sheepworld.de – WordPressMU & Buddypress with custom design
I should like to present http://sheepworld.de, a website based on wordpress-mu and buddypress.
About my client and me
Sheepworld is a German company designing and selling postcards as well as various gifts with sheep design. I was working as webdesigner while I was studing. Now I am a lawyer soliciting webdesigners, but work part-time as designer and coder for sheepworld in order to stay in the subject.
About the goals
Sheepworld had in the past many different websites. A Blog, a shop, a children & youth community, corporate page and many more. The aim was to bring them all under one roof. Another aim was a simple maintenance as well as handling of the content by sheepworld’s staff.
Choosing the plattform
Iâ€™ll write only about those on the short list. We didnâ€™t choose between free and paid software. The only requirement was an open code.
Since we had experience with typo3 we rejected the idea of using this software, because it was too difficult to handle. Actually I was the only one writing typo script so in emergency no one could fill in. Further it was anything but easy to handle different templates for different pages. And typo3 doesnâ€™t provide many extensions for a community. No offence, it is a great piece of code, but rather for â€œseriousâ€ websites with many domains and editors.
Another candidate on the shortlist was Drupal. And if buddypress had not popped out of nowhere last spring, we would have chosen it. It is in my opinion more complicated, though. And the template handling is not as easy as that of wordpress. In addition sheepworld used wordpress already for blogging and thus there werenâ€™t any reservations among the staff (the editors as well as the technicians).
I confess that I had some doubts as to the development of buddypress, for it was brand new. But after watching Automatticâ€™s or better Andy Peatlingâ€™s passionate work on it and its rapidly growing community I was sure it wonâ€™t become a flash in the pan.
Ups and Downs
The most prominent advantage of buddypress & wordpress is the simplicity of the development process. After one week of study you can develop own plugins and templates, which will allow you extending buddypress easily and safely. However, basic knowledge of html, css, php is necessary. I recommemd to get acquainted with jQuery as well. Sure thing, one can install buddypress w/o these languages, but in case of problems it might become an ordeal to find a solution.
Further buddypress is transparently written and allows finding solutions w/o having a code documentation. For instance, if you want to understand how an avatar is displayed you first search in the template files for a function that does this. Than you look for the function in core files (or just enter it on google) and see how the function is applied.
Thirdly, updating of wordpress and buddypress is a dream. As long as you follow this procedure â€œbackup-deactivate plugins-update-activate buddypress-activate other pluginsâ€ there shouldnâ€™t be any trouble.
The downside of this simple and understandable code is that it doesnâ€™t go quite easy on resources. Thus we had to install a caching solution (we chose â€œW3 Total Cacheâ€-plugin, which runs really well and supporty gzip as well as eAccelerator on the server in order to cache compiled php code. This is not a big deal, though. The issue is that pages for logged in users cannot be cached. Imagine you would get cached activities or an admin bar with cached notifications of someone else. So the caching speeds up the page only for non-logged-in users. This may take the load from your server and speed up the whole page, but my wish is a caching system for logged in users (donâ€™t ask me how ).
Another downside results from the young age of the project. There are still features missing (native gallery, native privacy options, no Ts&Cs checkbox during registration) and the documentation isnâ€™t very extensive. But these features are coming up and the community delivers a lot of solutions.
Combining with other Software
Beside to wordpress and buddypress we are using the OXID shop system for the shop, PHPlist for the newsletter and osTicket for the support system.
Implementing osTicket was quite easy. All I head to do was including wordpressâ€™ header and footer into the contact form. However this didnâ€™t work with the Shop, so we had to create a static version of the header and footer and include them as html into the shopâ€™s templates (we do it every 24h by using a cron job). The downside: There are no user features (login fields, notifications) within the admin bar on that page.
There are also plugins that allow connecting PHPlist with wordpress.
User & Staff Experience
The users adopted fast the new page as well as the editors. However, I cant say anything about using buddypress as platform for a blog network, since we donâ€™t use this feature. Our users may only create groups and forums. Summing up my client and me we are very happy and recommend buddypress.
Alright, I stop my monologue here, a far more extensive version (German) can be found in my blog: http://www.advisign.de/webdesign/2009-12/sheepworld-de-ein-schafiges-projekt-mit-wordpress-mu-und-buddypress
If you have any questions, plz feel free to ask them.
A big thank goes to the whole community and especially to Andy Peatling for the great work and the support! Our sheep appreciate your involvement in creating their new meadow.
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