If you’re an experienced WordPress user then you’ve probably come across its powerful social networking solution, BuddyPress. WordPress makes it easy for non-techy site owners to setup a fully functional social networking platform in a few simple steps with the BuddyPress plugin. The developers behind it describe it as a social network in a box. It allows members to sign up, create profiles, connect with other members, and share status updates – just as they would on any other social network.
In addition to this, building a social networking site with BuddyPress is great for online business owners, niche communities, institutions, and other organizations who want to create their own social network for team members, customers and friends to communicate and share content.
With BuddyPress, you get:
- A complete social networking solution that integrates seamlessly with WordPress.
- An intuitive and user-friendly interface that’s incredibly easy to use.
- An open-source platform that is extendable through add-ons.
- Your own social networking platform!
For a guide on how to get started with BuddyPress, check this awesome tutorial.
Building a Social Network App
Once you have built your community site with BuddyPress, you now have the opportunity for you to build a mobile app for it.
Recent stats show 95% of times spent on mobile devices is spent using mobile apps. Their convenience is far superior to relying on a mobile browser to access frequently used sites and services. So this should be no surprise.
Smartphone users want an easy way to access their favorite content and services and apps offer just that, with several added benefits for you, as the site owner:
- A direct communication channel. Push notifications allow you to establish direct interaction with your site’s users, alerting them to new content, events and anything happening on the site.
- A constant reminder of your community. Beyond push notifications, having your app’s icon on your user’s home screen is the best way you can remind users to log into your site.
- A presence on the App Stores. People are increasingly relying on app stores to discover new services and social apps. Your presence there means you have a chance to be found where people are actually searching.
- Native social sharing. Your app can rely on the user’s installed apps for social sharing, which means it’s now easier and faster for them to share your content.
- Native advertising. Mobile apps can integrate native Mobile Advertising solutions like Admob, Google DFP, Mopub and others. As a site and app publisher, this means you can integrate your monetization strategy with an app-specific solution which is effectively immune to ad blockers.
- Offline access. Building a community app to supplement your site gives the end user direct access to it from their device and can make it available offline (provided the functionality is supported by your site).
Step 1: pick a mobile optimized theme built for BuddyPress
BuddyPress lets users launch a social networking site in minutes and with a simple setup. Once you’re done with the initial setup, you’ll need a theme for your site whose layout and design will work well for your site AND your mobile app .
We’ve picked out some of the best BuddyPress themes to help you kick things off, with special attention to their mobile features and design.
BuddyBoss’ Boss is a fully responsive theme designed for BuddyPress-based sites. It’s flexible layout and wide range of customization options makes it a popular premium theme for social networking sites. The theme also ships with the Paid Memberships Pro plugin right out of the box which integrates with all of the popular payment gateways including PayPal, Stripe, and 2Checkout.
- Social login integration makes it easy for users to join your network.
- Fully responsive design ensures your site and app will look great on all devices.
- Visual customizer enables site owners to modify the theme without having to know how to code.
If you’d like to extend your social network’s online presence to a native mobile app then Boss is a great theme to go with.
BuddyApp markets itself as a mobile-first community WordPress theme. This one of a kind theme features a mobile-optimized design and is ideal for any public community – Intranet or Extranet. BuddyApp’s blazingly fast AJAX-based search, live chat, and live notifications enhance user experience and make it an ideal choice for your community’s mobile app.
- File management functionality allows users to upload and share files easily.
- Tons of customization options including three different menu locations.
With over 12,000 sales, SeventhQueen’s KLEO is a multipurpose BuddyPress theme that’s designed to take your social networking site to the next level. It allows your site’s members to do everything from making friends to sharing ideas and getting live alerts. KLEO comes with the Visual Composer drag and drop page builder for easy customization.
- Membership-ready from the get-go allowing site owners to setup membership levels.
- Live AJAX BuddyPress notifications enhance the user experience.
- Mobile responsive and retina ready design with tons of customization options.
Those of you who want a pixel-perfect design for their community site can leverage KLEO’s built-in drag and drop editor to achieve it. Visual Composer integration makes it easy to create custom pages for your site.
Step 2: build your Mobile App with Canvas
MobiLoud Canvas allows site owners to extend their site’s online-only presence with a native mobile app for both the iOS and Android platforms.
With this complete service, you can set up a fully functional mobile app with your existing BuddyPress theme. This ensures that you don’t lose the design customizations and branding you’ve worked so hard to build when creating a mobile app for your website.
The team behind MobiLoud Canvas will take care of configuring, building and publishing your mobile app for you. Once you sign up with the service, there’s practically no work for you to do to get your app published on Google Play Store or on the Apple App Store.
MobiLoud Canvas works by adding a native layer to your mobile website that includes:
- A customizable native launch screen which lets your mobile web app load in the background as the app starts
- Page preloading, so the main pages of your site are immediately available when your app starts
- Native tab bar, for instant navigation between the main pages of your app
- Push notifications inbox, to get back to all the messages you sent
- Advanced control panel for push notifications, so users are in control of what they receive.
- Support for user logins, which are integrated with push notifications
- Support for geo-location, to allow any location-based functionality in your web app
The built-in notifications inbox is great for users on social networking sites and gives them full control over the alerts they receive.
By combining the best features on offer with the mobile web and mobile apps, MobiLoud Canvas gives your app a strong presence in the iOS and Android apps stores, quick navigation UI elements, content caching, native mobile advertising options, animations, and front and center screen real estate on your viewer’s mobile device.
Be sure to get a demo to see how well MobiLoud Canvas performs with your BuddyPress-enabled social network!
Step 3: preview the final result
Once the MobiLoud team has completed configuring your app, you’ll be able to see and test your app to make sure it works and looks as you’d expect.
Here’s a screenshot of what a social networking site running BuddyBoss’ Boss theme would look like once it’s published as a native app with MobiLoud Canvas.
As you notice, most of the interface is rendered by the beautiful Boss theme, while the native tab menu (optional), provides a fast interface for users to navigate between the main sections of the site. The native Alerts tab will let users access their notifications and get back to the content, offers or notifications they received.
Wrapping It Up
BuddyPress is a robust, feature-rich solution for building communities and social networking platforms which can be used for anything from helping your local sports team get together to allowing a massive network of employees located across the globe collaborate on a project.
Supplementing your community’s online presence with a native mobile app will give your users a new, yet familiar way to connect with their friends, family, and colleagues, thanks to app-only features like a presence on their device’s home screen and push notifications and instant access to the main sections of your site.