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!

Description

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:

buddyboss-logo
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.

From the BuddyBoss Launch page

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.

Notable Features

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
update-cover

Searching for members, groups & activity is fast and easy.
live-search

Installation

Installing the theme is straight forward and is explained well with a clear video tutorial andย 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 anyย  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.

Appearance

possibilities

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.

color-variatons

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).

Desktop

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.

Screenshot 2015-03-01 18.06.22

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

Screenshot 2015-03-01 16.36.16

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.

ipad-layout-boss

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.

boss-code
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.

buddyboss-support-forums

Plugin Compatibility

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
  • WooCommerce
  • BuddyPress Activity Plus
  • SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam
  • Invite Anyone
  • BuddyPress Links
  • BuddyDrive
  • 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

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17 thoughts on “Premium BuddyPress Theme Review: Boss. by BuddyBoss

Author gravatar

Awesome review, Bowe! Thanks for posting this. Is the profile cover photo feature included as a plugin or is it built into the theme itself? Just curious.

    Author gravatar

    It is currently part of the theme. I hope that they will release this as a plugin down the road ๐Ÿ™‚

    Author gravatar

    Cover photos are part of the theme, for both profiles and groups. They can be turned off too.

      Author gravatar

      Sure seems like something that would be better off as a plugin. Where does it store its data? If the site switches themes, then he no longer has access to all the cover photos users uploaded? Putting in the theme kind of locks the user into using that theme or losing it all. Why not just put styles for it in the theme and the functionality in a plugin?

Author gravatar

Hey Bowe, thanks for the very detailed review! We’ll keep your feedback in mind as we update the theme and consider features for our next themes.

Author gravatar

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder ๐Ÿ™‚
To me, while it is an excellent responsive theme, the original Buddyboss theme is much much more eye-candy, minimalistic and clean (and responsive too) . You love that theme at first sight!
Yes, this new theme is too wide on desktop.

Sir, if you have tried this theme with
BuddyPress Activity Plus, BP Activity Privacy, BuddyBoss Media
can you kindly post a screenshot? Various plugins throw various buttons around the the Whats New box atop activity page, for example BP Privacy at bottom left, Buddyboss Media at top right, BuddyPress Activity Plus at bottom left – not in sync and looks so very, very odd to me. How has this theme solved this problem?

The last problem, of course remains, Favoriting or Liking. I have no problem with the term. You can call it whatever you want. BP calls it Favorit, Buddyboss calls it Like. No problem. Only thing and one major critical thing is, like comments, it is not two way. You find no favorite button in the post itself, and if you have followed a link to a blog post or a photo page you will not find a way to favorite it as Activity stream may have other entries that has pushed those items far far beyond by the time you have come.

The Buddyboss Media has no Favorite button, even the commenting is so cumbersome. You click on a comment icon on the overlay/lightbox and then you are taken to the activity entry page, not the photo page. And no Favorit icon in the overlay/lightbox. [Compare it to the free Buddypics by modemlooper – lets you do 2-way favoriting]

Price : Does it offer something feature-wise which the BP themes at the WordPress org repo does not ? If someone does not need the premium “support”, feature-wise is it worth the heavy price? It will be nice if this article has a mini-comparison with
– Mercury – the super responsive version of the p2 theme that allows front-end blogging and live comments
– Farben basic – excellent clean and responsive
– BP version of Thaim by Imath – dev at wp, bp, responsive and clean
How does it compare to other premium themes like rtcamp – which has a fresh new twist to display of Activity stream, almost unique in the sense no other BP theme has such display (whether this appeals or not, the approach is *new*)

Thanks for the nice review.

Author gravatar

Hey Inder,

I’d be happy to respond to your comments. I enjoy reading feedback like this, it’s valuable for us as it helps us understand what customers want, so we’ll consider everything you’ve mentioned.

A lot of people love the original BuddyBoss theme, myself included. Glad you like it. At the same time, many customers have specifically requested a “full” wide desktop layout, like Boss. Boss is outselling the older BuddyBoss theme by a wide margin, so I think most people prefer this newer style. Really depends on the goals of your website.

As for plugins adding links around the activity post form – in a theme we need to preserve the functionality of other plugins. Those plugin authors intended for their buttons to be in those places.

I’m not sure I understand the Like/Favorite issue. You can Favorite any post anywhere in the theme. We have not changed anything from default BuddyPress here.

BuddyBoss Media – to clarify that is not actually part of this theme, it is a separate optional plugin we sell. It does have favoriting. All media posts are added as regular activity posts with images attached to them. So you can Favorite them just like any activity post… It’s true that our overlay does not have a Favorite icon in it, so if you’re viewing photos in your Photos tab (not via activity) you have to navigate to the comment page to Favorite it. Other people have commented on this and I think we’ll remedy it in an update soon ๐Ÿ™‚

Feature-wise : pretty much everything in the theme cannot be replicated by a free theme in the WP repo. We spend huge amounts of time integrating every aspect of BuddyPress so you have an immersive social experience. Themes in the WP repo are meant for blogs and regular websites, you’re lucky if they’ve even been tested with BuddyPress at all… But yes, there are some other nice BuddyPress themes out there. That is a matter of personal preference.

As for the price, at $129 it’s still a huge bargain. We offer a tremendous amount of value for the price. To replicate any single feature in Boss will cost significantly more than that in developer expenses – I know this because I paid to have all of those features built ๐Ÿ™‚ We provide constant updates to add new features and fix issues, and also access to our active support forums with paid moderators. The original BuddyBoss theme was launched in 2011 and we still update it regularly now, 4 years later…

Author gravatar

Hi @Michael Eisenwasser

Glad that you are having an excellent sales !
Please note that some of the “free” themes, though free has gone a long way into code, features and support indeed ๐Ÿ™‚ and some support BP very well. WP itself is also “free” ๐Ÿ™‚
I am posting a picture here http://s21.postimg.org/ugp8dmw7r/image.png to try to explain what I meant. No rant! If you can follow what I mean ( I am poor at explaining) – good! If not, no problem. Wishing you all the best! Thank you so much for your response. Best regards.

    Author gravatar

    I see what you mean in the photo.

    1. There is a lot happening in that screenshot. BP Activity Privacy is adding privacy menus. We’ll be incorporating privacy into a future Wall plugin update so you won’t need all that. And then BP Activity Plus is being loaded with our Media plugin, a lot of redundancy there. Our plugin gives you photos, and videos are there out of the box with BuddyPress. That plugin is functional but adds some unattractive CSS in any theme, in my opinion.

    2. That is a blog post. Blog posts don’t have Like/Favorite functionality in BuddyPress. We’re not hiding anything there.

    3. Yes, we know people want Likes on media overlay. Adding that very soon, probably in a week or so.

      Author gravatar

      Thanks for the fast response.
      1. BP Activity Privacy is already being used by many sites. For new sites that can wait, yes, your plugin may help. BP Activity Plus is just needed for the Links – other parts of it can be hidden and not needed. You post a link, it shows you thumbnails from that website to choose from. Its easy. And necessary for most sites. I am using for the “Links” part only. Video links are automagically dealt by WP. Cool! Then, there’s the Checkin icon by bp-checkin plugin by imath. It is also necessary. Thus its a lot of waiting if one has to wait for Buddyboss OR lot of money for customization ๐Ÿ™‚ in an already paid theme. From your point you are absolutely right about the price but from many customer’s end ….

      2. So that’s a critical problem and Boss has not solved it. I understand it is out of scope for Boss. But then …. what to do? Again from my side, custom dev is needed. Have a look at https://buddypress.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/5644

      3. Thanks. Both comments and Like in media overlay. And site admin can turn it off or on so that instead it just a normal page. Rtmedia (free version) has this. Mediapress also probably have or going to have.

      Thanks again. Have a great time ahead!

Author gravatar

Without any doubt Buddyboss team has outperformed many other themes with this premium Boss theme. Thanks to the whole team.

However, couple of serious issues for which many users may miss the opportunity to use this theme.

1. Inability to post LINKS :
As mentioned by @Inder in his posts, it has issues with BP Activity Plus and no serious collaboration from Boss team and BP Activity Plus team can be seen. Social networking is all about sharing things. I wonder how anybody can buy a premium theme where users are unable to share all kinds of information, including text, video, images and LINKS.

2. High Price of the theme (please let me explain) :
I believe anybody should be open to pay appropriately for a feature-rich theme like this, given the fact that infinite amount of man hours and hard work has been put by the developers.
Two major features of Boss theme, namely wall type activity and photo albums are actually two SEPARATELY SOLD plugins – BuddyBoss Wall ($29) and BuddyBoss Media plugins ($29). So the proposed price of $129 and $179 of the theme is way too overpriced, since most of the other features are either actually covered by Buddypress or can be implemented using plugins by spending far less cost.

If Buddyboss team can overcome these kind of serious issues, I am sure they will become second to none pretty soon. It should not happen that people get overwhelmed at the first look of something you make with so much hard work, but gradually move away from it just because of some important features were missed or just because they simply can’t afford to buy one.
By the way, thank you for the theme. we all love you, Buddyboss.

Author gravatar

Is Buddypress development going at good speed? Is Boss being developed for other platforms too ?

I find this package much more user-friendly along with excellent responsive theme, up-to-date status box and very nice photo albums – easysocial.stackideas.com [ $80+ for full package compared to Boss’s $120+ for theme only]. I will suggest Boss to develope a nice theme for EasySocial.

Author gravatar

Enjoyed the theme demo. I liked being able to test features and push buttons lol. As a site owner, I am considering this theme because of the look, functionality and because it has support. I don’t mind paying for quality products, as long as they work and have support. I’m struggling with the features of buddypress and bbpress on the theme I currently have and just dumb issues that I’m almost about to give up on it. I know absolutely nothing about code or php or those techy terms…I just want it to work without having to fight with it and send multiple messages to the developers! This review was highly informative and so were the tutorial videos that Michael did. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

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