Since the beginning of this month, I have been busy working on a community portal for our apartment association (Celestial Greens, Bangalore). Well, it’s not completely operational yet but I thought of sharing a few tips for building a multi user WordPress-based website.

Building a multi-user WordPress site – non-BuddyPress site, that is – is all about installing a bunch of plugins and services to take care of member management, user capability management, ticket management, forum plug, alerts, calendar plugins/services, gallery plugins, download plugins, etc and a bit of customizing of these plugins, the chosen theme and some hooks to hide unwanted screens of WordPress admin Panel.

Key Plugins for a Multi-User Site

The following are the plugins that I am currently using on our multi-user community site. Of course, there are always alternatives that start with the member plugin itself (which by the way is the first major decision to make before starting full-fledged development).

1. WP-Member

When you build a multi-member site, the first thing you need is a member registration plugin that shows a beautified login, registration and logout options to the users. In addition, you might need a lot of other information about the user that’s not captured by the WordPress registration screen. WP Member is your answer to such requirements. The free version of the plugin (without support) is good enough to take care of all user registration needs for your site and it can even restrict specific content to be available for logged in users alone.

Another option is S2Member which is superior according to many but I opted for WP Member because of its simplicity though it’s not without customizing issues.

2. Capability Manager Enhanced

If you are using S2Member, then capabilities are already taken care of. Otherwise you would need something like Capability Manager Enhanced to define what each user role can do. Moreover, it can define new roles within the WordPress user roles framework.

3. Mingle Forum

For building a proper forum one might need to take phpBB or vBulletin software. But then, they wouldn’t easily work under the credentials of the WordPress logged in user. That’s when a forum plugin like Mingle Forum comes to rescue. Almost all functionalities of a typical forum can be achieved via this wonderful piece of WordPress extension (We have integrated this but not opened for use yet)

4. WP-Filebase

If you wish to provide an organized download area for your premium or signed up visitors, then WP-Filebase is one of the options. This awesome file download manager has numerous features such as paginated, sortable and searchable file list, user role restrictions on files, drag drop addition, download stats, widgets and a lot more.

5. Event List

The Event List is a beautiful little plugin that provides a way to create single or multi-day events for the purpose of displaying on your multi-user or community site as pages or widgets. This is definitely not the best plugin out there but it does the basic job. We opted for this plugin because the calendar integration is taken care of by Google Calendar itself. If you want both these features in one plugin, you may need to go for premium plugs. The Event List plugin doesn’t even have any mail alert mechanism nor is an advanced plugin.

6. WPSC Support Tickets

This one is a basic ticket manager for your multi-user sites. Although the plugin does the job, I found the coding and stylesheets of Support Tickets to be a bit unorganized in a way that you will struggle a bit to customize the look and feel of this plugin. Otherwise, it’s a decent bet for basic ticket management.

7. Email Users

Well, what if you need to send mass emails to your categories (or groups) of various users. E.g. Subscribers or Users with specific capabilities. Email Users is a very simple plugin that does this job.

8. Lazyest Gallery

Okay, having a gallery is probably not exactly a multi-user site requirement. However, if you wish to have one then the Lazyest Gallery plugin should be one of your first choices. This plugin enables users of certain roles to upload and share pictures under organized folders. It supports slideshows, widgets, auto-thumbnail generation, unlimited folder structure and so on. There are a number of support plugins available from the same plugin writer to enhance the capabilities of the basic gallery plugin.

Apart from these, of course the bread and butter plugins like Akismet, WordPress Importer or a Scheduled Backup Plugin, seo Plugins, A good contact plugin, XML sitemap plugin, Subscribe to comments, Social share plugins etc are always must-haves.

Additional Customizing

Once you have a bunch of plugins with different look and feel and un-orchestrated functionality, you need to do a bit of customizing to make the site work well at the end.

The following are some of the tasks that you would end up doing.

  • Harmonizing the look and feel across all plugins to match the site’s theme styling
  • Incorporating proper login, registration, my-profile pages or links on the site
  • Blocking certain WordPress admin area such as default user profiles etc via some hooks
  • Defining new custom user roles for site users or site administrators. This is very essential for non-blog multi user sites

Well, there may be other smaller things that one would need to do before making the site a proper multi-user community site. By the way, there are always BuddyPress like options as well but I found my experiment with our own community site pretty exciting. I am discovering more of WordPress every passing day.

Now, over to you… Which are the set of plugins that you use for your own multi-user or community sites?

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