If you are a fanatic for the Thesis framework and have been looking for a way to integrate all the coolness of BuddyPress without having to do a mountain of custom code – you’re going to love this article.
Get a free WPMU DEV plugin, plus free weekly tips and resources for using WordPress.
For several years Thesis has been one of the most popular WordPress frameworks. It features lean code, nearly unlimited customization options, and top-notch support.
But the one area where Thesis had been lacking was in BuddyPress support. In fact, most of the premium theme frameworks lack support for BuddyPress. But one uber developer, known in the Thesis Community as Kristarella, put together a child theme for Thesis that works specifically with BuddyPress.
It packs together all the features of BuddyPress including forums, groups, activity updates, widgets and more – and places it right inside a clean installation of the Thesis Theme framework that we all know and love.
And to top it off, the BuddyPress Thesis Child theme works with both single WordPress installations and Multisite (Network) installations – the way it was originally envisioned.
Using BuddyPress with a Non-BuddyPress Theme
If you’ve ever completed a BuddyPress installation, you know that using the plugin with a non-supported theme causes all kinds of problems.
Usually, the first thing you’ll notice are blank pages. BuddyPress creates pages for the special functions like forums, activity, groups, etc. But without a BuddyPress supported theme with the code to display that special functionality, those pages display empty. Simply going to a url like www.yourdomain.com/activity is not going to show your BuddyPress activity.
Also, when using premium frameworks that work off special CSS files, like Thesis, BuddyPress tends to break the site formatting on BuddyPress specific pages. What you see is something akin to a wire frame without any of your site’s formatting.
These two issues are part of the reason most of the premium theme developers never cracked the BuddyPress integration.
Enter The BP Thesis Child Theme
The BP Child Theme for Thesis solves all those integration problems. It puts the BuddyPress elements where they need to be inside Thesis, and takes care of internal links to the pages that BuddyPress is creating.
For instance, your standard installation of Thesis looks something like this:
With the BP Thesis Child Theme, it looks like this:
There’s not much of a difference, other than the addition of a few menu items for the BuddyPress specific pages, and even those can be controlled by the standard WordPress menu system. You will also notice the addition of BuddyPress widgets for user login, forums, and recent active users. Right away, that shows you the integration is working beautifully.
Inside the BP Child Theme for Thesis
Functionally, the BuddyPress Child Theme for Thesis works exactly like a standard Thesis Theme Framework, regardless of whether it is installed on a single site or multisite network.
This is important because if you choose to use a non-Thesis BuddyPress theme, like the stock BuddyPress WordPress theme, to change the look and feel of the site you could be editing several php and css files corresponding to the different parts of the theme. That could be upwards of 10 files or more. Keeping them all straight can be a major task, even for the most seasoned developers.
BP Thesis Child mirrors the standard Thesis installation and gives you a custom folder where the custom_functions and custom.css files are located – the two files which control your entire site design and look. Those two files allow you to customize everything about the BuddyPress experience, making it easy to turn your stock site into something like the screencap below, with just a few simple edits:
While my site shown above isn’t exactly ready for primetime, it was created by using the BP Child Theme for Thesis with less then 20 lines of custom code. You’ll notice the custom font work too. That is a non-standard font which was included in the CSS file. You can find a tutorial on how to add custom fonts to CSS here.
Thesis Makes BuddyPress Easier to Use
If you’ve ever installed BuddyPress you’ve probably had one or two issues with resolving page slugs for the forums. This has to do with installing Group Forums and Sitewide Forums and how BuddyPress and BBPress give priority to one over the other.
In creating the BP child theme for Thesis, the developer took the forum page slug issue into consideration and created a very lean plugin (just one php file) that helps solve the slug incompatibility, and makes navigating the forums easier than on standard theme installations. If you intend to run this BP Child Theme for Thesis I recommend installing that plugin as well.
Activity feeds and forums work flawlessly as shown in the two images below.
Stay Tuned for a Tutorial
If this article has whet your appetite for some great Thesis – BuddyPress integration, stay tuned for the next article – a tutorial walking you through a BP Thesis Child Theme installation and a few simple code edits to make your BuddyPress site unique.