Adding BuddyPress to Your WordPress Theme

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with BuddyPress on a client’s site. BuddyPress, which technically a plugin, is more of complete extra “section” to WordPress. It basically takes your WordPress blog and injects it with social media steriods. No I’m not kidding.

It’s great to use if you want your site to have a lot of visitor interaction. It allows visitors to sign up with accounts, have their own blogs on your site, create groups, message each other and even includes a public forum. Whew that’s a lot of coolness for one “plugin”!

The cool thing about BuddyPress is that it doesn’t have to be installed on WordPress MU if you don’t want the multiple blog accounts and it works on the theme you currently have with just a few steps! You’re also able to pick and choose which features you want to us in it.

Installing BuddyPress

BuddyPress is installed like any other plugin. Simply navigated to “Add new” in your plugins area and search for it.

Budpress requires little setup but in order for it to work with your theme and not a BuddyPress theme, you’ll need to install a second plugin, called BuddyPress Template Pack. This will give you a set of new files to place in your theme that will allow full functionality of BuddyPress into your current theme.


If you’re familiar with WordPress, then customizing BuddyPress shouldn’t be too tough for you at all. I was able to quickly find what I was looking for by using my IDE’s search feature to find the right template file. Most of the layout is easy to change via CSS and PHP and the functions are pretty similar to regular WordPress.

You’ll notice that several of the actions in BuddyPress run on a loop that’s a bit more detailed than the regular post loop, however it’s all named pretty well, so you shouldn’t have a problem trying to figure out what does what. Here are some of the regular BuddyPress functions:

// display BuddyPress avatar NOT gravatar
<?php bp_activity_avatar( 'width=35&height=35' ) ?>
// display permalink of new entry
<?php bp_activity_thread_permalink() ?>
// template calls
<?php locate_template( array( 'groups/single/admin.php' ), true ) ?>

While I was pretty skeptical at the coolness of BuddyPress before this site, I’ve found it to be a nifty little add-on for sites that are social based.

Your Thoughts

What have been your experiences with BuddyPress? What kind of questions do you have for using BuddyPress?