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Building Community with WordPress – An Introduction to BuddyPress

I remember the first time I discovered BuddyPress. It was several years back and I was working on on a new membership feature for my church’s website. Being a hard core developer, I rolled up my sleeves and started working through how I would handle discussions, notifications, user profiles, and the like. After spending several weekends and evenings hacking on it I decided to check and see what kind of prebuilt solution for this kind of application might already exist (yes this is the problem with developers: code now – research later).

Discovering BuddyPress

It didn’t take long searching for WordPress social platforms for me to come across a fairly popular plugin called BuddyPress.

At first I was skeptical. How could a plugin really do all the things that BuddyPress claims to do… let alone do them well? And how had I not heard about it?

Well, I was pretty humbled and pretty impressed. I installed it on the site and started working on customizing it (I told you I’m a developer, right?).

After several years of working with BuddyPress I’m still excited by it and feel like I have an amazing tool that I can share with others.

So What Exactly is BuddyPress?

BuddyPress is a fully functional, out of the box social network solution for WordPress. Some of the features that it offers are:

  • Extended WordPress user profiles
  • Private messaging between members
  • Activity streams
  • Groups (Public and Private)
  • Notifications
  • And more!

BuddyPress is built in such a way that you can enable any of its features independent of each other.

Now, just because BuddyPress works out of the box doesn’t mean that it will meet your social network needs out of the box. But that’s ok because BuddyPress is built by some of the best minds in the WordPress community. It makes good use of PHP object oriented program (much like WordPress does) so it is very easy to extend and customize. The only issue that I have with BuddyPress so far is that it’s documentation leaves a lot to be desired.

BuddyPress in the Wild

We have been very privileged to work on some AMAZING BuddyPress projects over the past few years. Seeing how our clients use this tool to bring social interaction to their communities has been exciting and inspiring.

Recently we finished up a project with Northeastern University where we helped them leveraged BuddyPress to create a commons for academics and students to collaborate together.

One of my favorite projects we get to work on is StudyChurch. We built a custom API for BuddyPress to power the backend functionality and paired that with a slick Javascript front end interface.

If this is the first you’ve heard about BuddyPress, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Or, if you already have a BuddyPress site I’d love it if you share it with us!

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