Is it possible to build a social networking site on top of WordPress? Yes, and this is not a novelty. Such a possibility has been available to each of us for years, but in my opinion BuddyBoss works best in this field.
BuddyBoss - is a project that has recently caught my interest quite a lot because of a project called MeetWPwhich some of you know very well. This interest turned out to be so strong that I decided to take a step which I had been planning for a long time, but as it happens in life, there was always something more important. Is this also true for you? This step was migration of the learning platform to LearnDash, which enchanted me with its simplicity and possibilities also in the field of integration with external solutions. But this text is not about LearnDash, but about the BuddyBoss theme mentioned in the title. But before that, let's go back in time.
I remember when I received an avalanche of questions about the possibility of creating a social network. Only that at that time, and it was already quite X years ago, almost everyone who asked wanted to create another Nasza Klasa, a little later another Facebook, etc. ... Oh how I was fed up with these conversations, you can't even imagine ... That's why I'm honestly glad that those days are gone for good and today most people thinking about this type of projects are well aware that such garage shots as NK or still Facebook are "the chosen ones" who simply succeeded. A good idea, in the right place, at the right time plus some luck, sweat and it went.
Currently, when thinking about starting a social network, we mostly focus on the idea around which we are trying to unite a group of people. It does not have to be big with millions of active accounts to make us feel that our project is successful and has a raison d'être.
Do you remember when forums were in vogue? It was before the explosion of social media portals and I remember how many people wanted to have their own forum. It was then fashionable. In the hosting company that I was running at the time, every now and then someone started another and another and another ... Most of them, of course, died after a short time, or even did not live to see their first page - a bit like nowadays shops that are taken over by people with no preparation - but there were those that started, survived and function to this day.
Even I, although not generally one of the staunchest supporters of such ideas, ran an intimate forum about 8 years ago. Do you know what it was? Probably not hard to guess 🙂 A forum for webmasters of course. It was running for a few years, but eventually I gave it up for mundane reasons. What's more. My other half, totally non-technical, for about three years ran a forum for mums, which at times was really active. The subject matter was absorbing. I remember that I used the soft https://invisioncommunity.com/ which is still there and is probably doing well, although now in a slightly different form. Evolution.
There were also episodes with implementations of the once promising Dolphin 6, 7 script and now writing this article I wanted to check if the project still exists and is actually https://www.boonex.com/ And this solution is changing, and currently the developers are developing a new project called UNA CMS, although Dolphin, as far as I can see, is also still on offer. The past is gone.
Well let's leave the memories behind and focus on what we have available today in terms of community ideas, as well as WordPress and its tools.
For years, popular plug-ins such as bbPress or BuddyPress have been at your disposal and their successive versions keep appearing, but they never convinced me. At PoznajWP, when the platform was launched last year, there were both of them, but they turned out to be of little use to trainees, so I eventually launched an independent HelloWP service based on a SaaS solution, and the aforementioned plugins were put aside. In hindsight, the decision to change was the right one, as confirmed by the course participants themselves.
It almost sounds like BuddyPress and, to be honest, when that name first came to my ears my immediate reaction was: "...another Buddy...". At the time, I didn't even bother to take a closer look at the project. I changed my mind, however, when I noticed more and more tools integrating with BuddyBoss, such as one of my favorites membership plug-ins WishList Member. So what was there to do. I took a look, and BuddyBoss itself sparked even more interest in me.
BuddyBoss and BuddyBoss Platform
A beautifully presented community at your fingertips.
Let's start with the fact that originally BuddyBoss functioned as a theme. If you wanted to run a community on it, you had to use another plugin, which I mentioned earlier: BuddyPress. The problem was that if you wanted to have more features, you had to install more extensions for BuddyPress, many of which were paid extensions. And so over time, at a certain stage of development, it turned out that the cost of licenses of individual extensions drastically increases the budget of the project.
This design, as you can guess, also had another disadvantage. Installing many add-ons from different developers increases the risk of compatibility problems e.g. when updating the theme, the BuddyPress plugin itself, its add-ons, etc. I have experienced this more than once and probably all owners of sites using this solution on a larger scale for a long time.
The creators of the BuddyBoss theme are well aware of this, noting these shortcomings. So they thought what would happen if they offered all the key elements of a social networking site under one umbrella. So that the site owner has what he needs, so that he can optimize costs and minimize the risk of compatibility problems. This is how an add-on for BuddyBoss was born called BuddyBoss Platform introducing all the most important social elements and even more, because we will not only launch forums, discussion groups, but we can also base our own educational platform on this environment!
You probably already know what I'm getting at 🙂 Yes, exactly. Once I saw the possibilities, the quality of the code and the integrations available, there was no turning back. I can't imagine not giving my students the best of it, a BuddyBoss, in combination with LearnDash, is currently the unbeatable duo when it comes to a social and educational platform based on WordPress.
Yes, BuddyBoss Platform can be used solo on another WordPress theme, but only the combination of the BuddyBoss theme and BuddyBoss Platform will allow you to instantly launch and host a very aesthetically pleasing community. Everything here is buttoned up to the last button.
What can you do with this combination?
I am of course talking about the combination of BuddyBoss and BuddyBoss Platform. You can do a lot and I'm sure that for many social projects this duo, or maybe trio, because I would also add WooCommerce, will take care of the topic comprehensively.
- Community with user profiles, news, posts, statuses, private messages, community groups, forums, friends and even email invitations to non-members. To do this you don't need to install any additional plugins!
- You will sell your content. BuddyBoss integrates sensationally with WooCommerce so you can sell content on a subscription or one-off fee basis. The WishList Member integration is another opportunity in this field. Just yesterday I watched a joint YouTube live of the co-founder of BuddyBoss and WishList where, in addition to discussing the existing integration possibilities, more in-depth ones were mentioned.
- Launch the eLearning platform. You can create, host and manage your courses with the awesome LearnDash integration.
- Other integrations with WordPress plugins so you can crank up the community member experience even further, create a job posting site, an events site, etc.
As you can see, there are countless possibilities, but after installation everything has to be connected and configured according to your needs. And this is a bit of work. However, I do not know whether to call it a disadvantage or not, because of course, if we have so many possibilities we should have as many if not more options of project modelling, and this is connected with an extensive configuration.
While the installation itself, as in the case of WordPress themes and plugins, is just a few clicks away, if you want to put everything together nicely you need to reserve quite a lot of time. Of course, you can import sample data such as users, forum posts or groups, but the functionality you need is up to you.
The theme itself is equipped with an internal management panel and there are quite a lot of configuration options.
What many lovers of Elementora and future community owners, is the compatibility of BuddyBoss with this popular builder. It works really well, and it's going to get even better as a version of BuddyBoss with Elementor's own widgets is due any day now! What more do you want 🙂 .
I've worked a lot with this theme and so far I haven't noticed any problems while working with Elementor. When new widgets appear (for now there is one for the menu), the comfort will surely be awesome. Of course, if you don't work with Elementor, but prefer to use Gutenberg natively, the appropriate blocks will also appear soon.
BuddyBoss Platform components
BuddyBoss Platform, is an extension for the BuddyBoss theme, which transforms your site into a racial community. First of all, you decide which components you want to equip your site with and which are necessary at a given moment of your project's development. At the moment of writing this article there are 12 of them, which include:
- User profiles
- Profile types and their fields
- Account settings
- Social groups
- Discussion forums
- Media loading
- Private messages
- Email invitations to the community
- Search engine
Each of the components listed are native, great capabilities from BuddyBoss and a range of configuration settings. Each can be activated or deactivated depending on the current needs of your site and community.
At MeetWP Where BuddyBoss has established itself I have not activated some of them, at least not yet. Not because I don't want them, but mainly because our communication platform and support groups are already operating in an independent environment, to which the course participants have become accustomed and fond of. So I don't want to create unnecessary confusion, but of course I don't rule out that in some time our course support groups will become active within the possibilities offered by BuddyBoss. In many ways this will be optimal, but time will tell.
BuddyBoss and BuddyBoss Platform, is a duo for which you have to pay, as in the case of any good full-featured tool. I will write more about costs. However, what is important, you can easily test the possibilities offered by this environment by activating a test instance of Sandbox on the creators website.
How much does BuddyBoss cost
Looking at the price list and at the same time bearing in mind how powerful a tool you get, it is hard to believe that by investing $228 a year you can launch and run such a functional social network. If one is not enough, add $60 and launch 5 of them, and if that is not enough, for $348 you can launch 10 communities. That's like paying less than $39 a year for one! Keep in mind that you don't need any external add-ons like in other tools, so your investment can be really attractive.
Some time ago the price list only included a version for one and 5 sites. Plus there were additional services consisting of purchasing a licence, installation and configuration of the environment, which cost 3000 dollars for the base or 8000 dollars at one time plus from 19 dollars monthly subscription. At the moment, an additional license for 10 sites has been included in the price list, and the other packages have disappeared, at least from the official price list page, because I suspect you can still use them if you want.
BuddyBoss review: what do I like?
- BuddyBoss has consolidated powerful social networking features, such as private messaging and social groups, under one umbrella, making community building easier than ever before.
- It integrates perfectly with LearnDash and many other WordPress plugins I use passionately including Elementor Pro and WishList Member.
- The customisation of the theme is extensive and provides everything you need.
- Aesthetics and simplicity with embedded advanced features
- Seamless translation
- Frequent updates and a very interesting development map
- It's very cheap considering how amazing the possibilities are.
BuddyBoss review: what's not to like?
- Mastering this system can be difficult and you will certainly need to refer to the documentation and tutorials on the manufacturer's website.
- The default settings can leave you feeling a little lost. On the manufacturer's website, the demo versions look inviting, and you end up with something that looks completely nothing like it after installation. For beginners, this can be annoying.
- Despite the enormity of the possibilities, some functions lack customisation options.
How to use BuddyBoss
There can be many ideas for a project. You may simply want to create a community focused around a certain topic/idea and perhaps that will fulfil your goals at 100%. You can build a community around the content you produce, for example by selling onLine courses, which is quite common nowadays, I do it myself too. These are the ideas that most often come to mind. However, when you think more deeply you may come to the conclusion that BuddyBoss and its tools will also work great in a traditional online shop, which, however, will stand out from your competitors. Why?
Imagine that you start a clothes shop, or a shop with dietary supplements, a sports shop, a shop for mums and... I could go on and on. How do typical shops, which are plentiful and new ones appear every now and then, function? WordPress + WooCommerce > upload products, launch a Feys campaign and wait for orders. The customer will order, you will thank him or her and maybe you will meet again one day when you send info on FB about a new promotion or send a mailing. After the subject.
Now imagine that your shop is not only a product but also a community where people share ideas about what to wear, how to take care of a child, how to do an effective workout, what healthy food to cook today... Imagine that your customers, after buying your product, start to engage in conversations in groups within your shop (not on Facebook!!!), they start to live the topics around your products and interact with them all the time. What do you think will happen then? How many shops like this have you seen?
I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but if you succeed, and BuddyBoss gives you a concrete foundation to work from, the benefits will prove incomparably greater than having just another online shop selling X products. After all, it's already been done.
If you want to take your community to the next level, you can create your own mobile application or use a ready-made solution developed by the creators of BuddyBoss, which will certainly save you a pretty penny, and at the same time make the dynamics of community development can significantly accelerate.
BuddyBoss in March/April 2021 officially made its app available to anyone interested. It can be customised, for example by changing the branding, and then published on the AppStore and Google Play.
BuddyBoss theme is without a doubt the leading WordPress theme for social networking. There is currently nothing on the market that can compare with this tool. Yes, there are some alternatives like BuddyPress with lots of extensions, but if you deeply compare these two solutions you will see a huge difference, both in terms of cost, stability and quality. Seeing that, you'll probably find, like me, that there is no alternative though. This is simply a great product.
Integration with BuddyBoss Platform, a plug-in developed by the same company, combines all features and components in one place eliminating the need to add more plug-ins and add-ons.
If you are looking for the easiest yet most advanced way to create your own social network, the BuddyBoss theme and BuddyBoss Platform plugin is all you need.
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