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Which would you choose for building a social networking site : BuddyPress VS Ultimate Member

There are thousands of us wanting to set up online forums / discussion groups / a solid social network site. The thing is we need to think “Which plugin do you go with when you are using the WordPress platform?“. People usually prefer/recommend BuddyPress since it has been quite popular with 200,000+ active installs (All time downloads – 4,168,626 and counting). But the issue with BuddyPress is that it is quite tricky to get up & running. WordPress users always seek out plugins that are a) easy to use and b) popular so as to get quick support in case they get stuck somewhere. A new plugin that is quickly getting a lot of attention & praises is Ultimate Member. Let’s have a head-to-head between these two popular plugins in a BuddyPress Vs Ultimate Member today. We’ll take a look at the pros & cons of each one by one.

THE CHAMPION – BuddyPress: A powerful community plugin for WordPress that takes your site beyond the blog. It includes all of the features you’ve come to expect from any online community, like user profiles, groups, activity streams, notifications, and more.


  • First Official Release – April 2009
  • Downloads – 4,168,626 and counting
  • Active Installs – 200,000+

THE CHALLENGER – Ultimate Member: A powerful, lightweight and flexible plugin that makes it a breeze for users to sign-up and become members. The plugin allows you to add beautiful user profiles to your site and is perfect for creating advanced online communities.


  • First Official Release – January, 2015
  • Downloads – 345,061 and counting
  • Active Installs – 30,000+

Round 1 : Installation & Setup

Both BuddyPress & Ultimate Member are available for free to be downloaded from the WordPress plugin repository. Upon activation, the menu option for Ultimate Member is prominent in WordPress Admin Dashboard whereas BuddyPress is buried within the Settings menu for WordPress as a sub-item.

As we mentioned earlier we are trying to set up a social networking site so we’ll need to add forums & groups; that’s where bbPress comes into the picture. Integrating bbPress with BuddyPress is a breeze if you have bbPress installed & activating on your WordPress site (no need for any extensions). When you talk about the challenger – Ultimate Member, you need the bbPress extension (part of the core extension bundle) for integrating the bbPress forums into the Ultimate Member user profiles.

Round 1 to BuddyPress for seamless integration with bbPress (without the need of any extensions).

Round 2 : Feature Set

Each contender offers a different set of core features. BuddyPress is a deliberately powerful yet unbelievably simple social network software, built by contributors to WordPress. The core features of BuddyPress include user profiles, groups, activity streams, notifications, private messaging, and many more. It also offers users to edit their profiles right from the Profile Settings menu on the frontend.

Now let’s take a look at the core features of Ultimate Member. The plugin allows you to add beautiful user profiles to your site and is perfect for creating advanced online communities. Yes, the list of core features is long including custom form fields, conditional logic for form fields, drag and drop form builder, user account page, custom user roles, custom e-mail templates, content restriction, developer friendly with dozens of actions and filters, etc. Groups & private messaging being the most important core feature of social networking sites Ultimate Member offers these features in the form of paid extensions.

Round 2 to BuddyPress again for having the basic features (forum groups & private messaging) for free.

Round 3 : Extensions

BuddyPress is backed by an exhaustive community & there are over 600+ free-and-open BuddyPress-compatible plugins available. No matter what you need there’ll always be an extension to meet your requirements.

Ultimate Member is new in the market hence, it has only a few 3rd party plugins for integrating various popular plugins.  Also, there are many paid extensions available for it developed by the Ultimate Member team.

Round 3 to BuddyPress for obvious reasons!

Round 4 : Integration Into Existing Sites

Both plugins are theme independent so you do not have to worry about integrating them into an existing site. Having said that the main issue of bbPress needs to be addressed here since bbPress needs a compatible theme to work flawlessly otherwise you are left with a broken / ugly site. So choose a bbPress compatible theme.

Round 4 is a tie since both BuddyPress & Ultimate Member are theme independent.

Round 5 : Documentation

Hands down BuddyPress wins this round with its thick & vast BuddyPress Codex as compared to the Ultimate Member documentation section.

Round 5 to BuddyPress.

Round 6 : Support

WordPress users strive for quality products along with support for issues if they get stuck somewhere. BuddyPress is a free plugin that includes almost all the features of Ultimate Member for free along with a support system that relies on the user groups & forums. So you know the solutions you are being presented with are tried & tested incase you consider implementing them.

Ultimate Member offers free support to its free users on the support forums but as mentioned on their official site they help on the forum after tickets for paid customers have been replied to.

Round 6 to BuddyPress.

Round 7 : Price

Price shouldn’t be an absolute consideration but free is compelling. So BuddyPress takes up a higher priority in the preferences’ list.

If you want to build a social network WordPress site using Ultimate Member you need to buy the Core Extensions Bundle priced at $199 to have the basic fuctionalities like private messaging & groups.

Round 7 to BuddyPress.

BuddyPress Vs Ultimate Member – The Verdict

BuddyPress has considerable and some noteworthy advantages over any challenger, not just Ultimate Member: it has a huge install-base, a powerful community behind it, extensive 3rd party plugins and it integrates fully with the equally well-supported, incredibly popular BBPress.

And it’s free, of course.

We are sure Ultimate Member has its own followers who support it & eventually it will evolve into a plugin to be a fierce challenger against BuddyPress one day. But for now, the cards are in favor of BuddyPress by fighting through & winning each round. Being easier to integrate with any existing site (takes a little work though) & powerful core features BuddyPress retains its title of Champion.

Which Plugin Is Right For Your WordPress Site And Why?

If you want to set up a full-fledged social network site powered by WordPress at no extra cost then go for BuddyPress. And if you don’t mind spending a little for building a social network site with beautiful user profile then we’d recommend Ultimate Member. As experts would say – BuddyPress is developer-friendly & Ultimate Member is user-friendly.

Which of the two plugins do you use? Leave us your reply in the comments box.

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