If you’re an avid WordPress user, then you may have heard of the well known social networking solution called BuddyPress. BuddyPress is a great way to build a social network for your company, school, sports team, or any niche community. This article is meant to be used as a guide to get you started off in the right direction with BuddyPress and WordPress. In this Introduction to BuddyPress, I will cover how to install the software, the useful features and interface BuddyPress supplies, BuddyPress extensions and much more.
A Closer Look
BuddyPress is a social network that allows users sign-up and start creating their very own profiles. Users can send messages, make connections with other users, create groups or communities, share status updates and much more. BuddyPress, as defined by its creators, is a “social network in a box “. If your company, community, school, or anything of that nature needs a place to interact with each other then look to BuddyPress as an outstanding solution.
BuddyPress comes with several components that integrate directly with your existing WordPress site. The great advantage to BuddyPress over other solutions is the fact that you don’t need to have a customized theme to use it. BuddyPress creates a few new pages and options within your theme and WordPress admin area. Other than these additions, your site can function just the same as it always has.
Benefits To Using BuddyPress
- Complete social networking solution in one plugin.
- Themeable and adaptable to almost any WordPress theme.
- Extendable. Forums and additional plugins can all be added and maintained very easily.
- User friendly. All the features of your favorite sites like Facebook and Twitter are yours to do with as you please.
- Users can register and contribute thus creating a larger audience for your website.
- A community can be established which builds up hype about your website.
Installing BuddyPress is easy. You actually install it like any other plugin. Simply head to your WordPress admin area and click on Plugins. Search for BuddyPress. The first result should be the installation you are looking for. You will notice a lot of plugins during your search. There are a ton of add-ons that make BuddyPress even more useful. I will cover a few shortly.
After installing, you’ll notice a couple of new things within your theme and your WordPress admin area. I’ll explain these below.
After a full installation of the BuddyPress plugin, you will likely notice a few changes to the way your admin area looks. In the top right, where you username and gravatar lives, you will notice a new circle with a zero inside. This is a notifications indicator. With BuddyPress you can opt to have settings to include notifications for messages, comments, friend requests and more.
If you hover over your username and gravatar, you will notice a much more elaborate drop down menu of available options.
Here you see what my current installation and profile drop down looks like. Notice the new options for activity, profile, notifications, messages, friends, groups, and settings. You can also edit your profile and update your account information just like on sites such as Facebook or Twitter. You should also notice many of the features you probably use today on social networking sites are now right within your website.
Finally if you look to the left side navigation you will notice two new links to Activity and Groups (depending on your settings).
BuddyPress revolves around its user base. Without users, your BuddyPress installation might be a little lacking. The first step, once you have enough users, is to allow your new users to register for their own account. In order to allow people to register, you first need to make sure you actually allow this process within your main WordPress settings panel. By default WordPress is set to disallow user registration. You can even assign new registrars different roles within your WordPress site. For BuddyPress, you will likely want to set your default user role to Subscriber or Contributor settings for maximum security.
Once registered, each user is given their own profile and admin area to control. They can modify their account information as well as keep track of their time on the site. The login to their account will be the familiar WordPress login screen you already use to access your admin area. The big difference is that once the new registrars login, the settings and actions they can control will be limited based on the role you have assigned.
Adding a new user can be done by the user themselves or by clicking the register button once directed to do so. The screen below displays the Login and Register links in the bar atop your website. With a bit CSS, you can style these links to fit in more with the look of your website.
Users can also be added from the administration panel. If the website is owned by you, then you can easily add users as well.
Here is our newly added user.
For this walk-through I am using our new Divi 2.0 theme. For the sake of brevity I haven’t made a lot of customizations to the theme as you can probably tell. There is so much more you can customize when using this theme, but I won’t be covering that today. For our purposes, I will just be exploring how well BuddyPress adapts with the theme as well as the functionality of the plugin itself.
If you’ve used WordPress before and are familiar with the various user roles, then editing your profile should be both an easy and familiar process. After logging in you can click your user drop down menu at the top right side of your screen. Click on Edit Profile and you will be taken to a page where you can update things such as your nickname, admin color style, biographical information, as well as include a link to your website. You can also update your password if needed.
Below is the current setup on my testing WordPress Installation. Remember that some of this information gets displayed to other users who register on your site. Having a memorable username and gravatar thumbnail helps other users recognize you and identify with you, so be sure and choose good credentials.
With your profile updated you can now see how your information is displayed publicly. Head to your user drop down menu again and click the Profile link. You should see something similar to this:
Within this page, which every user has, are a large number of features including:
- Last Activity
It’s safe to say that this page is a dashboard of sorts for BuddyPress. Users can message each other, post status updates, join groups, update notification settings as well modify their global settings.
To use BuddyPress successfully and to its full potential, the plugin requires a few pages to be present on your website. If you look in your WordPress Dashboard under Settings > BuddyPress you will see a Pages tab similar to the one shown below.
By default the Activity, Groups, and Members pages are create. You will need to create both the Register and Activate pages if you want to allow users to register on your site. If you are using BuddyPress, then this is a requirement.
Once all the pages are present and you have allowed anyone to register to your site within your main settings panel, you should be ready to use BuddyPress the way it was intended.
By default, BuddyPress includes some custom widgets that can offer really useful information to all of your sites users. These a used for logging in, notifications, and also allow you to seeing who is online and logged in at the same time as you.
The default widgets provided by BuddyPress.
The widgets active inside our theme.
As if BuddyPress wasn’t enough, there are a number of amazing plugins available that extend it even further. Most of the plugins are very simple to set up and maintain. You probably won’t have to worry much about the plugins becoming unsupported in the near future.
The BuddyPress Toolbar is almost a must have if you decide to implement BuddyPress on your website. The toolbar is a an extension to BuddyPress which gives admins quick access to the latest activity, custom settings, and even more to the websites owner or moderator. Think of it a short cut plugin that is a huge time saver if your site happens to grow and have a lot of users to maintain. If you search for BuddyPress when adding a new plugin you’ll see the BuddyPress Toolbar coming in at second on the list.
bbPress is a software package built with forums and WordPress in mind. The plugin seamlessly adds a great forums solution to WordPress’s already powerful content management system. This saves you time and headache while searching for a third party solution of a similar caliber. The seamless integration I described above also happens to work with BuddyPress. Alongside WordPress, you can download both BuddyPress and bbPress and have an amazingly cool website in just a few clicks.
To install it, navigate to the new plugin page and search for bbPress. Install the plugin and click activate. Head to your admin area and then to the
Settings / Forums. You should see a screen similar to the one below. At the very bottom of this screen you should see a section titled BuddyPress Integration. The title speaks for itself here. This section controls the integration between your users who signed up with BuddyPress and the newly installed bbPress plugin.
With both bbPress and BuddyPress installed, your users can now have access to the forums section of your website while using their supplied account with BuddyPress and WordPress. Super cool!
BuddyPress Links adds rich media sharing features to BuddyPress. If you have ever shared a link on Facebook or GooglePlus, you may have noticed the link automatically displays some of the data you are actually linking to. Data such as images, video, thumbnails, and excerpts are what typically gets displayed. The BuddyPress Links plugin make this task simple and easy. Simply download and activate the plugin and you and your users should be good to go.
There is a free version and a pro version. The pro version gives you access to group integration, link re-sharing, Dailymotion and Vimeo support and more.
BuddyPress Docs is a plugin geared towards a collaborated documentation environment. Think of it as wikipedia but on a smaller scale. The ability to have other users contribute is also a nice add on.
WordPress alone is a very powerful platform. Combining WordPress with BuddyPress makes the platform even more powerful. Within minutes your WordPress website can transform into a complete social network where users discuss, relate, comment, and improve whatever it is your service or product(s) provide. Using BuddyPress can allow you to open new doors and target a much larger audience. With a few customizations and a couple plugins properly activated and updated, there’s no telling how much you can achieve. I hope you’ve learned a bit about BuddyPress and how it can be useful on some websites. If your site or company needs a place to communicate, then look no further than BuddyPress + WordPress.