BuddyPress is the plugin that turns WordPress into a fully featured online community. Out of the box it offers a range of fantastic features including groups, profile, mail and so much more.

However, there are a few things that you can do that will dramatically improve the experience for you and your community members. Here we look at five ways to improve your BuddyPress community.

1: Tune Your Activity Walls

Activity Walls are a great feature of BuddyPress. They are the primary feature of groups. Community members Activity Walls keep other members up to date with their interactions and a front page activity wall can being a whole community of content together.

However, the default BuddyPress rules mean that often too much content that isn’t relevant can be displayed. Examples include automatic posting every time someone joins the community and a record of every time two members friend each other. Content like this can quickly clog up an activity feed. And a clogged up feed means members miss out on the content that’s really important to them. 

Each community is unique. So what to turn on and off will be a case by case basis. But with a couple of adjustments, you can have your activity walls working for you and your community members, offering up the most relevant and timely content, while filtering out the less important stuff.  

Further improvements can be made by adding infinite scrolling, activity clustering and refined filtering.

2: Turn your BuddyPress community into an app

BuddyPress is fantastic. Out of the box, it provides most of the tools you’ll need to build a successful community platform. But it’s missing one vital component – the ability to go to the iOS and Android app store as a mobile app.

These days, people spend time on mobile devices more computer.  And people on mobile phones spend an incredible 90% of their time using apps!

The stats speak for themselves – if you want to boost the use of your BuddyPress community, take it to the iOS and Android app store. 

There’s a range of ways you can achieve this. Ranging from very basic services that wrap your community up in a theme to paying an agency $100,000+. Both are flawed. The theme based services may be ok for standard WordPress sites. But they won’t do your community justice. And the agency fees can be hard to stomach. 

ZippApp from Zipline is the perfect solution. It’s designed to take your BuddyPress community to the iOS and Android app stores as a fully features native app. It’s incredibly cost effective, and is backed up with agency grade customer service. 

Need help taking your BuddyPress community to the iOS and Android app store? Check out Zipline’s ZippApp service.

3: Unleash the power of groups

BuddyPress groups are perhaps the most compelling element of the plugin. Right out of the box, they’re a great tool. But, in our experience, the default functionality is only the start.

How you power up your community’s groups will be as unique as your community. To get you thinking, here are a couple of examples we’re had the pleasure of delivering:

  • Additional fields to the ‘About’ section – a simple enhancement that can add further functionality to the overall community. Category data especially can be used to help with groups discovery.
  • Groups you may like – used during on boarding or via the group directory, suggesting groups for members to join, based on their interests is a win win. Groups in your community gain members and each member can find groups they are interested in more easily  
  • Adding custom features to groups – Activity Walls and About sections are the default for groups. But you can have so much more. Live Chat for example (see the next suggestion)   can augment activity walls, radically changing the use and benefit of groups. Custom interfaces for picture uploading. Questionnaires for research… the list goes on.
  • Invite a friend – Power up group membership by letting groups members invite other members more easily.

4: Enhance your community groups with Live Chat

Live chat has been around for as long the Internet. But it’s WhatsApp and FaceBook chat that have shown a wider audience the value and immediacy of live chat within social networks and community groups. 

In our experience, adding a WhatsApp like chat service to a BuddyPress group instantly transforms it into something more engaging and immediate. It’s not right for every community. But for many, live chat is a compelling enhancement. 

A good chat tool allows people to talk, quote others, know who they are talking to, share media, all without having to update the page.

Zipline offer an incredible WhatsApp-like live chat tool that works across BuddyPress and native apps. New chats can be automatically generated with each new groups created or manually added to any page within your community.

But there are many others options too. What’s important is making sure you give your members the opportunity to share in ways they want.  

5: Use the right theme

We highly recommend using a theme that is fully optimised for BuddyPress. Not only will this make working with BuddyPress easier, it will dramatically improve the experience of your community members. 

At Zipline, we’ve based our custom theme on Kleo. It’s a premium theme, optimised for BuddyPress. It supports responsive design principles as well as high res images (essential for mobile browsing). We love it.

But there are others too. What’s important is the theme you choose is designed for BuddyPress, optimised for mobile and won’t take a herculean effort to adapt to your needs.