BuddyPress Themes & skinning

BuddyPress Themes & skinning

(Editor's note: this was published in May, 2009 and the BuddyPress Theme structure has changed since it was written. As of November 2009, Free BuddyPress Themes is under new ownership and has a whole new pile of themes. Check it out Free BuddyPress Themes.

Or if you're interested in a paid theme, check out the StudioPress Genesis Theme Framework, along with the GenesisConnect plugin for BuddyPress. It helps bridge BuddyPress with almost any genesis child theme. )

You may have heard 😉 of a social networking plugin for WordPress MU called BuddyPress. In this post, I'm going to write about the way BP handles themes, what you'll need to do your own, and where to find more.

In WordPressMU, there's usually only two things to worry about with themes. One is which themes you have available to users, and the theme you're using on the home page, which is the main blog.

BuddyPress has its own home theme you can use on the main blog, but you do not have to use it. A lot of the boxes of BP details are widgets and can be implemented in any widgetized area of any theme. Here's where things divert a little though.

In BP, once you get past the initial member & groups pages, they use what's called a member theme. This is a special BP-only theme that lives outside the usual theme folder.

In addition, members can have blogs - which as we know use their own theme. BP doesn't have a blog theme integrated, but it's pretty easy to create one. (By default, if you just install WPMU, then install BP, member blogs get created with Kubrick as the default.)

Creating the BuddyPress blog theme for members:
Make a copy of the home theme and move it somewhere.
Rename the folder to something obvious, like bp-blog-theme.
Edit style.css and change the theme name to be Blogs instead of Home.
Delete home.php.

Move the new theme back into wp-content/themes/. Activate it under Site Admin -> Themes. Go to a member blog (you have a test blog, right?), under Appearance and activate the new BLOG theme.

All that's left is the forum areas. Since you've probably integrated bbPress, most if not all of it is pulled in my BP, but you may want to skin bbPress to match the site as well.

*whew* Need a recap? I do.
Home page / main blog - uses a regular theme or home theme
Member pages (profiles, groups, etc..) - uses BP member theme
Member blogs - uses WP theme
Forum areas - uses bbPress theme

That's a lot of work! I hear you people in the back muttering and crying. There's a BuddyPress theme skeleton that is pretty bare that you can start with to make your own. It really helps. Official documentation on creating your own is scanty, but since it's in wiki format, anyone can join and edit.

Shoehorning an exiting theme around the BP framework though? That's a bit of an extra challenge.

Thankfully, there are some tireless and awesome individuals who have started to put out free BuddyPress themes for your use and manglement.

Milo has created two packages so far, with all the components in separate downloads so you can get what you need.
Solitude WPMU BuddyPress themein a really nice blue and white, and Spyker WPMU BuddyPress theme in a dark grey-black with red accents.

Edit: here's an archive page for WPMU and BuddyPress themes. There's six of them there now.

BuddyDress purports to "dress up" your BuddyPress install. They've released three sets of themes so far:
DarkPress in black and blues with a leafy graphic.
Shouty, their latest in a vivid twitter-like blue with a few orange highlights.
And FaceBuddy so you too can have a Facebook clone.

There's also the BuddyPress theme contest with a few lightly-changed selections. The whole community would really love to see a larger choice, and I have no idea why the other themes mentioned above haven't entered the contest. Now THAT would be a competition!

Anyone willing to put forth the effort will quickly become a big name in this arena. Inexplicably, none of these themes are in the official BuddyPress theme directory.

Anything to add about skinning a BuddyPress site?

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  • Andy P
    Posted at 13:53h, 11 May Reply

    Just getting around to adding these all to the directory – soon soon! 🙂

    • andrea
      Posted at 14:16h, 11 May Reply

      Oh yay! That will be awesome.

  • Ivan
    Posted at 10:56h, 12 May Reply

    Great post Andrea!

    Where I got to the: *whew* Need a recap? I do. – I thought in the background – Am I getting all this? Should I stop and go back to readi it all over again? 🙂

  • Harry, BikeTravellers.com
    Posted at 13:29h, 14 May Reply

    Hi Andrea,

    How does BuddyPress and the skinning work with regards to the Multisite plugin (either teh original or yours/Ron’s?

    It is possible to install WPMU once, add MSM, then run one site without BP and the other with? Or Both with BP, but with different themes/skins?


    • SP
      Posted at 08:30h, 01 June Reply

      I have setup WPMU, BuddyPress and Multisite manager for two community sites. I am still experimenting with BuddyPress, but I know that you can easily have different themes for different domains with one WPMU and BP install.
      Multisite allows you to have separate admin areas for different sites (domains) so you can set them independently.

  • milo
    Posted at 06:03h, 15 May Reply

    The Spyker wpmu/buddypress package is updated with latest buddypress/bbpress tech ;P

  • milo
    Posted at 06:07h, 15 May Reply

    Spyker is finally updated ;P

  • sima
    Posted at 14:46h, 04 June Reply

    thanks for the info i’m now adding all of the themes that you have listed and i think i’m goona go with either facebuddy or shouty which one do you reckon i should use
    [rq=0,0,][/rq]no blog posts found

  • Marc
    Posted at 00:28h, 28 July Reply

    I haven’t checked under the hood for WPMU and BBPress. But if you install both to your domain, do the end-users or members have to register twice? Once in WPMU to create new blogs and another registration for the social community in BBPress?

    Or is this integrated together for one registration for all access to both?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Jaxter
    Posted at 06:14h, 10 August Reply

    Hi !

    I wanted to know if there is any simple way to convert a WP theme to a BP theme ?
    If there isn’t, how can I adapt a WP theme for BP ?

    Oh, and last but not least : will it be more difficult to create a BP iPhone theme ? ^^


    PS : I’m not posting this to the official forum because I’m unable to…. -____-
    .-= Jaxter´s last blog ..HumanNature et NextDoor sont désormais amis. =-.

  • Latest Technology News
    Posted at 11:22h, 22 August Reply

    Can someone tell me about resources from where i can download free buddypress themes.
    .-= Latest Technology News´s last blog ..One Number for all of your voice communication Google Voice =-.

  • Steve
    Posted at 01:51h, 29 October Reply

    How have the recent changes to the way BuddyPress handles themes effected how you can adapt themes to handle BuddyPress?

    This change was supposed to make things easier, however there are still many like myself who are having a hard time figuring out how to port our favorite themes over to run on BP.

    I’m using Thesis by the way and love it… I don’t want to give it up.
    It has be done, the only thing is that those who have ported Thesis over are not exactly being forthcoming with the how… Likely because they want to be hired to do it for you.

    Any tips? Suggestions?

    • jonas
      Posted at 16:47h, 05 November Reply

      Yes, I’m working with Thesis and have found the exact same thing. I’m anxious to integrate WP, BBpress, and Buddypress together but I’d love to be able to keep the Thesis-y look. Sadly, I haven’t found a whole lot of information on how to do this yet…

  • Hippy Randall
    Posted at 19:43h, 18 December Reply

    Anyone found a guide yet on how to port a standard wordpress theme to a functioning buddypress theme? There are some awesome themes I would like to use but I need the buddypress functionality.

  • Jenny
    Posted at 21:25h, 24 April Reply

    @andrea, you guys have done wonderful jobs, and you figured that the rest of the world knows how to do it too. I appreciate your article which is nearly the most informative stuff I can find about BP. But please put it in Information category because it is not a tutorial.
    Keep doing like this, at the end, only you developers knows how to work with BP, the rest of the world give up.

    • andrea
      Posted at 21:55h, 24 April Reply

      Please note the date on this post. It’s almost a year old at this point, and severely outdated.

      Should I remove it from my archives then? At the time, it was relevant & timely. Now, not so much. There’s a plugin to help you do this, and information in the BP forums.

      • Jenny
        Posted at 09:56h, 25 April Reply

        @andrea, after a whole day’s research on BP theming, I read your helpful tips all around the WP world, really learned a lot from you. I apology for being mean and criticizing.

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