Almost every bigger site on the internet has a forum attached to it. They pay hefty bill for hosting and managing the forum software. However, there are few open source platforms available for free to setup your question and answer type of forums. In this article let us explore how to setup question and answer website with Questions2Answers package.
What is Questions2Answers?
Questions2Answers is one of the open source package available for creating community-based websites like Stack Overflow or Quora. It is free software from Gideon Greenspan and maintained by volunteers. Gideon developed other platforms like Copyscape and Web Sudoku.
- It works with PHP and MySQL database.
- 23K+ websites use the software, however there are very few active sites available.
- The source Q&A code is free along with few themes, you can purchase or develop theme for further need.
Check out the demo to have a visual feeling of how the questions and answers section will look like.
Features of Questions2Answers
Below are some of the things you can get with this software package:
- Stack Overflow type question and answer.
- Users can ask questions and comment on existing questions.
- You can setup reward points to encourage users for asking questions.
- Enable up voting and down voting of the answers and questions.
- Robust user management to control spam and moderate answers.
- Manage questions under categories and tags.
- Change the theme and add plugins.
- Setup caching to improve the page loading speed.
Go to the official website and download the software for free. Below are the requirements for you to create Q&A website with Questions2Answers.
- Paid hosting with Bluehost, SiteGround, HostGator or any other company.
- FTP access to your site.
- Server running on Apache or Nginx.
- PHP 5.2 or later, though 7+ is recommended.
- MySQL 5.0 or later.
You can also easily integrate the software with popular content management systems like WordPress.
Follow the below instructions to install Questions2Answers on your server.
- Step1 – Downloading the package
- Step2 – Creating MySQL database and user
- Step 3 – Update the database details in qa-config.php
- Step4 – Uploading on your server
- Step 5 – Access your site
- Step 6 – Configuring your questions and answers site
Let us explain each step in more details along with integrating Questions2Answers with WordPress site
Step1 – Downloading Questions2Answers
You can choose to install the software either on the main domain or on the subdirectory by following the below instructions.
- Go to the GitHub page and download the package. Unzip and extract the content. It should look like below on your computer.
The package contains .htaccess file which will be hidden by default. Therefore, enable showing hidden files on your computer. Follow the instructions in our other article to view hidden files on Windows.
Step2 – Creating MySQL database and user
The second step is to login to your hosting account and create a database. Most of the hosting companies offer cPanel for managing your account. Check out our article on how to create a MySQL database, user and assigning the user to database.
Ensure to assign all privileges to the user for creating, modifying and deleting the tables. Note down the username, password and database details to use in the next step.
Related: Disputo bbPress theme review.
Step 3 – Update the database details in qa-config.php
The unzipped Questions2Answers contains two important files.
- Locate qa-config-example.php file and rename it to
- Find .htaccess-example file and rename it to .htaccess
At this point, you don’t need to modify .htaccess file. Open the qa-config.php file with the any text editor like Brackets, Notepad or TextEdit. Remember, not to modify the file with the rich text editors like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. Modify the details of database as noted down in the step 2. You can leave the hostname as it is with the localhost IP address 127.0.0.1 and modify the other details like username, password and database name.
Step4 – Uploading Files on Your Server
After modifying the configuration file, upload the entire Questions2Answers package on your server.
- Login to your FTP account using software like FileZilla.
- Upload all Questions2Answers files.
- You can upload either on the main domain, subdomain or subdirectory depending on your need.
Step 5 – Accessing Your Site
After uploading all the files, you can access the site in browser with the correct path.
- Open yoursite.com if you have uploaded the files on main domain.
- Access questions.yoursite.com, if you have uploaded the files on the “questions” subdomain.
- Open yoursite.com\questions if you have uploaded on the “questions” subdirectory on your main domain.
You will see a welcome message like below, indicating that you have done everything correctly. Click on the “Set up the Database” button.
Once setting up database, you can login to your site with the URL yoursite.com/admin/ or yoursite.com/questions/admin/ depending on whether you have the site on main domain or subdirectory.
Step6 – Setup Configurations and URL Structure
The admin section has many configurations to setup to questions and answers site before you start using. The most important setup is to select the URL structure for your site under “General” section. You can check the multiple structures and choose the suitable structure you want for your site.
You can also change the theme, question classification, text direction and language for your site under “General” section.
Basically, you can go through each section and customize as per your need. Below are some of the important setups you can choose before publishing questions:
- Select the plugins needed for your site under “Plugins” section like AdSense, page, Facebook login, reCAPTCHA, XML Sitemap and WYSIWYG editor.
- Setup reward points for your users under “Points” section.
- You can decide whether users can ask questions and post comments without login and other permissions under “Permissions” tab.
- Under “Layout” section, you can setup the sidebar widgets for your site.
After completing the customizations, you can preview the site and allow your users posting questions on the live site.
Integrating with WordPress site
Questions2Answers allows you to integrate the software with WordPress and other content management systems. However, the process is completely different, as Questions2Answers will also share the same database of the WordPress site. Follow the below instructions, in order to install Questions2Answers on a subdirectory of your main WordPress site:
- After downloading the Questions2Answers rename qa-config-example.php and .htaccess-example files to qa-config.php and .htaccess.
- Modify the qa-config.php file to add the path to your WordPress site.
You can add this line anywhere on the file, preferably below one of the existing define statement. Below is how it looks when we have integrated the software on our localhost under qa subdirectory.
Let us say, you have a WordPress site on the domain yoursite.com. If you want to install Questions2Answers on qa subdirectory then add the below line:
Ensure that you have wp-load.php file located in public_html path.
- Remember, you don’t need separate MySQL database for integrating with WordPress site. The Questions2Answers will add additional tables on your existing WordPress database.
- Upload all the files on the subdirectory of your server.
- Access the site with the subdirectory URL like yoursite.com/qa/.
- Follow the instructions to setup a database.
- Go to admin center and configure the site as explained above.
Now that, users login to your main WordPress site will automatically login your Questions2Answers section also. You need some addition setup to install the Questions2Answers on subdomain of your main WordPress site. Check out the instructions on the official site for different options and other details on upgrading to next version.
In our opinion, the Questions2Answers package has extensive options for setting up robust questions and answers website. However, there are hardly few volunteers currently managing the developments making the future questionable. You will also not find much resources online to get help or find themes / plugins that you need. If you like Questions2Answers then ensure you have capability to manage things on your own or with your developers.
- Free and open source
- Stack Overflow style questions and answers
- Easy to setup and customize
- Slow development and limited support resources
- Outdated theme, not many available themes and plugins