Here is the question, how do we find a good WordPress community theme?

Communities are everywhere.

Online, offline. Connected, not connected.

But here is the thing. You want your community to be engaged.

You don’t want it to shade off on the side.

How to go about it?

You can build Facebook Groups, Messenger or Slack communities.

But you can also create a fully-fledged online application with more features than the usual posts/comments.

And lucky you, WordPress makes it easy to build such an application. You can find WordPress community themes that will help you spin up your application in a matter of minutes.

What is a WordPress Community Theme?

First, let’s get down to the basics: a definition.

What is a WordPress community theme?

According to the codex, here is the definition of a WordPress theme.

“A WordPress Theme is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog. These files are called template files. A Theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software. Themes may include customized template files, image files (*.jpg, *.gif), style sheets (*.css), custom Pages, as well as any necessary code files (*.php). For an introduction to template files, see Stepping Into Templates.”

There are very generic themes, that doesn’t focus on one specific thing. Great examples are Avada or Stack.

Avada WordPress theme

But there are also more specific themes that serve a specific niche or purpose.

Community themes are such an example. They have different features, integrations, and a design that fits online communities.

Most importantly, they work with the usual WordPress community plugins, the main one being BuddyPress.

Good.

We know how to go about creating a quick and effective community.

By fostering your community on a familiar platform such as WordPress you make it easy to start, but also easy to evolve and tailor. In fact, WordPress is powering more than 30% of the web. Think up… there are tons of proficient developers out there.

The beauty? You keep and own your data. Everything is stored under your hood.

Moving on the choice of our WordPress template.  

How To Choose The Right WordPress Theme for Your Community?

Here are a few features you’ll be looking for in your WordPress theme when making the call for it.

Design and Interface

First thing first. How attractive and modern the theme is?

Do you remember this old page from Facebook?

Lucky me, I don’t.

Either way, I’d be reluctant to use such a design.

Okay, I’m going too far, exaggerating. But you get the point.

The design is timely, it was likely good for the time. But not good for today.

So we want anything but something similar to this.

What is a Good WordPress Community Theme: BuddyPress Theme and Others? 1
Facebook in 2004

We want an attractive design that gives us the willpower. Something we want to use.

Something we feel easy to play with. We don’t have to mock around for 20 minutes before finding what we want.

Where does the theme lands on this scale? (Interaction-Design.org)
Where does the theme lands on this scale? (Interaction-Design.org)

Pro tip: make sure to check the design on your laptop, but also on tablets and smartphones. You absolutely want the theme to be responsive.

Last, but not least, make sure that the theme loads fast. You don’t want the page to hang for 2 minutes before displaying what it’s supposed to.

Social and Members-Related Features

We have an easy-to-use application.

But we still haven’t checked through our core features.

We want to make a collaborative intranet/community site where our members can thrive.

We want to bring together, at the least, the following features:

  • Social networking: whether we are talking about user profiles, activity posting, or any other social networking feature. It’s a must to have some of those basics
  • Messaging: being able to communicate with other members privately, or using group chat is required as well. We want the chat to be efficient, secure, supporting files and text formatting.
  • Forums: debating, contributing, asking public questions; these are all must-have features of our community theme.
  • Events management: sharing the next community event must be as easy as logging in! That’d be even better if our theme would support integrations with the major Calendar players (Apple Calendar, Google Calendar, Outlook).
  • File sharing: we would also want to be able to share files in private and public. This must be powerful enough to support different folders, so we can truly manage the files.

Then, if we have e-commerce and even e-learning capabilities, that’d be the icing on the cake.

LearnDash is one of the most prominent Learning Management System for WordPress.

Learndash for WordPress community

Before we dive into the comparison of the best themes out there. Let’s clear up any confusion and clarify the difference between a social network solution, and a fully-featured community theme.

Social Network Themes for WordPress vs Community Theme vs Intranet Theme

As they sound, social network themes are focused on the interaction online. Networking online.

They usually use the famous BuddyPress plugin under the hood and add their layer on top of it to make the social interaction more attractive.  

BuddyPress is a free plugin that helps you build any kind of community website using WordPress, with member profiles, activity streams, user groups, messaging, and more.

BuddyPress WordPress Community Plugin

Some of the common features include chat, groups, file sharing, commenting and posting. Think of it as a Facebook built using WordPress.

On the other hand, community theme goes one step further and provide specific features meant at driving community engagement and interaction. Some examples include event management, member map, and member research tool, matchmaking, and much more.

Lastly, the intranet themes are meant at providing a business-oriented solution for organizations and teams to collaborate effectively. They not only offer social features but also all the business-related requirements to run an efficient project and team – such as project management, knowledge base, HR, etc.

WordPress Community Themes Compared

To wrap things up, we will be looking at the best community WordPress themes and look at how they compare.

Thrive WordPress Theme

The first item on our list is Thrive.

It powers “everything you need to build a powerful intranet, extranet, and community”.

Thrive is rated 4.38 based on 137 ratings, has been available since September 2015 and counts ~4K sales.

Woffice WordPress Theme

The next one on our list is Woffice.io. It’s an all-in-one intranet and extranet theme, which means that it not only provide you with all the features mentioned above for community building but also much more.

Besides its numerous features, Woffice’ power lays in the design and user interface. The theme has been on the market since 2015 with more than 100 updates to keep it up-to-date

Member dashboard, members map and directory, forums, chats, event management, project management, Slack integration, e-commerce features, and wiki management.

Woffice is rated 4.7 based on 355 ratings, has been available since June 2015 and counts ~9.5K sales.

Woffice - WordPress Community Theme alternative


Besocial WordPress Theme

Have you heard of Besocial? We did.

And we are glad to give you more details.

Besocial is a simple and effective BuddyPress solution. It provides the usual social networking features, plus FAQ system, event management, and a clean design.  

Besocial is rated 4.94 based on 15 ratings, has been available since March 2017 and counts ~550 sales.

BeSocial

Kleo WordPress Theme

The last one on our list is Kleo, a leading BuddyPress theme.

It goes beyond the main community features and can be used for numerous purposes. On their website, I see demos about the Business directory, local community but also landing page, news magazine and restaurant website. Any website that connects with BuddyPress could be interested.

Kleo is rated 4.7 based on 1238 ratings, has been available since February 2014 and counts ~18K sales.

Kleo

Wrap Up

Setting up your online community should be a no-brainer.

The harder part remains on the human and marketing side of thing  ?

I hope this article will help you make the call as to how to approach your online community.

If you have any question or comment, feel free to leave them in the comment below!

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Written by

Baptiste Debever

Head of Growth and Co-Founder @Alkalab

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