Here’s the situation: you have an idea for new online community — something like Facebook, maybe LinkedIn, maybe something aimed at an untapped niche market — but you don’t want to break the bank building a proprietary social networking platform from scratch. Well, good news! WordPress has it covered, and in this article we’ll be looking at a few of the best WordPress social networking themes featuring BuddyPress support.
If you haven’t already heard, BuddyPress is the king of the free social networking WordPress plugins, and it will go a long way to helping you put together a robust, thriving public community or even a private corporate/company intranet. Using BuddyPress, with a little bit of patience, even total WordPress beginners can put together fantastic community websites easily and quickly — no coding necessary.
And by installing one of the themes on this list, it gets even easier. Not only will you end-up with a fully featured social network and community website out-of-the-box, but a professional design and UX that will impress and engage you visitors and keep them coming back.
We assembled this list by hand, our choices based on design quality, usability, and performance.
Boss 2.0, created by the team of BuddyPress experts at BuddyBoss, easily takes a top spot as one of the best BuddyPress themes currently available. Boss 2.0 is definitely the most comprehensive package, supporting not only the core BuddyPress plugin, but more than ten of the most popular add-ons. WooCommerce is expertly integrated, Sensai is supported, and the team have even gone out of their way to include styling for LiveDash and GravityForms. Want to set up a forum? The popular bbPress plugin is supported too, because why wouldn’t it be?
Even if it’s a cliche, we have to admit that Boss 2.0 is one of those above-and-beyond type deals, and that’s before you even consider the modern, clean design and superb UX. The design is fantastic, striking a perfect balance with its minimal, content-first sensibility.
The performance is speedy and responsive, and visitors will appreciate usability features like social logins (meaning they can create their account quickly easily just by linking their existing Twitter or Facebook accounts). There’s no shortage of settings and options to help owners with customization and branding efforts (code-free), and the developers have followed best practices very closely. Boss is SEO friendly, secure, translation ready and, of course, fully responsive (supporting retina devices).
On top of all that, you’re also getting a reliable, frequently updated product that’s supported by folks who work with BuddyPress day and night. Highly recommended.
Socialize: Multi-Purpose BuddyPress Theme
A relatively new entry in the world of WordPress social networking themes, Socialize makes a strong impression even at a glance, creating a lot of visual interest with nothing more than some bright, cheerful colors and its sophisticated layout. It probably gets our vote for the best-looking BuddyPress theme.
It’s one of the most visually versatile BuddyPress themes, with multiple layout options and an extensive back-end panel providing site owners with lots of settings to tweak and adjust. In addition to its excellent integration with BuddyPress, popular plugins WooCommerce, bbPress, and Event Calendar are also supported, extending functionality. Another notable feature is ad management/placement, which ought to come in handy when monetizing the site.
One-click install makes it the perfect option for WordPress beginners who want to get things going with minimal fuss, and the theme is optimized for mobile devices and retina-ready.
NRGNetwork comes at BuddyPress integration from a slightly different angle, drawing heavily on the website Behance for inspiration. This is the theme to get if your goal is to build a community of creative professionals and artists. The portfolio features are well-conceived and expertly realized.
Our short summary can’t really do it justice, and we recommend taking a look at the full breakdown of features on NRGNetwork’s product page. Beyond the slick visuals and fantastic UX design, secondary features are also very strong, with the developers bundling in popular extras like Visual Composer and Revolution Slider free.
NRGNetwork is WPML ready, retina-ready, and extensively documented. There’s lots of value here for a reasonable low cost.
Thrive is a BuddyPress-powered social networking theme that comes in three flavors, each boasting their own distinct, tailored design: Intranet/Extranet, Community, and eLearning platform. First and foremost, the theme was developed for building company/corporate portals, allowing employees to easily share information, files, documents and more.
A selection of add-ons and plugins are supported out-of-the-box, designed for use on intranets and extranets, including BuddyDocs, BuddyDrive, rtMedia, Gears, and Project Management. Other supported plugins include WooCommerce, Event Calendar, and bbPress. Once again, Visual Composer and Revolution Slider are bundled free (though that doesn’t excite us much at this point, if we’re being honest).
An intuitive options panel is built-in to the back, for making quick, codeless customizations. Thrive is well documented and translation ready.
Aesthetically, BuddyApp has the most in common with Boss 2.0, above. It was designed with both private intranet and public social networking websites in mind, and its primary strength is its mobile-first design. This is a theme optimized for smartphones and tablets, though it looks great and performs just as well on desktops.
The implementation of BuddyPress, and several of its most popular plugins, is straight-forward and well thought-out, and only the must-haves are included (as well as bbPress integration for forums). The developers have wisely omitted unnecessary bloat and extraneous features, keeping things light-weight. Site users will appreciate UX enhancements like Social/Facebook login and AJAX searching.
As you’d expect from a theme of this caliber, there’s lots of room for code-free customization on the back-end, and a drag drop page builder is provided for effortlessly adjusting and editing layouts. WPML is supported and the theme is easy to setup with 1-click-install.
Buddy is the oldest theme on our list, released way back in 2012, but man, does it hold up. The simplicity of the design and implementation still work today, and we think this might be the exact product many of our readers are looking for. With contemporary flat graphics, and not a gradient or dated visual cue to be found, Buddy could have been released yesterday.
Usability is a paramount, and Buddy nails it. The developers have wisely kept it up-to-date, adding in new features like retina support and Contact Form 7. bbPress is supported, too, for building a bustling WordPress-based forum. No surprise that it’s one of the best-selling BuddyPress themes ever, with almost 2000 sales on the ThemeForest marketplace and 4.5/5 star rating.
And that concludes our look at a few of our favorite social networking themes for WordPress. If you still haven’t found quite what you’re looking for, be sure to take a look at some of the other great options on the ThemeForest maketplace. Until next time!