Over the last few years I have had the chance to work on a many BuddyPress projects. This fantastic tool has an incredible potential, which is often only limited by your imagination. Even if you often meet clients who believe that the only way to create a successful social network is to make a Facebook clone, other times you are challenged by more original clients, who are open to finding great and innovative ways of creating a strong community around their website.
I have seen how BuddyPress has made huge advances to become what it is now: the best open source tool for creating a social network. Of course, there is still has a lot of work to be done, and I have my personal opinions about BuddyPress’s weak and strong points. This is my first post for WP Realm and, because I love to work with BuddyPress, I am eager to talk about its strengths and potential. But I also want to see it getting better and evolve, and so I will begin by presenting some weaker areas that I’ve encountered and areas to be improved.
- Privacy — It should be possible to easily manage privacy for different pages, such has Activity, Members, Groups and so on, without a plugin. In the context of a complex social network, I think it is essential for a BuddyPress administrator to decide who can see what, to the lowest possible level.
- Users’ profile fields and group management — It would be great to be able to manage the users’ profile fields and groups from the dashboard with bulk actions, much in the same way you can manage the activity stream since version 1.6. With this functionality it would be easier for administrators to manage the network and without it the process seems less efficient and streamlined than it could be.
- Roles — There are problems with capabilities, even though some of them have been fixed in version 1.6 with the
bp-moderatorcapability. I understand that you have to have a super-admin profile to configure the BuddyPress’s options, but it would be very useful to have the option of selecting some users as moderators (or similar) who could be allowed to manage things like users and activity in the main site. As example, right now you have to be super-admin to be able manage the Activity in the network dashboard! :S
I know what you are going to say: “All of that is plugin territory”. And yet, I still think that areas such as Privacy are basic when you are developing a social network, despite the fact that version 1.6 is doing a very good job there. I’m looking forward to see more features in this area 😉
- Components — Each community is different and may not need everything; you can easily select only the components that you will need, from Extended Profiles, Account Settings, Friend Connections, Private Messaging, Activity Streams, User Groups, Discussion Forums and Site Tracking (and no, you cannot unselect what makes
time travelBuddyPress possible, i.e the core of BuddyPress! :P)
- Specific plugins — BuddyPress has more than 500 plugins specifically developed for it, not to mention the fact that there are over 20.000 WordPress plugins that can be used in conjunction with it, and so, you can imagine the possibilities at your disposal, when you are developing a new community’s website.
- BuddyPress Template Pack — The Template Pack plugin deserves special attention. Before this plugin, many people were afraid to take the leap from moving a standard WordPress site to a BuddyPress one, mostly because they didn’t want to change the theme and didn’t know enough to transform their current theme to a BuddyPress-compatible theme. This great plugin “will guide you through the process step by step. Once you are finished, your existing WordPress theme will be able to manage and display all BuddyPress pages and content“.
- Community — Over 4 million users are currently active in buddypress.org. This is the meeting place where developers, designers and users collaborate with each other and use BuddyPress to improve BuddyPress. Yes, you read that right, buddypress.org is a BuddyPress-powered community dedicated to helping others support their own communities. It is also one of the more active ones in the WordPress and open source ecosystem. If you have a problem about anything BuddyPress-related, you can bet that somebody else has had the same question before and that the community has answered it already. If not, the fantastic core team (John James Jacoby, Boone Gorges and Paul Gibbs) and other great developers, will help you find a solution.
And this is what I love about Open Source: you’re never alone. Here, you are always working with the immense and supportive family behind WordPress and BuddyPress 🙂