This is the first article in a new series that reviews premium BuddyPress themes and plugins. In our reviews we will not just review the theme/plugin itself, but also give you an indication of the support, documentation and compatibility with other existing BuddyPress solutions. By the end of this review you should have an clear overview of what the product has to offer and if it’s the right solution for your BuddyPress community!
Boss. is the latest theme by the team at BuddyBoss and comes with an impressive amount of features. The theme is priced at $129 for the standard version and $179 for the developer version (which includes the Photoshop files). This makes it the most expensive Premium BuddyPress Theme I have seen so far, and it seems they are targeting this theme to those looking for a complete solution for their professional social network. BuddyBoss is aiming for the stars with this theme and this is also made clear in their promotion copy:
Boss is a responsive WordPress/BuddyPress theme that provides a whole new way of visualizing BuddyPress.
Launch a World Class Social Network
We set out to unleash the power of BuddyPress in ways that have never been seen before. Take your social network to a whole new level.
To be honest I really like the ambition and the confidence here. The big question is whether they can back up that copy with an awesome theme.
Boss. comes with a huge feature list out of the box, and I will not list all of them here. But there are a few features that really caught my interest and that I have not seen before in any other Premium BuddyPress theme.
- Built in support and styling for a lot of popular 3rd party plugins
- Retina support and a big focus on mobile and tablet users.
- All visual options can be set through the native WordPress customiser.
- Live Notifications: Notifications are updated using ajax so as soon as something happens you get notified.
- Font Awesome integration: Crisp, retina ready icons that can be integrated into your menus.
- Improved Messages Component
- Profile Cover Photos
- Sitewide BuddyPress Search – live search of all BuddyPress content
The Ajax Cover Photo functionality is really sweet
Searching for members, groups & activity is fast and easy.
Installing the theme is straight forward and is explained well with a clear video tutorial and documentation found on the BuddyBoss website. In these videos you’re guided through the basic steps needed to get Boss going. The videos cover theme installation and activation, Menu & Widget setups and configuring the plugins that compliment the Boss theme. It’s a very smooth experience and if this is your first experience with WordPress/BuddyPress a very welcome addition.
What I really love is that Boss comes with a pre-made Child Theme that you can activate and customise easily. The guys at BuddyBoss even took the time to explain how you can easily add CSS, overwrite templates and how the Parent theme is structured. It’s these small but very important details that really set Boss apart from other premium BuddyPress themes I have seen.
By following the tutorials I was able get my theme set up fairly quickly and without any issues. That being said I think there is some room for improvement in this aspect. It would be fair to assume most users want to set up their theme similar to the demo and I think that having the option to let Boss automatically configure itself would be a good one. Similar to Commons in a Box which sets up the homepage, widgets and default text as soon as the theme is activated.
Customise your social network without touching code
The visual customiser will allow you to quickly customise your theme and reach amazing results. Choose from a large selection of fonts, control the colour of every aspect of the theme or choose from a selection of pre-made colour schemes.
Easily control your logo, widgets, navigation, cover photos and more.
In terms of aesthetics and attention to detail this is the most beautiful BuddyPress theme yet. Boss looks awesome on my Retina Macbook with high resolution icons, good readability and a great default colour scheme. The Boss themes promises full customisation of the theme through the WordPress customiser. I’m a big fan of this approach because it allows you to quickly customise the look and feel of the theme and see results directly.
I found it easy enough to customise the theme although I think the default color schemes provided could use some work. Most of them are a bit too vibrant and distract from the main content (although they can easily be tweaked).
Currently the theme will always display in full width which means it will take up your entire browser screen. I would love to see a “boxed lay-out” option in the future because I feel the theme might be too wide on widescreen desktop screens. It makes reading and navigation certain pages a bit straining to the eyes. Besides that the page layouts and the styling of the BuddyPress pages is great. Lots of attention to detail and navigation and usability is good. It’s clear that Boss was made for BuddyPress from the ground up, and it’s nice to see the attention to detail on every page. Tooltips, subtle hover effects and styled selectboxes are just a few of things that stood out to me.
One detail that bugged me was that the header navigation feels a bit inconsistent to me.
Why have a separate “My Profile” icon on the top left when you also have the profile navigation on the right? Hopefully enabling or disabling these details will be possible through the options panel in the future.
Tablet & Mobile
This is where Boss really starts showing its value. It’s simply a joy to use on a tablet or mobile phone. The theme is fast, responsive and smartly adapts to all the different screen sizes. With off-canvas menus (this means the menus slide out on touch) the limited screen space on a mobile device is smartly used, and it simply just works. More impressively all of the functionality that the desktop version offers is kept, and it’s truly a pleasant experience to browse your site on mobile.
I love how Boss solves a lot of navigation and user experiences issues all BuddyPress themes have had until now. The responsive aspects of the theme are it’s strongest features, and it’s clear that a ton of development time was spent on creating much more then just a slimmed down version of the desktop version. Outstanding work!
Code Quality & Product Support
I was very impressed with the code quality of Boss. I’ve been creating BuddyPress themes for over five years now, and I’ve created dozens of themes for clients and recently for the CBOX project and CFCommunity. I’ve also used and audited many commercial BuddyPress & WordPress themes and a lot of them seem to treat BuddyPress compatability as an after thought. Boss is a pleasant exception and this is another aspect that warrants the higher price of the theme.
Well documented and clean code which explains exactly what does what. This makes me happy
Whilst going through the code I noticed that the functions are documented, the file structure is logical and the theme is properly using the BuddyPress Template hierarchy. So what does this mean? It means that Boss. does things the “BuddyPress Way” and this makes the life of you (or your developer) a lot easier when something needs to be changed.
On BuddyBoss.com they have a dedicated support forum for every product, and support is helpful and quick. As mentioned before they have a series of (video)tutorials and resources available, and even the other customers seem to help each other out. Absolutely no complaints here.
I tested Boss with a huge amount of BuddyPress plugins that I have installed on my local development environment and found no issues. Like I mentioned earlier this is because the Boss theme does things the BuddyPress way and this means that well coded and maintained BuddyPress plugins play nicely with the theme.
Out of the box Boss provides additional CSS styling for a ton of existing popular plugins. This means that these plugins are styled to better match the look and feel of the theme so they can be used seamlessly with Boss.
- Gravity Forms
- Subscribe to Comments
- BuddyPress Tweet
- BuddyPress Group Documents
- BuddyPress Activity Plus
- SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam
- Invite Anyone
- BuddyPress Links
- Social Articles
- BP Checkins
- BP Gallery (BuddyDev)
- BP Activity Privacy
- BuddyBoss Media
- BuddyPress Global Search
- BuddyPress Global Search Dropdown
- BuddyPress Global Search Results
- Buddyboss Wall
- BP | You are blocked
- BuddyPress Social
- BuddyPress Activity Privacy
- BP Group Documents
This is an impressive amount of support for additional plugins and it’s crucial for those who need a theme that can be maintained without extensive knowledge of WordPress/BuddyPress theming.
Summary & Conclusion
Although it comes with a higher price tag then other BuddyPress themes, Boss. provides excellent value.
Boss. is a beast of a theme and it warrants it’s higher purchasing price by providing an unique set of features for your BuddyPress community. There are some areas where the theme can be improved, most notably in the initial setup and some design aspects of the desktop layout. But opinions when it comes to design and user experience are highly personal and because of the excellent documentation and code quality these design decisions can easily be adjusted to your needs.
Both as a theme developer and as someone who uses BuddyPress to build communities, I think Boss is an excellent foundation for your site. It successfully raises the bar when it comes to premium BuddyPress products through it’s impressive set of features and extensive 3rd party plugin support. Check out our final verdict below for our final rating.
It took us more than 1600 words to reach the conclusion of our first premium BuddyPress theme review. Interested in getting a premium BuddyPress or plugin reviewed? Get in touch with me on Twitter