BuddyPress has been around since 2008 and has grown quite rapidly into what is now know as one the best social network creation tools.
With its powerful widgets and great themes you could not only make a nice clone of other social networks, but also very easily create a unique network with your own needs. This is not the only thing you can do of course, the BuddyPress system is great for those who want to make membership system (free or paid) and teachers are even using it! How? Well, they just limit access to their students and they use the site to share notes, files, grades and updates on seminars and the like. Companies also use this system to have reliable method of communication, which is growing threat to sites like Basecamp. BuddyPress keeps growing, so there is no telling what is possible already, and what will be possible in the future!
The whole community package is based around several important and useful components. There are additional plugins you can use such as:
- Extended Profiles: This allows you to control the registration on the site. Will it be open to all or will you add people yourself? What fields will they have to fill-in? Names, Email and Password? Perhaps you want more? You can fully change that to your liking!
- Private Messaging: It is like an internal mailing system which is great for companies. You can massage your ‘friends’ send replies or forward messages.
- Friends: You know this from Facebook already right? Just add another user as a friend and if they accept they will be your friend and show up in your list.
- Groups: Groups are a great feature in BuddyPress and give a lot of space to play around.
- Activity Streams: This stream will aggregate all activity across a BuddyPress installation. It is like a Facebook News Stream or Tweeter.
- Blog Tracking: Allows multiple users and blogs which is quite normal.
Need more plugins and features? Get them from the BuddyPress plugin repository!
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to install BuddyPress, however it is definitely more difficult to customize it and change some default settings to get exactly what you need. Most guides exclude this, but this useful guide on WPMU illustrates the whole process quite nicely.
Now that you have this set-up, you obviously want to change the default theme into something more appealing. Tripwire Magazine has a very nice BuddyPress theme showcase where you can find all sorts of themes and designs for different purposes. If you plan on using BuddyPress, be sure to get a theme that is built for BuddyPress. A standard WordPress theme will not be sufficient without modifications – something the less tech-savvy user will struggle with for some time.