BuddyPress and bbPress – Taking WordPress to a Whole New Level

Want to turn your WordPress site into a community? Or even a social network? Then you need to take a serious look at the bbPress and BuddyPress plugins

bbPress – Forums done the WordPress way

bbPress.orgWritten by the WordPress developers to power the WordPress support forums, bbPress is also the underlying technology behind the WordPress plugin repository interface and provides the forums component of BuddyPress. The integration of BuddyPress and bbPress is a work in progress but fairly functional as of this year. And as of version 2.0 (released in 2011) bbPress is now a true WordPress plugin. So if WordPress comments are not enough and you want a true forum component on your site, check out bbPress.

BuddyPress – Social Networking with WordPress

BuddyPress.orgWith BuddyPress (also now a full plugin for WordPress) you can take your WordPress site to a whole new level by turning it into a social networking community. BuddyPress brings a whole suite of capabilities to WordPress: including user profiles, a friending mechanism, groups and group based forums. While bbPress provides sitewide forums, BuddyPress provides forums that you need to be a member of a group to participate in. The group concept is very flexible and groups can be public, private and even hidden.

Examples of BuddyPress sites

At a recent meetup at Oakland coworking space: Tech Liminal. I got the opportunity to see two speakers, Ben Hansen, webmaster for gotgame.com and Eric Reynolds, developer and current community manager of oakarts.net, walk through their BuddyPress sites. GotGame.com serves the gaming community, featuring reviews and original video content. While Eric’s OSA APT Connect site is an online place for parents to come together who have children in a Oakland Performing Arts school. The two sites serve two totally different communities but both are great examples of what you can do with BuddyPress. Most of the information in this post is based on their talks, so a big thanks to Ben and Eric and to the East Bay WordPress meetup Group.

Things to know about BuddyPress

  • You can’t use any old theme with BuddyPress, you need a theme specifically built for BuddyPress. Eric recommended starting with the default theme that comes with BuddyPress but has heavily customized his theme for his site.
  • Your server utilization will be much higher with BuddyPress, as soon as you have a couple of hundred users – you will be beyond what shared hosting can provide for you.You’ll need at the minimum VPS, or better yet a dedicated server.
  • Like WordPress, BuddyPress has a codex.
  • Now that you are building a community, your site will require a much higher level of management than before, especially around user management. You will need a community manager if you are not going to do it yourself.
  • And of course it goes without saying that you need to not only attract new members but drive participation, for example, with contests and leading posts.
  • Spamming will be a big concern. Akismet will help but there are parts of BuddyPress it can’t scan so it is not enough. Eric uses a plugin called WangGuard which protects against splogging and spam user registration. Ben has implemented measures to prevent private messaging spamming and maintains a blacklist with Ban Hammer.

Recommended BuddyPress Plugins

Here are a couple of plugins beyond WangGuard and Ban Hammer(see above) that Eric and Ben recommended:

  1. User Role Editor – Admin can edit the roles (BuddyPress has additional roles)
  2. User Switcher – So you don’t have to log out and back in to change user accounts in WordPress
  3. InviteAnyone – invite members by email
  4. BuddyPress WelcomePack – customize your BuddyPress emails.
  5. BuddyPress Ninja – makes admin activity invisible with stealth mode.

One of the reasons I am such a fan of WordPress is because of the community that supports it and the interesting directions that some have taken with it. The bbPress and BuddyPress plugins are great examples of how you can build something very significant on top of the WordPress platform.

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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