complex forum with a complex moderation structure that looks good on your site. I’ve met the people behind the project and I know they’re really passionate about what they’re doing and there’s definitelly an improvement from the last time I gave it a try but there are few things that stopped me from using it:

  • it’s a nightmare to make it look good on a theme that was not built with bbPress in mind
  • the options are not easy to follow and understand
  • the entire forum logic and layout is too strange for what my users were used to with

So I decided to go with another phpBB integration. Although not perfect, phpBB simply has much more power that you can use to build a forum exactly the way you want. However, the integration was a bit of a challenge. Well, until I stumbled upon a plugin named WP-United. This plugin is great if you want to integrate a phpBB forum into your existing theme. It allows you to sort of embed it in your existing design, which is almost awesome.

Unfortunately, there are a few things that didn’t go well. First of all, when you choose to integrate the forum into the existing design, all the theme CSS is parsed through a PHP script that’s added to the phpBB application. In my case this resulted in a failure to load the icon fonts because relative paths were used in the CSS. Although it took me few minutes to hack around it, it’s something that should have been thought of. The next problem was that you still have to work with the awful theming engine and logic of phpBB but well…that’s not plugin’s fault.

Honestly, I expected the user integration to be the worse part. To my surprise, however, that worked pretty neat out of the box.

On the other hand, everything with WooCommerce went just great. Theme integration, shipping and payment settings, etc. Maybe that’s because I have more experience with it but I’ve created, tested and published live an entire store with about 60 products in less than 8 hours which I guess is pretty good.

In conclusion, it turned out that adding a simple thing as a forum to your site can be more difficult than making an online store. To me at least. And I find this a bit strange.

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