(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.
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?