Want to create the next Facebook or LinkedIn? In this round-up installment, we take a close look at some of the best WordPress social network themes out there.
Building a complex, fully featured social networking website can prove an undertaking – and expensive. WordPress, combined with one of these themes, has the potential to give you an inexpensive head start.
In this article, we’ll look at some free and some paid themes, and determine which one is the best for any budget.
If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for here, you might be interested in our related article 14+ Best WordPress Dating (and Community) Themes for 2020, though there is a bit of crossover. You may also want to check out our list of top WordPress membership site themes.
Currently, the most basic requirements for a social networking theme is – you guessed it – full integration with the BuddyPress plugin. And if there are community and social networking themes out there for WordPress that don’t implement some combination of BuddyPress (or one of its forks) and bbPress, we didn’t stumble across any of them.
With the exception of our top picks, most of the themes on this list are premium themes found in the ThemeForest marketplace. This is increasingly difficult to avoid, and you’re unlikely to find a free WordPress social network theme like Facebook that covers all the bases and looks good, too. That’s not to say there aren’t free BuddyPress themes, but most will offer a fairly basic implementation.
Now on to the list…
BuddyBoss the clear leader of the pack at the moment, when it comes to WordPress social networking. Along with its contemporary, expertly-conceived design and UX, the features and usability enhancements are almost flawlessly integrated.
What’s the difference between BuddyPress and BuddyBoss?
BuddyBoss is based on BuddyPress, but it is not a community driven software project. BuddyBoss integrates its own theme, and even a mobile app, as well as many of the features implemented as addons to BuddyPress. So BuddyBoss is an all-in-one solution, whereas BuddyPress is a basis for a solution. You can read much more about this here.
BuddyBoss is based on a fork of BuddyPress, and it includes all of the features BuddyPress has, plus hundreds of add-on features. But unlike BuddyPress, everything is built in to BuddyBoss. That means you get the plugin, theme, and even a mobile app — and it’s all integrated.
BuddyBoss supports most BuddyPress add-ons, and the team went the extra mile to provide full support for other popular plugins like WooThemes Sensai and WooCommerce. It’s going to work just as well for a private, corporate intranet as it will for a public social network and community, and will perform exceedingly well while doing it.
The user experience is consistent and strong across the full range of mobile and desktop devices, proving true the axiom that the best design is invisible: there’s nothing extraneous or distracting here that drive away users, or annoy company employees (who might need to depend on it for sharing files and documents).
The theme is SEO friendly, translation-ready, and well-documented. And perhaps the best part about it is that it was built by and maintained by a proven company that helped build BuddyPress. You can count on the Boss 2.0 being kept up-to-date and expertly supported. These folks have a lot of experience with the platform, and it shows. Highly recommended.
BuddyApp’s claim to fame is its fantastic, mobile-first design. Aesthetically, the design of BuddyApp has a lot in common with BuddyBoss, above, and there’s more than a few similarities in terms of UX and usability, too. Once again, this is product that will adapt well to use by companies and private intranets, or can be used to build a public social networking website.
It boasts an elegant & well though-out integration of BuddyPress, and the development team keep things simple and streamlined by tailoring its UX to the most common add-ons. Real-time usability features like AJAX searching and live notifications will make it all the more attractive to end users, and features like Facebook login with help to encourage sign-ups and visitor engagement.
The theme is versatile, too. Drag & drop page building is provided, for making quick and easy changes to layout without coding, and the back-end opens panel gives site owners branding and customization options. BuddyApp is retina-ready, as you might expect, and translation ready with support for WPML. Coded with best practices in mind, and well documented.
KLEO is one of the most popular BuddyPress themes of all times, and it shows. It comes with more than a half-dozen different sub themes, from store to travel to business, and all are beautiful.
There’s a versatility in terms of the layout, with manydifferent options to choose from.
Functionality is exactly what you’d expect, with excellent integration of BuddyPress. It also comes with dozens of goodies, including Sensei e-learning plugin, Facebook integration, customizable search, and live notifications. Moreover, KELO is an extremely solid, professional, classy design that does exactly what it ought to do, and does it very well.
KELO is designed for high-res devices, and it’s translation ready. Good stuff.
Aardvark might be the most fun, visually-engaging social media themes on our list, and approaches its design and its implementation of BuddyPress in a way that suggests it’s been tailored toward building public, web-based social networks as opposed to private, corporate intranets.
Aardvark can be configured with nearly a dozen different look-and-fields, making it a good choice for building Facebook-style communities, business communities, or any other social site.
Functionality is further extended by excellent Porfolio, WooCommerce, and bbPress support. Lots of cool back-end options and Visual Composer provide site admins with the ability to tweak and adjust layouts, fonts, colors, and other elements quickly & easily. Aardvark is SEO optimized and WPML/translation ready.
So, technically it’s not a theme…but it’s better than that: it’s FREE. Peepso is a free WordPress plugin that creates a Facebook like social network for your site. Peepso includes groups, privacy settings, notifications, pinned posts, videos and photo albums, polls, chat, support for live streams, and much more in its basic package. With addons, you can integrate with LearnDash, WooCommerce, Paid Memberships Pro, and different ad networks.
Peepso works best with their own Gecko theme, which is beautiful and full featured. It can be used in other themes, but you may experience problems with shortcodes or other components of the system.
If you’re trying to create more of a forum-based social network, you can’t do better than ForumEngine by EngineThemes. You don’t need BuddyPress for this one, since ForumEngine duplicates much of the social site functionality on its own.
ForumEngine has all of the features you would expect in a social forum site. There are badges, notifications, and much more. And all of it works flawlessly.
The business-oriented social networking (read: LinkedIn) theme Tiger was built and designed specifically with companies and professionals in mind. Although not a BuddyPress theme, the feature set is comprehensive and deep. The design is clean and corporate-flavored, and the user experience is smooth and friendly. This one will work flawlessly no matter what device you load ‘er up on.
But it is a bit different than some of other picks, in that the design and UX isn’t necessarily what some will be looking for out a social networking theme–to get a better idea of what Tiger has to offer, and if it’s right for you, be sure to click through and check out the demo.
Perhaps the strongest feature of Kudos is its simplicity: it supports BuddyPress and bbPress, providing everything those two popular plugins have to offer, but the light-weight, almost minimalistic design has the side benefit of providing an above average experience for visitors and users.
It’s not bogged down with excessive visual elements and animations, and is fast, intuitive and enjoyable to use. An overdose of CSS3 flourishes and jQuery magic, while impressive to many contemporary designers (and theme buyers!), actually has the potential to alienate users and send them straight to the back button. Good design should be invisible.
Beyond a seamless integration with BuddyPress and bbPress, the theme also has some nice secondary features: it’s responsive, of course, but also retina-ready for display on the latest high-resolution devices. The popular LayerSlider is bundled free, to aid in creating an engaging homepage slideshow, and Kudos is SEO optimized using best practices to help you score a top spot in the SERPs.
Color options and logo upload leave room for branding, and the theme is translation ready. A good deal overall.
Engage is a social networking theme for WordPress that takes advantage of the BuddyPress and bbPress plugins to help you build a robust, active community website. The design is modern, flat and clean. It’s visually appealing without over doing it.
Users can sign up easily, creating profiles, friending other users, participating in groups and more. The theme is easily customized thanks to the extensive options panel in the admin: change colors, headings, backgrounds, and fonts.
The theme is responsive, and translation ready. Layered PSD files are provided should more customization be necessary. Extensive documentation is available to help new and seasoned WordPress users alike.
Woffice is a business social networking theme that combines the best modern design and usability practices into one fantastic, intuitive package.
It has over 15,000 users and is pre-translated into dozens of languages.
The beautiful layout is optimized for display across the gamut of mobile and desktop devices, and careful integration with BuddyPress gives site owners the ability to build and manage a robust, full-featured community site. Admins can take advantage of the hundreds of extensions available for the BuddyPress plugin (including events calendars, music managers, and more).
The theme is easy to install, and users can tweak and customize the theme in real-time using a back-end pane. Detailed documentation is provided.
The Cinematix theme has been carefully integrated with bbPress and BuddyPress to give users the best community and social networking experience possible. Signing up and creating profiles is a snap; users can post messages, contact other users, build groups and more. The bold, high contrast design will make a strong impression on your visitors the moment they land on your site.
Though the name brings film and movies to mind, Cinematix can be easily adapted for use by teams, companies, schools and a variety of other hobbiest communities. Ten color schemes are provided out of the box, and more customization is made possible, without coding, by the theme options panel and included PSD files.
There’s lots of support for other popular third-party plugins, too. Cinematix is compatible with WPMU, WooCommerce, Contact Form 7, and it even works great with Events Manager. 40 page templates make this fully featured social network solution for WordPress. Highly recommended.
The Buddy theme is a bit older now, but you’d never guess it from the design and excellent features. We very much admire the minimalistic design and familiar layout. Buddy excels at user experience, and your members will feel right at home, right away. We expect this is exactly the kind of design many of our readers have in mind for bringing their own social network to life.
The developer works hard to keep things up to date and relevant. Buddy is responsive, retina-ready and fully integrated with both bbPress and BuddyPress. The theme is is easy to install, use and customize. The provided selection of powerful shortcodes will allow you to build your own layouts, as well as add elements like video, tabs and sliders to any page.
Buddy is SEO optimized and translation ready. The 4.5 star rating on ThemeForest means that you can count on the support team to help you if you run into a wall. PSDs are included for additional customization, and demo content is provided by the developer to ensure a painless setup.
The friendly, warm design of OneCommunity makes it an excellent starting point for your new social networking and community website. Bright colors, high contrast, gorgeous typography and a smart use of white space work together to make this theme a stand-out.
BuddyPress is fully integrated, and your visitors will have no problem signing up, making profiles, engaging with other users and sharing their content. You can even take advantage of the 100s of third party BuddyPress extensions to add more functionality.
The full list of features is extensive, and if you have the time we recommend taking a look at the product page for a comprehensive breakdown. This theme was developed by Diabolique, the same team responsive for the Cinematix theme. These folks rule at building social network and social media WordPress themes.
Community Junction is the third social network template from developer Diabolique (along with Cinematix and OneCommunity) and, surprise – it’s every bit as feature rich as the others. The wide, responsive layout scales down to look great on even the smallest mobile devices. CJ is compatible with WooCommerce, WPMU, Contact Form 7, BuddyPress and bbPress. Easy to follow documentation makes setup easy, and PSDs are bundled in should additional customization be required.
At first glance it might not be obvious that Klein is a WordPress social networking theme – the design has a lot in common with familiar corporate/business web design trends. But it is a fully featured community theme with support for BuddyPress, bbPress and WooCommerce out the box.
Users can create their profiles, add friends, and share the intimate details of theirs lives with vague acquaintances and near strangers, just as they would on any other social networking site. BuddyPress extensions like Activity stream, members loop and group carousels are fully supported.
Klein also has a couple groovy extras bundled in for your web developing pleasure: Visual Composer, the popular frontend page builder, and Slider Revolution, everyone’s favorite slider plugin. It’s also been tested and integrated with modules like Paid Membership Pro and Contact Form 7. If you want to know more – there’s definitely more – check out the product page. We’re just too lazy to list it all.