For the next version of BuddyPress there has been a fair amount of re-factoring work done. We’ve listened to your feedback from version 1.0 and made a number of internal changes that are going to make your lives as plugin developers and theme designers easier.
One of the biggest changes in BuddyPress 1.1 will be the way themes are built.
In version 1.0 BuddyPress required two themes to function. The first theme was a “WordPress home” theme that handled the blog and front page of your site. It was essentially a standard WordPress theme. The second was a “BuddyPress member” theme that would handle the display of pages generated by BuddyPress. There were many reasons for handling themes this way, but as time passed it was evident theming in this fashion was hurting the majority to help the minority.
In BuddyPress 1.1 there will be one single theme to handle everything. BuddyPress will ship with a social network framework theme that acts as a parent theme. The default theme will be a child theme based on this framework and contains only images and css. Building a new BuddyPress theme will be as simple as creating a child theme based on this framework. If you’re not familiar with child themes a quick google search will bring up lots of useful information.
This approach brings big benefits. When building a new theme you don’t need to re-create every template file. You can override specific template files where needed. Most importantly though, your theme will update automatically with the latest functionality when the framework theme is updated.
If you’ve already created a BuddyPress theme using the old system don’t worry, these themes will continue to work for at least the next couple of versions. You should find it fairly simple to convert your themes to the new system. The old default themes only took a few hours to convert over.
Using the framework theme is of course, just an option. You can still go ahead and create your own frameworks or mashups with a completely unique style or structure. As with WordPress themes, the possibilities are infinite.
If you’d like to get started with the new framework, I’d recommend running the trunk version of BuddyPress. The best way is to fetch this via Subversion, or you can download a zip of the current snapshot using the link at the bottom of this Trac browser page.
BuddyPress 1.1 is on track for a September release.
Update:: There seems to be confusion about using existing WordPress themes. You can still use any existing WordPress theme and copy over the extra templates from the framework theme. This will allow you to continue to use your current theme and also keep the same look and feel for BuddyPress features. You may need to make some some CSS adjustments.