Guest post by Bishnu Mahali

There are thousands of WordPress users wanting to create a membership site where users can register and can have some awesome features and functionality like a social networking site.

But how many of them really want to create a full-blown social network site?

It’s obvious that the numbers are lower in this case. We definitely want to have some specific features of social networking sites for our users and us but not everything.

However, when you’ll try to create such a site, you’ll find a popular plugin namely BuddyPress.

It’s definitely a cool WordPress plugin if you’re trying to build a social network site but, do you really want that?

I guess, No!

Now here comes the rescue. 

Calum Allison, who had gone through the same situation, stepped out to create an alternative of the BuddyPress plugin and now it’s available to use for free with the name “Ultimate Member”.

So today let’s compare both the plugins and see which one exactly do you need.

The moment we decide to install a plugin, we look for the number of active installations of the plugin for various reasons. So why not start it there.

Round 1: Plugin Stats At WordPress Repository

Ultimate Member

  • First Official Release: January 2015
  • Update Frequency: Days OR, Week (10 hours ago as of writing)
  • Downloads: 2,083,484 and counting
  • Active Installations: 100,000+
  • Ratings: 4.5 (of 680 reviews)
  • Daily Downloads Graph: 
  • Active Installations Growth: 

BuddyPress

  • First Official Release: April 2009
  • Update Frequency: Months (2 months ago as of writing)
  • Downloads: 7,423,601 and counting
  • Active Installations: 200,000+
  • Ratings: 4.0 (of 319 reviews)
  • Daily Downloads Graph: 
  • Active Installations Growth: 

You can decide your winner by looking at the stats above. In my opinion, the numbers of installations are higher for BuddyPress yet they lack in some points such as ratings & reviews, update frequency etc. So be careful if you’re choosing a winner here.

Round 2: Installation & Setup

Both BuddyPress & Ultimate Member are available for free to be downloaded from the WordPress plugin repository.

The process of installing the plugins are the same.

However, on activation, the menu option for Ultimate Member is prominent in the WordPress Admin Dashboard whereas BuddyPress is buried within the Settings menu for WordPress as a sub-item.

It may not seem a bigger issue yet it matters. Ease of using is one thing that you must look at.

The Ultimate Member plugin gives you a lot of options to customize it, which makes it more compatible with your needs whereas BuddyPress gives you very limited options to customize which makes it harder to customize as of your needs.

In this round, my vote will definitely go to the Ultimate Member for its customizability. What do you think?

Round 3: Features You Get

Each of them offers a different set of core features. The core features of BuddyPress includes user profiles, groups, activity streams, notifications, private messaging, and many more. It also offers users to edit their profiles on the frontend.

Now let’s take a look at the core features of the Ultimate Member. This plugin lets you add beautiful user profiles to your site and it is a perfect choice for creating advanced online communities. 

It has a long list of its core features including custom form fields, conditional logic for form fields, drag and drop form builder, user account page, custom user roles, member directories, custom e-mail templates, content restriction, developer friendly with dozens of actions and filters, etc.

However, the Ultimate Member does not have the Groups and Private Messaging features in the free version. Yet you can get these features in the form of paid extensions for some extra bucks.

The winner of this round totally depends on you. If you are someone that doesn’t want to spend any amount then BuddyPress is the winner for you but if you don’t mind spending a few bucks for a great feature packed plugin with a beautiful design then you must go with the Ultimate Member plugin.

Round 4: Extensions

In terms of extensions, BuddyPress is too much ahead of the Ultimate Member plugin. BuddyPress has a super large community which makes it better in this situation. It has more than 500+ extensions available to use. And even better, most of them are free to use.

Whereas, the Ultimate Member plugin has a few paid extensions of their own and some amazing but limited numbers of 3rd-party extensions. The free extensions of the Ultimate Member are next to nothing.

You can only enhance the features and user experience of the Ultimate Member if you have money to spend on the extensions, otherwise, you need be happy with what you already have.

So clearly this round goes to the BuddyPress. Yet, if you are someone who takes designs seriously, then you should be going with the Ultimate Member by spending a few bucks for your required features.

Round 5: Compatibility With Existing Themes

Both the plugins are theme independent. That means, it can work on any of your existing site with any theme installed on it.

However, if you are planning to use BuddyPress with the combination of bbPress then you should definitely consider a theme which is compatible with the bbPress. Otherwise, you’ll end up getting an ugly looking broken site.

On the other hand, the Ultimate Member works fine with its forum extension on any themes.

Design wise the Ultimate Member plugin is too much ahead of the BuddyPress. It looks beautiful on any website or theme.

This round absolutely goes to the Ultimate Member for its compatibility with all the themes while keeping the design so clear and beautiful.

Round 6: Documentation

Both the plugins have full documentation available on their respective sites. However, the user interface and clear design of the Ultimate Member website makes it easier to browse the documentation and read them.

On the other hand, the BuddyPress website has an ancient design which is old enough to get ignored. When it comes to reading on the web, a good and clear design plays a major role. We may have ignored it if it was 2015 or somewhere before but in 2019, design matters more than the content.

Despite being the Ultimate Member documentation amazing in user experience. I would like to give it a tie here, as not all of us looks for the design yet. For me personally, the Ultimate Member is the winner here too.

Round 7: Support

You can get the support for both the plugins from there respective forums. Yet, the support system is better for the Ultimate Member. The only problem is that they only reply to you after solving the problems of their paid customer.

Whereas, BuddyPress has no such things on their support system. They have a larger community which really makes it easier to get answered and your issues solved.

In terms of support, the BuddyPress is definitely the winner here.

Round 8: Pricing

The price shouldn’t be an absolute consideration but free is always more compelling. So BuddyPress is the obvious preference of users in terms of money.

To build a social networking WordPress site using the Ultimate Member plugin you need to buy their Core Extensions Bundle priced at $249 (per year)  to use the basic functionalities and features like private messaging & groups.

The Final Verdict

If you are someone who doesn’t want to spend any money and is okay to have a bulky and old fashioned design then you should be considering BuddyPress.

I’m not being biased here. The BuddyPress plugin is really awesome, the only problem is that it is too bulky and overwhelming. It lacks modern design and most of us don’t need all of its features, yet you can’t customize them.

And on the other side, If you are willing to spend a few bucks for a beautifully designed and more customizable plugin then you should definitely consider the Ultimate Member plugin.

Money is not a concern when your aim or goal is higher. Most of us will gladly choose to pay over having the design and functionalities of the site compromised.

Now you can decide which one are you and choose the right plugin for you.

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