Important Update (26 Aug 2010):
A new WordPress plugin has been released to fill the “Questions & Answers” gap once and for all. It is called WP-Answers and the features include:
- Fully fledged Question & Answer System where anyone can ask and/or answer questions
- Points system whereby members receive points for answering questions.
- Profile pages for each member
- Automatic content from Yahoo Answers
- Auto updating CRON to periodically post content automatically
- Advertising management built in!
- 6 themes included
This is what it looks like (and I think it looks awesome!) :
This plugin really seems to sum up EXACTLY what I was looking for in a questions and answers website when I originally wrote this post. In a strange way, I almost feel that it was written especially for this post :) Go and get it now! or carry on reading the original post….
If you have ever wanted to create your own Questions & Answers website then this roundup post is for you! We recently wanted to create a FAQ style website, through which the community could ask questions about a new service offering. We also wanted the community themselves to answer the questions. One of the best examples of this style of site (that I frequently visit) is http://stackoverflow.com. Not only does the developer community answer questions, but they can also vote for the best answers, so that the next time someone visits the same page, the highest voted answer is listed at the top – awesome! So I decided to search for the different options available to you if you want to build something similar to Stack Overflow. I also want to concentrate on WordPress and see what is available.
I only managed to find 2 themes that focus specifically on creating a question and answers website.
Answers Theme ($49)
There are a couple of themes that I have found that specialize in this style of website. The first, and most recently released, is from Templatic and is aptly named Answers. It has some pretty cool features built into the theme. They include:
- 7 different colour schemes
- Customizable homepage
- User listing, details and dashboard pages
- Supports monetization of questions using Paypal (so you can charge people to post questions if you really want)
- Complete admin backend option pages
- Read the full list of features
Here are some screenshots of it in action:
Instant Q&A Theme ($37)
- 3 colour scemes
- Question categories and sub-categories
- Custom user “Log In”, “Sign up”, “Profile” and “My Account” pages
- Admin options pages to set Logo, Banner Ad Monetization, Google analytics etc
There are quite a few plugins to provide FAQ type functionality in your wordpress blog, but I could not find any that gave anywhere near as much functionality and admin options as the above 2 themes. The nice thing about using a plugin is obviously the fact that you can use it with any theme and you are not bound to the theme’s set look and feel. Following are some of the plugins that I thought were worth a mention.
WP Answers Plugin (free)
This plugin looks like it offers quite a similar solution to the above themes, as can be seen in the screenshots. An obvious difference is that this plugin can work with any theme with a bit of playing with CSS. You can set a few things in your admin options, like if you want users to register before asking a question. Users get a karma rating based on positive and negative feedback and you can also view who your top 25 users are.
WP Answers! Yahoo Answers Plugin ($20)
The WP Answers plugin automatically retrieves questions and answers from Yahoo Anwers and creates posts within your blog. The best answer is also retrieved and inserted in the post as a comment. You specify the keywords for which you want to collect questions and it does the rest. Check out more details on the plugin’s website. It will set you back at least $20, with a developer license costing you $299.
FAQ-Tastic Lite Plugin (free)
The FAQ-Tastic plugin allows you to add a FAQ section to any page in your blog very easily. It has quite an extensive set of admin option pages, where you can, among many other things, add question groups, moderate questions asked by your site visitors, and drag and drop question display order. You add the plugin functionality to your blog by using simple shortcodes, as you can discover in the good plugin documentation. The plugin also has a PRO version which seems to have been discontinued??? Another complementary plugin has been created to add AJAX open-close effects to FAQ Tastic.
WordPress FAQs Plugin ($19.99)
This nice plugin from Tribulant allows you to manage frequently asked questions on your blog. There are also quite a lot of features including search boxes, visitor submission forms and a built-in image gallery. The admin options are also very extensive and well laid out. There is some simple documentation as well as a live online example that showcases most of the features.
There are quite a few good non-Wordpress solutions to creating a questions and answer website. Some are self hosted, others you can download the source and play and change with the code. Here is a list of some of the better ones:
Question2Answer (open source)
Question2Answer is an open source solution that you can download, edit and install on your own server. It requires PHP and MySQL and can scale to over 1 million users (according to the site). There is some documentation and an online example too. I like this one!!!
OSQA (open source)
OSQA - which stands for Open Source Q&A system. A quote from the site says: “Your OSQA site is more than just an FAQ page, it is a full-featured Q&A community. Users earn points and badges for useful participation, and everyone in the community wins.” It is written in Python and powered by the Django application framework. There is extensive online documentation contained within their wiki. They also host their own working example of the software. This is one extensive solution!!
QHub (free hosted solution)
Qhub is a hosted solution that literally takes 5 minutes to setup your own comprehensive question and answer website at a subdomain of qhub.com. For example: medicalquestions.qhub.com. You can, however, use your own domain name once your sign up by using domain forwarding. The only catch is that your site will contain link banners stating that the site was built with Qhub with links so that visitors can create their own Qhub site. To remove these promotional banners you need to pay $20 per month. There are lots of admin options where you can customize the look and feel, moderate questions, member housekeeping, etc. I have tried this product and must admit that it rocks!
And the winner is…
There seem to be quite a few options available to you if you want to create a decent questions and answers website, but I feel that there is no clear winner here. I would have chosen a winner if there was a seriously good questions and answers WordPress plugin. The reason why I like plugins is that you can make it fit in with your theme and can change the way it looks and, in some of the better plugins, you can even alter the way it works slightly. If the functionality of the excellent themes at the top of this post could be extracted and put together into a plugin, that would be my ultimate solution to creating a questions and answers website.
Update (26 Aug 2010):
Some Extra Reading
If you know of any plugins or themes that I have not listed here, please leave a comment letting me know…