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What is BuddyPress? How to Set Up and Use it Right

If you’ve been using WordPress for a while, you probably know that you can use various plugins to extend the functionality of your website. 

Some plugins help you create more revenue for your business, while others are focused on creating a community around your website. In a sea of plugins, there is one in particular that has a number of benefits for a small business.

The plugin in question is called BuddyPress and it adds a whole slew of community building features. You can create your very own social network for your company and use it to facilitate communication and collaboration between employees.

Another benefit of BuddyPress is that you can allow anyone who visits your website to register and create a profile which is a nice way of connecting with your target audience, clients, and customers. It can help you build hype around your website and you can use it to provide immediate customer support.

How to Set Up and Use Buddypress
How to set up and use BuddyPress. (source graphic)

In today’s article, I’ll show you how to install and setup BuddyPress, how to create the necessary pages, and how to add them to the menu. I’ll also cover different user roles and how to extend the functionality of BuddyPress further.

What is BuddyPress?

BuddyPress is touted as a “social network in a box” and it helps you build any type of community website using WordPress, with member profiles, activity streams, user groups, messaging, and more. 

On top of that, you can take advantage of numerous great add-on features to add extra functionality to your social network. It allows you to include message attachments, document collaboration, likes, a Facebook-like wall, and more. It’s focused on simple integration, ease of use, and extensibility.

BuddyPress website
BuddyPress website.

Users can create their own profiles, send messages, create groups, share status updates, and much more. BuddyPress comes with several components that integrate directly with your existing WordPress site and it even works with your installed theme out of the box. 

There are also themes designed specifically to work with BuddyPress which allow for more customization and functionality, which are available on Envato Market:

Best-selling BuddyPress themes
Best-selling BuddyPress themes, available for sale on Envato Market (ThemeForest).

Now let’s look at how to use BuddyPress, from install and setting up, to working with it and customizations.

How to Install and Setup BuddyPress

If you have ever installed a plugin on your WordPress website, you’ll have no problems installing BuddyPress. In your WordPress dashboard, click on Plugins > Add New and then search for BuddyPress. It should come up as the first result so go ahead and click on Install and then Activate.

Installing the BuddyPress plugin
Installing the BuddyPress plugin.

You will immediately be taken to the BuddyPress welcome screen which has links to help you set up and manage your community.  

BuddyPress welcome screen
BuddyPress welcome screen.

The first thing we’ll do is configure BuddyPress settings. Clicking on the Get Started button on the welcome screen will immediately take you to the settings area for Buddypress.

Configuring Your BuddyPress Setup

As you can see from the screenshot (above), there are three areas that need to be configured:

  1. Selecting the components you want to include
  2. Creating and assigning pages
  3. Tweaking BuddyPress options

Let’s walk through each of them, one step at a time.

Step 1 – Activate the BuddyPress Components

By default, BuddyPress will have some of the components pre-activated. You can activate or deactivate all but two components. The BuddyPress Core and the Community Members components cannot be deactivated because they are needed for the plugin to function properly.

BuddyPress components
BuddyPress components.

The rest of the components include:

  • Extended Profiles – Users can customize their profiles.
  • Account Settings – Allows users to edit their account settings and notifications.
  • Friend Connections – Let users make connections with each other.
  • Private Messaging – Enables private messaging between users.
  • Activity Streams – Global, personal, and group activity streams with threaded commenting, direct posting, favoriting, and @mentions.
  • Notifications – Notify members of relevant activity with a toolbar bubble and/or via email.
  • User Groups – Allows users to organize themselves into specific public, private or hidden sections with separate activity streams and member listings.
  • Site Tracking – Lets you record activity for new posts and comments from your site.

You can select as many or as few of them, depending on the needs of your website. It’s also easy to enable certain components at a later date. Once you’re done selecting which components you want, click on Save Settings.

Step 2 – Set Up Your Pages

The next step is to configure the pages that BuddyPress will use. Most of the pages are already created, but you will need to manually create the pages for user registration and activation. 

Keep in mind that you will also need to enable user registration in Settings > General > Allow anyone to register for the site if you plan on having a public community.

Configuring BuddyPress pages
Configuring BuddyPress pages.

If you want to keep your community closed, you will have to enter new members manually and can skip the following step.

In your dashboard, click on Pages > Add New and then create a blank page called Registration and another one called Activation. You don’t need to add any content to those pages as BuddyPress will automatically display the appropriate content.

Once your pages are created, go back to Settings > BuddyPress and select the Pages Tab. Under Registration, select the pages you just created for the appropriate functions.

Click on Save Settings.  

Step 3 – Tweak Your BuddyPress Settings

Now that the main options have been set up properly, it’s time to tweak the settings. Click on the Options tab. Here you can configure various settings regarding user profiles, groups, activity, and main settings. The settings themselves are pretty explanatory, as you can see from the screenshot below:

Additional BuddyPress settings
Additional BuddyPress settings.

Select the ones that are relevant for your community and click on Save Settings.

How to Work With BuddyPress

The core of BuddyPress revolves around users. We’ve mentioned before that you will need to enable user registration on your site if you want to have an open community where your visitors can freely register for your website. 

BuddyPress itself doesn’t have any default member roles. Therefore, the safest option is to set the user role of new members to Subscriber or Contributor.

1. User Profiles

Once someone registers, they are given their own profile which they can control from the admin area. Aside from the regular profile options, each user can access the Extended Profile settings if you enabled it in the previous step.

A BuddyPress user profile
A BuddyPress user profile.

From there, they can enter as much information about themselves as they want to. You can create different profile fields under Users > Profile Fields to allow your users to enter their name, birthday, a short biography, links to their other profiles, and more. You can also group various profile fields to organize them better.

Extended profile options in BuddyPress
Extended profile options in BuddyPress.

Once your users are done entering their profile information, they can access their public profile which has a large number of features:

  • Last Activity
  • Profile
  • Notifications
  • Messages
  • Friends
  • Groups
  • Settings

This page also serves as a personal dashboard from where anyone, including you, can message other users, post status updates, join groups, modify global settings, and much more.

Users can post status updates
Users can post status updates.

Aside from allowing user registrations, you can also add users manually from your WordPress dashboard under Users > Add New.

2. How Groups Work

If you selected the Groups component earlier, you and your users will be able to create groups. Groups can be set to be public, which allows anyone to join the group. Public groups will also be visible sitewide and their activity will be displayed in the Activity feed.

Setting up BuddyPress group setting
Setting up BuddyPress group setting.

Private groups require users to request membership and they will be visible sitewide. The activity of a private group, though, is only visible to group members.

Finally, hidden groups are invite-only, aren’t visible on the rest of your website, and the group activity is visible only to group members.

Each group, regardless of the group type can be set to allow new invites in one of three ways:

  1. only group admins
  2. group admins and mods
  3. any member of the group

Similarly to members, each group can have an avatar and a header image which makes it more recognizable.

3. Adding Widgets and Menus

To make your community as user-friendly as possible as well as to make navigation easier, you can create a custom menu and take advantage of the widgets that come with BuddyPress.

Let’s take care of the menu first.

Go to Appearance >  Menus and click the create a new menu link. Give it a name and set the menu to be used in whichever menu position you’d like the menu to appear.  

Add the pages you want to show up in your navigation from the Pages section and add the desired BuddyPress pages. Here’s how our custom menu looks:

Setting up BuddyPress custom navigation
Setting up BuddyPress custom navigation.

Now click Save Menu to save it.

Next, let’s add some widgets to our sidebar so our members and site visitors have an easier time navigating around the site and can immediately get an overview of the site activity.  

Click on Appearance > Widgets. The default WordPress theme TwentySixteen has a sidebar widget area and two widget areas that appear below the content. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll be adding a Log In and Who’s Online widgets to our sidebar, but depending on your theme, you can add them to any widgetized area on your website.

BuddyPress widget options
BuddyPress widget options.

Bear in mind that the available widgets depend on the components you activated earlier. They allow your users to log in or register, see notifications, discover who is online, and you can also use them to post a sitewide notice to your entire community.

How to Extend and Customize BuddyPress

Now that your community is properly set up, you’ll need a theme to make it visually appealing. Our theme marketplace, ThemeForest, has a large selection of high-quality premium BuddyPress themes that are sure to take your site to a new level. 

They can be used to create any type of website but they are designed and developed to be fully compatible with the BuddyPress plugin to ensure all your pages, user profiles, groups, and all the functionality works as expected without any issues. Be sure to check out our curated selection of the best BuddyPress themes for community sites: 

There is also a number of amazing plugins that extend BuddyPress even further. Most of them are simple to set up and maintain. They give you the ability to add attachments to private messages, user collaboration on documents, and much more.

Here are a few of the most notable BuddyPress related plugins:

1. BuddyPress Links

BuddyPress Links plugin adds rich media sharing features to BuddyPress. This means that if you share a link to another website, it will automatically display some of the data included in the link. Images, video, thumbnails, and excerpts are usually displayed so your members can get an idea of what the link is about.

2. BuddyPress Docs

BuddyPress Docs is a must-have plugin if you plan on building a company network. It’s the BuddyPress version of Google Docs and it allows members of your community to collaborate on documents, create documentation, and more.

3. bbPress

bbPress adds a great forums solution to WordPress’s already powerful content management system.  It’s a great way to extend the functionality of your BuddyPress website and encourage user interaction. On top of that, bbPress integrates perfectly with BuddyPress.

4. BuddyPress Simple Terms And Conditions

With BuddyPress Simple Terms And Conditions, it’s easy to extend the BuddyPress registration page with a checkbox for accepting the terms and conditions or terms of use. This is a necessity if you run a business website. It can also save you a lot of potential headaches down the road.

BuddyPress Brings Community to WordPress

WordPress alone is a very powerful platform but when you combine it with BuddyPress, it becomes even more powerful. 

You can quickly turn your website into a full-featured social network, company network, and more. It allows your target audience to discuss and comment on your services and products, as well as get immediate support if they encounter any issues.

Pair BuddyPress with a few extra plugins and a gorgeous looking theme and you can open up your website to a whole new audience. If your company needs a place to facilitate communication and collaboration, look no further than BuddyPress.