The Top 6 Question and Answer WordPress Plugins
The success of Q&A-style forums Yahoo! Answers, StackOverflow and Quora have spawned plenty of imitations and not surprisingly WordPress has its fair share of options.
Whether you want to create your own niched Q&A site or simply want to add the functionality to your existing site, any of these are plugins will help you get there.
The most difficult task is working out which one to choose.
Recently I reviewed forum plugins and actually included two Q&A plugins in that review.
Based on the number of Q&A solutions versus the number of forum solutions for WordPress, it would seem that the Q&A approach is certainly more popular at the moment and by some magnitude.
The full range of solutions are available, free and premium, plugin and themes.
To keep the choices manageable, I’ve looked just at plugins. Apart from pleasing the purists there is a growing movement in the WordPress community for themes to concentrate just on the look and feel and for plugins to contain additional functionality.
Here then, in no particular order, are the top 6 WordPress plugins for adding Q&A functionality to your site.
The CMS Answers plugin comes in two flavours: Free and Pro.
The Free version provides basic moderation, email notifications, answer and voting counting, basic sorting and some limited customisation of the template.
The Pro version greatly extends the Free version to include enhanced moderation and access, user profiles, question categories, shortcodes, marking a question as resolved, tags and stickies. This version is also multisite compatible and integrates with BuddyPress.
There are a couple of features in the pro that you might consider essential (question categories, marking a question as resolved).
The look and feel is taken from Stackoverflow and is a reasonably clean-looking implementation and fairly easy to work with.
Cost: Free, $29 (Pro)
DQ Q&A from DesignWall is a highly competent Q&A plugin.
A comprehensive settings page allows easy management of all aspects of the plugin, including an extensive permission and the ability to completely edit all seven email templates.
The interface is attractive, if a little monotone and could easily be implemented as is.
The plugin provides commenting (as well as answers), answer voting, answer selection, public and private questions and question categories. Answers can even be saved as “drafts”.
Images and media can be embedded in a question via the URL but there is no facility for uploading attachments.
The plugin creates its own pages to hold the output and these can be reconfigured in the settings.
The question listing page allows questions to be sorted by view, answers or votes and the list can be filtered on a post status.
The plugin provides two widgets, Popular Questions and Related Questions.
DW Q&A is an impressive product that can be integrated with any theme and will provide an almost instant solution which would give you a bit a time to maybe add some color to the theme!
AnsPress is another substantial free plugin with possibly the best looking interface of all the plugins tested.
A comprehensive set of options allows for fairly extensive configuration of the plugin’s behavior, from the pages that the content will appear on to the points configuration.
The layout is clean and simple with excellent use of color for distinguishing between questions, comments and answers. Answers cannot be approved but questions can be marked as closed, solved or duplicate. Both questions and answers can be flagged and voted up and down.
Comments can be attached to both questions and answers.
This plugin may not be as full-featured as some of the other options but it is certainly one of the best looking and should be easy to integrate into an existing theme.
SabaiDiscuss is a premium plugin available via CodeCanyon.
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Perhaps not surprisingly, it is feature heavy including access control, voting, abuse reporting system, user profile pages, reputation engine, featured posts, bookmarking, code syntax highlighter and a social sharing tool.
Users are able to attach images and files to both questions and answers.
There’s an integrated Markdown editor, which is not going to be that useful, I suspect, but eight widgets would cover any site owner’s needs. There is also a shortcode that is highly configurable meaning that integration with any theme should be straight forward.
Customization can be made by overriding the templates in your own theme. The email templates are also available for customisation.
The settings allow you to configure every aspect of the plugins behaviour and there’s good documentation to back it all up.
The plugin appears to be well maintained and has been regularly updated since being launched in late November 2012.
This appears to be a very capable and feature-rich plugin that would seem to represent excellent value for money. It’s rating on Code Canyon is 4.46/5 based on 134 ratings.
Cost: $20 (single), $100 (extended)
WP Answers is a premium plugin that also includes its own responsive theme if required.
Unlike most of the other plugins, WP Answers doesn’t go for the Stackoverflow look and feel but provides a simpler but equally pleasing layout.
The plugin includes a reputation system, social media integration and built-in moderation. It also includes the ability to automatically populate with content from Yahoo Answers which is an interesting approach to encouraging those first tentative questions.
Currently there are two add-ons: PayPal which enables charging for posting a question and User Levels which is a simple permission system. The add-ons are only available with the developer licence.
WP Answers does appear to be a relatively expensive option to all except for those that want the PayPal option.
Cost: $89 (single), $129 (developer)*
Both licences include “lifetime” support and updates.
*includes all themes, add-on modules, PSD files
Q &A is WPMU DEV’s own question and answer plugin and brings a Stackoverflow experience to WordPress.
The plugin provides a comprehensive set of settings covering theme integration, permissions, and notification templates.
The plugin provides functionality for voting, user profile pages and reputation.
This plugin’s biggest advantage is its use of the full WYSIWYG editor with support for adding media.
It also comes with four widgets: question categories, questions, question tags and users with highest reputation. The last in the list being extremely useful if you are looking to build a community around your forum.
A solid plugin that provides much of the standard functionality but does differentiate itself with the file upload support.
Cost: $19 (unlimited)
Which To Pick?
Tough question. What surprised me about this list was just how good the plugins were across the board.
WP Answers, though, is a considerable premium to the rest of the field, so unless you particularly want PayPal integration, there doesn’t seem to be much justification in spending the extra.
Sabai Discuss provides the most features and looks good out-of-the-box. If you wanted to ensure that you had all bases covered then this would be $20 well spent.
That said, the free offerings are also very good. DW is also very feature-rich and whilst AnsPress is not as feature-laden it is the best looking of all the plugins.
So, my advice would be to make a list of what functionality you need and then start from AnsPress and work your way through until you find a match.
If you don’t want to spend the time doing that, then Sabai Discuss is probably your best bet.
Have you implemented a Q&A forum on your WordPress site? Have you used either of the premium plugins? Let us know in the comments below.