BuddyPress – How to Create Your Own Community With WordPress

Johannes Mairhofer Last updated 10/23/2020
8 Min.
Last updated 10/23/2020

You want to network with your customers, business partners or users on a platform, but want to keep control of your data? No problem - with so-called Membership- or Community-Plugins you can turn your WordPress site into a social network in no time! Johannes Mairhofer introduces you to 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 with many community features. Similar to the tool "Jetpack" which extends your system with many possibilities, BuddyPress is in my opinion more than "just" a Plugin, even if the installation is almost as easy.

BuddyPress comes with so many options that some steps are necessary as preparation BEFORE the installation and as configuration AFTER the installation. Also, I would like to recommend you to think about it beforehand, 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 point out the legal risks and limits of BuddyPress. After this step by step guide you should be able to create a simple community out of your WordPress system and network 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 the Plugin extensively, you have several options:

  1. If you are setting up a completely new WordPress site and don't 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.
  2. Another option is to put your entire website into maintenance mode, for example with a Plugin like "Maintenance".
  3. If you want your livesite to remain accessible during the test, I recommend testing at Staging . At RAIDBOXES you activate a Staging environment with one click and can test new Plugins there without risk. If you are satisfied with the result, you can switch the changes live with one click.
BuddyPress – How to Create Your Own Community With WordPress

Allow new users to log in

In order for users to be able to log in to your community later, you must next adjust the "Anyone can log in" setting in the WordPress basic settings. You do this under "Settings" → "General" - the hook here is normally deactivated. Please allow the login and set the role of the user to "Subscriber".

BuddyPress – How to Create Your Own Community With WordPress

SelectTheme

Normally you have several Themes to choose from at WordPress , which you can use as you like and partially customize. Unfortunately, only very few Themes are suitable for the BuddyPress function. For my project I have tried some and therefore recommend Customify. With it you have some possibilities and a good addition to the functions of BuddyPress.

Install BuddyPress

Next, install the actual and required Plugin "BuddyPress". You can easily do this via the normal way "Plugins" → "install".

BuddyPress – How to Create Your Own Community With WordPress

After installing this Plugins your WordPress is ready for community features and can be customized and configured on many levels.

BuddyPress settings 

Now let's take a look at the settings. BuddyPress places itself in several areas of the WordPress configuration, for example in the settings, in the tools and as own main menu items in the dashboard.

We will start in the "Settings" section, here you will see a new section: "BuddyPress". Please click on it, we will now look at the individual points in detail.

BuddyPress – How to Create Your Own Community With WordPress

Advanced profiles

With this option, you offer your users the possibility to edit their profile fields themselves. For example, you can configure fields for social networking links, biographical information, hobbies, and 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.

Account settings

Here you can define whether your users can change their notification settings themselves or not. For example, they can be notified about updates from their friends, etc.

Recommendation: To prevent users from contacting you all the time, and because I haven't found any reason not to, I would recommend enabling this setting as well.

Friendships

By doing so, you offer your users to network with each other, to "follow" each other and thus support the exchange (more on that in a moment). Recommendation: The use of the friendship feature is controversial. If you want to activate it, I would recommend you to look into the legal context. I can't and shouldn't give any tips on this, but with the GDPR some functions are integrated here that require a legal coordination in my opinion.

Private news

As mentioned above, this feature allows your users to communicate with each other. Your users can send each other messages via the platform, exchange and discuss.

Recommendation: Even more important than with the friendships is the legal protection. Because your users can send messages to each other, you may be responsible and may have to intervene. You also need to inform your users where and how the content of their messages is stored. Be sure to check with a lawyer if you need this feature. Otherwise, for legal reasons, I recommend NOT enabling this setting.

Activity History

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.

User groups

You can also give your users the opportunity to exchange ideas in groups. You can create public and private groups here and thus offer many possibilities of exchange.

Recommendation: As with the other communication options, I recommend seeking legal advice here. Also, if you want to enable the feature, I recommend only allowing public groups. This way you can keep an eye on what your users are writing and intervene if necessary.

Site tracking

In site tracking you can save activities to new posts from your site.

My recommendation: do not activate.

BuddyPress core

The BuddyPress core is where all the basic functionality of the BuddyPress extension is stored. Time travel is not possible, but you can't deactivate anything here either, since all basic functions and the entire system are located here.

Community members

Similar to the BuddyPress core, all member functions are stored here. You can't enable or disable anything here either.

Tools

With this, we have seen the settings as an overview. Another point where BuddyPress stores functions are the tools.

BuddyPress – How to Create Your Own Community With WordPress

In the tools section you have several options to use some of BuddyPress' tools. You can find them under "Tools" → "Buddypress". With these tools you access the database. So I recommend you to only intervene here if there is the urgent need and you know exactly what you are doing. Since this tutorial is more about the basics, I won't go into it further. 

Users

The two most exciting settings can be found in the "Users" section.

Manage registrations

If you have managed to have active users in your community, you can manage them here. For example, you can delete them, reset passwords, and so on. Initially, no users other than yourself will appear here.

By the way, you can configure BuddyPress in a way that all users have to be activated by you first to have full functionality. For example, if you want to add more administrators, authors or editors, you can do that here as well.

Profile fields

Now it is about the users, respectively the profiles of the users. You can specify any fields here and group them into field groups. To make this clearer, I'll show you a screenshot from my community project "speakabled.

BuddyPress – How to Create Your Own Community With WordPress

With the button: "Add field" you can create new fields, which can then be filled by the user with their information.

BuddyPress – How to Create Your Own Community With WordPress

Each field, in turn, has some advanced capabilities:

  • Name: The name of the field - this item is mandatory.
  • Description: Here you can describe the field and explain to the user what you thought he or she should enter here.
  • Requirement: Here you can set whether the user must use this field or it is an optional 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, or fields that everyone can see, even outside the community.

Through these possibilities you can provide your members with a wide range of profile fields and also divide them into different groups by creating a so-called "field group".

That was a short insight into the possibilities and settings of BuddyPress. Jjetzt I would like to give you some general tips and show a concrete project that I have realized with BuddyPress.

Tips

As you have probably noticed, the possibilities of BuddyPress are very extensive. The settings presented here are only a small insight. In combination with other Plugins and Themes you can get much more out of the tool.

Play

In order to test the functions at your leisure, I recommend that you simply try them out in detail. Create a few accounts and log into the system - preferably with different browsers. After that, maybe ask some friends if they want to test the system with you. For example, use a test installation from RAIDBOXES, then nothing can happen. Once you know all the functions and have tried them out, you will know which of the options make sense for you.

Bear in mind

If you have decided to use the system for yourself, give it some thought. If in doubt, seek legal advice. 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 this will affect a "live system" in case of doubt - that's rarely a good idea. Above all, the field or the content may then be missing for the 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 if they do speak on stage, then usually only ABOUT their disability. But people with disabilities are as individual and versatile as people WITHOUT disabilities. And they also have competences that lie in many different areas.

To change this I have initiated the platform speakabled. Here, people with disabilities can create a profile and present their competencies outside of their disability. In turn, the organizers of congresses and events can find speakers via the platform to make 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 outside the filter bubble of "disability". Feel free to check it out! I did without community features like messages and groups when implementing the project and used BuddyPress primarily to make the users' profiles visible to the outside world.

The model for this was speakerinnen.org - also a community, in this case for more women on the stage. However, not implemented with WordPress .

We appreciate your input!

Do you have questions about BuddyPress and community building with WordPress ? Feel free to use the comment function. You want more current contributions to WordPress , Online Business and Co. Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook or via our newsletter.

Johannes is very curious and has already reached various stages in his career. As a trained IT specialist and freelance photographer, he is versatile and can see through the different "glasses" of his customers. Today he works as a freelance photographer and consultant for WordPress and photography. [Photo: Dennis Weißmantel]

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