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Building a Social Website with WordPress BuddyPress Plugin

November 12, 2018

7 Min Read
WordPress BuddyPress
Reading Time: 7 minutes

BuddyPress is a WordPress plugin that helps you create and manage social networks so that users are able to interact and communicate with each other in a very intuitive way. A set of plugins adds specific features that you can mix-and-match to customize the network as per your requirements.

This tutorial will help readers install WordPress BuddyPress and set up a BuddyPress compatible theme. By the end, the readers will have a simple social networking website that is ready for business.

Step 1: Install WordPress Theme

I’ll select a simple and basic social theme for the sample website. For this tutorial, I will use the Quest WordPress theme. To install the theme, navigate to Appearance → Themes and search for “Quest”. Next,  click the Install Button as shown below.

quest theme download

Once installed, click the Activate button to activate the theme on the website.

quest theme

Step 2: Install the BuddyPress Plugin

Go to WordPress Admin Panel, navigate to Plugins → Add New → search for BuddyPress in the search box at the top right. Once you have found the plugin, click the Install Now button.

Once the process finishes, Activate the plugin.

buddypress plugin

Next, I will now configure BuddyPress plugin to use it with the Quest theme.

Step 3: Configure the BuddyPress Plugin

Navigate to Plugins → Installed Plugins → BuddyPress → Settings.

You will notice one credits tab and three option tabs through which you can configure WordPress BuddyPress according to your needs.

1. Components

These options allow the site administrator enable (or disable) actions that directly impact how the users interact with other users of the social network.

  • Extended Profiles: When enabled, you can add custom fields to the user profile.
  • Account Settings: Checking this item allows users to change their account and notifications directly from the profile screen.
  • Friend Connections: When enabled, users can send friend requests to other site users. If the request is accepted, users can monitor each other via the activity log.
  • Private Messaging: When this option is enabled, users can send private messages to other members both individually and in a group.
  • Activity streams: This option allows users to see activities of their friends on the social website including threads, comments, mentions, direct posting and favoriting. Users are also notified via email.
  • Notifications: This option allows users to receive instant notification of friends’ activities, including friend requests, private messages etc.
  • User Groups: This option let the users create public, private or hidden groups of nature.
  • Site Tracking: When enabled, records activity related to new posts and comments.

2. Options

These options add to the user experience by allowing (or disallowing) actions by registered users.

options tab

Activity auto-refresh

The most widely used feature of social networks is the auto-refresh of news feeds so that users do not have to refresh the view again and again to get new updates. By default, this option is enabled so that the logged-in users are notified when a new post or comment is shared.

Profile Syncing

This option allows users to link their WordPress profiles with their BuddyPress profiles.

Post Comments

When enabled, users can add their comments to posts and comments on their activity stream.

3. Pages

This is the most important section for your social site.

pages tab

Although this tab is pretty simple, many BuddyPress users get confused. Let me help you understand these three labels:

  1. Members
  2. Activity
  3. User groups

Note: When in doubt, go with the default settings for these labels.

Now, I will create Registration and Activation pages.

Register

In BuddyPress, this is the default Registration form. BuddyPress needs a page to assign its sign up form. That’s why I need to add a new page from my WordPress admin panel

Activate

This is also a default account activation process of BuddyPress. For this, I have to create a new page again by going to WordPress admin panel and adding a new page.

Create Registration & Account Activate Pages

Create the “Registration” page by navigating to Pages → Add New.

BuddyPress installation wordpress

Create “Account Activate” page by navigating to Pages > Add New.

BuddyPress installation wordpress

Now, navigate to Settings → BuddyPress → Pages.

Note: If these options are not visible, navigate to Settings → General and enable “Anyone can register” option.

Finally, click “Save Changes” button at the end of the page.

Step 4: Using BuddyPress with the Theme

Go to Appearance → Menus. Open Screen Options from the top right corner.

BuddyPress installation wordpress

Make sure you have marked BuddyPress.

BuddyPress installation wordpress

Note: If you already have a menu bar, delete it before continuing.

BuddyPress installation wordpress

Follow these steps to add a new menu bar.

BuddyPress installation wordpress

Remove the theme default widgets, and configure them according to your need.

BuddyPress installation wordpress

Add BuddyPress widgets to the sidebar.

(BuddyPress) Login: This widget incorporates BuddyPress login functionality. The widget presents the login form in the side menu bar.

(BuddyPress) Latest Activities: This widget shows the recent activities on the BuddyPress site, allowing the users to follow what’s trending in the community.

(BuddyPress) Members: This side menu widget lists all the recent, popular and active members.

(BuddyPress) Recently Active Members: As the name suggests, this widget displays recently active members.

(BuddyPress) Who’s Online: Being online does not mean that the user is also active. This widget helps the other users see other online members.

(BuddyPress) Primary Navigation: This show activity and mentions to all the users. This is the primary navigation and should be visible at the top of all other widgets.

Step 6: Enable User Registrations on Website.

In the case of a public social network, user registration should be open to all visitors. However, if the network is private, you can either turn off the registration completely or better yet, make the process invitation-only.

For making the registration process public, navigate to Settings → General → mark Anyone can register.

BuddyPress installation wordpress

Step 7: Setting up the Front Page

Finally, the last and the most important part of the process is to set a front page of your website. When a visitor comes to your website, this is the first page they will see.

In this example, I have set the “activity” page as the front page of my website. For this, go to Settings > Reading.

BuddyPress installation wordpress

Now click Save Changes button. Your very own social website powered by the WordPress BuddyPress plugin is now ready for visitors.

Since I have selected the ‘Activity’ page as the front page, the visitors can see the current activity right after visiting the website. On the top, I have the BuddyPress menu with options such as Notifications, Settings, and Profile.

On the right side menu all the widgets are listed in the order I added them, and on the main section of the page, I have the activity stream that is updated in real time.

I am running my social network without any trouble with Varnish-enabled on my Cloudways managed server. However, if you encounter an issue, and the problem is a specific page, go ahead and exclude those URLs from the Varnish settings. If the issue persists, either disable the Varnish from Cloudways server dashboard or contact the 24/7 live chat support.

Final Thoughts

Installing WordPress BuddyPress is a tough job, and the process could take time. There are a few things that could go wrong, and I have tried to present solutions of the most common problems that could mar your BuddyPress experience.

I also encourage readers to feel free to ask their questions via the comments section below. I would be glad to answer and guide you. Happy Connecting!

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Mustaasam Saleem

Mustaasam is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WordPress Hosting Platform, where he actively works and loves sharing his knowledge with the WordPress Community. When he is not working, you can find him playing squash with his friends, or defending in Football, and listening to music. You can email him at mustaasam.saleem@cloudways.com

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