You would like to network with your customers, business partners or users on one platform, but still remain master of your data? No problem - with so-called Membership- or CommunityPlugins you can make your WordPress site to a social network in the twinkling of an eye! Johannes Mairhofer introduces you to the Plugin BuddyPress and shows you step by step how to set it up correctly.
What is BuddyPress?
With BuddyPress you extend your "normal" WordPress site many community features. Similar to the tool "Jetpack", which adds a lot of possibilities to your system, BuddyPress is in my opinion more than "just" onePlugin, even if the installation is almost as easy.
BuddyPress comes with so many possibilities that as preparation BEFORE the installation and as configuration AFTER the installation some steps are necessary. Furthermore I would like to recommend you to think about some things before, because a change is almost always possible afterwards, but for several reasons not recommended.
In the following I will show you some of the basics of BuddyPress, go into the possibilities, but also want to show you the legal risks and limits of BuddyPress. After this step-by-step guide you should be able to make a simple community out of your WordPress system and connect with your friends, a sports club or other smaller communities.
WordPress installation and preparations
In order to set up BuddyPress, you first need a "normal" WordPress. Especially with the BuddyPress attachment there are many possibilities and settings that can be made. In order to test these functions in peace and quiet, I recommend that you first secure the freshly installed website against external access.
To test this Plugin extensively, you have several options:
- If you need a completely new WordPress site and do not want it to be called out by third parties during the development phase, you can protect it with a password. At RAIDBOXES this is possible with one click .
- Another possibility is to put your entire website into maintenance mode, for example with a program Plugin like "Maintenance“.
- If you want your live-site during the test to continue to be available, I recommend you to test imStaging . With one click you RAIDBOXES activate a staging and you can test new Plugins ones there without risk. If you are satisfied with the result, you can go live with the changes with just one click.
Enable registration of new users
In order for users to be able to log into your community later, you will next need to adjust the "Anyone can log in" setting in the WordPress basic settings. You can do this under "Settings" → "General" - the check mark here is normally deactivated. Please allow the login and set the role of the users to "Subscriber
Normally you have a lot WordPress of Themes options to choose from, which you can use as you like and partly adapt. Unfortunately, only very few are Themes suitable for the BuddyPress function. For my project I have tried out some of them and therefore recommend Customify. This gives you some possibilities and a good addition to the functions of BuddyPress.
Next, you install the actual and required Plugin "BuddyPress”. You can easily do this in the normal way "Plugins" → "install".
After installing thisPlugins , your is WordPress already ready for community features and can be customized and configured on many levels.
Now let's take a look at the settings in peace and quiet. BuddyPress places itself in several areas of the WordPress configuration, for example in the preferences, in the tools and as separate main menu items in the dashboard.
We start in the "Settings" section, here you see a new section: "BuddyPress". Please click on it, we will now take a closer look at the individual items in the following.
With this option you offer your users the possibility to edit their profile fields themselves. For example, you can configure fields for links to social networks, biographical information, hobbies and much more. You can also create profile fields that your users can fill with their personal information.
Recommendation: In a community, profiles and some information about the users are now standard. My recommendation is to activate this setting.
Here you can determine whether your users can change their notification settings themselves or not. For example, they can inform themselves about updates from their friends, etc.
Recommendation: To prevent users from contacting you all the time and because I haven't found a reason against it at the moment, I would recommend to activate this setting as well.
With this you offer your users to network with each other, to "follow" each other and thus support the exchange (more about this in a moment). Recommendation: The use of the friendship feature is controversial. If you want to activate it, I would recommend you to deal with the legal issues. I cannot and may not give any tips on this, but with this one some functions GDPR are integrated here, which in my opinion require a legal vote.
As just mentioned, you can use this function to enable communication between your users. Your users can send each other messages, exchange and discuss via the platform.
Recommendation: Legal protection is even more important here than in friendships. Because your users can send each other messages, you may be responsible and may have to intervene. In addition, you must inform your users where and how the contents of the messages are stored. If you need this function, please contact a lawyer. Otherwise I recommend for legal reasons NOT to activate this setting.
In the activity history, you can expand the notification settings for your users and offer these notifications to users and groups. Users can also comment on each other's activities, favorites, and more. What sounds like a great feature is unfortunately also legally problematic – at least if you want to run your community as a free or hobby project.
Recommendation: Too bad for the function, but without legal advice I would advise you not to activate it.
You can also give your users the opportunity to exchange information in groups. You can create public and private groups here and thus offer many possibilities for exchange.
Recommendation: As with the other communication options, I recommend legal advice. If you want to enable this feature, I also recommend to only allow public groups. This way you can keep track of what your users write and intervene if necessary.
In site tracking you can save activities to new posts from your site.
My recommendation: do not activate.
The BuddyPress core contains all basic functions of the BuddyPress extension. Time travels are not possible, but you can't deactivate anything here either, since all basic functions and the entire system are located here.
Similar to the BuddyPress core, all member functions are stored here. You cannot activate or deactivate anything here either.
So we have seen the settings as an overview. Another point where BuddyPress stores functions are the tools.
In the tools you have different possibilities to use a few tools of BuddyPress. You can find them under "Tools" → "Buddypress". With these tools you access the database. So I recommend you to intervene here only if there is an urgent need and you know exactly what you are doing. Since this manual is more about the basics, I will not go into it in detail in the following.
The two most exciting settings can be found in the "Users" section.
If you have managed to have active users in your community, you can manage them here. You can delete them, reset passwords or similar things. In the beginning there will be no other users besides yourself.
By the way, you can configure BuddyPress so that all users have to be activated by you first to have full functionality. For example, if you want to define additional administrators, authors or editors, you can also do that here.
Now it is all about the users, or rather the profiles of the users. You can specify any fields here and combine them into field groups. To make this clearer, I show you a screenshot from my community project "speakable.”
With the button: "Add field" you can create new fields, which can be filled by the user with their information.
Each field in turn has some advanced options:
- Name: The name of the field - this item is mandatory
- Description: Here you can describe the field and explain to the user what you were thinking what he or she should enter here
- Requirement: Here you can set whether the user must use this field or it is a voluntary field. The requirement above refers to the FIELD name, the requirement here refers to whether your users must fill in this field.
- Visibility: here you can define who sees the content of this field. For example, you can define fields that only you can see (e.g. for feedback), fields that only all members can see each other or fields that everyone can see, even outside the community.
These options allow you to provide your members with a wide range of profile fields and also to divide them into different groups by creating a so-called "field group".
That was a short insight into the possibilities and settings of BuddyPress. Now I would like to give you some general tips and show you a concrete project that I have realized with BuddyPress.
As you have surely noticed, the possibilities of BuddyPress are very extensive. The settings presented here are only a small insight. In combination with others Plugins and Themes you can get much more out of the tool.
To test the functions in peace and quiet, I recommend that you simply try them out in detail. Create a few accounts and log in to the system - preferably with different browsers. After that, maybe ask some friends to test the system with you. Use here for example a test installation of RAIDBOXES , then nothing can happen. If you know all functions and have tried them, you will know which of the possibilities are useful for you.
Bear in mind
When you decide to use the system for you, do some thinking. Get legal advice when in doubt. And above all, think about which of the user profile fields you want to use. Of course, you can add or change them afterwards, but if in doubt, this will affect a "live system" - this is rarely a good idea. Most importantly, the field or content may be missing for users who have already created profiles.
Community example speakabled.
It has always annoyed me that people with disabilities are virtually invisible on stages in D/A/CH. And when they do speak on stages, it is usually only ABOUT their disability. But people with disabilities are as individual and versatile as people WITHOUT disabilities. And they also have skills in many different areas.
To change this, I have developed the platform speakable. . Here, people with disabilities can create a profile for themselves and thus present their competences completely outside of the disability. In turn, the organisers of congresses and events can find speakers* through the platform, thus making their stages more versatile.
Through more visibility on stages, I hope that people with disabilities will also become more visible in society and thus be able to pass on knowledge beyond the filter bubble of "disability". Feel free to have a look! When implementing the project, I did without the community features like news and groups and used BuddyPress primarily to make the profiles of the users visible to the outside world.
The model for this was speakerinnen.org - also a community, in this case for more women on stage. But not WordPress implemented.