Getting more specific about your Sidebars
The information that is displayed in Sidebars is an important aspect of your website, one that can be tailored for each individual page if you wish, though this aspect is one that will tend to make your site setup more complex. In my search for better ways of displaying more relevant information with each page viewed what I have settled upon is a solution using two sidebar management plugins, these are Content Aware Sidebars and Display Widgets SEO Plus.
Both of these plugins allow you to display specific widgets on specific pages. Content aware sidebars does this by allowing you to create new custom sidebars to be displayed on specific pages whilst Display Widgets SEO Plus has you putting all of your widgets into the default sidebar and then choosing who and where to display those widgets.
The main reason I use both of these plugins together is that Content Aware Sidebars has restricted functionality due to there being a premium version of it available and also there are some pages it has yet to be developed for. For example it supports content aware sidebars for all members pages apart from the members directory so to display members specific widgets there I use Display Widgets SEP Plus.
Note: Content Aware SideBars in it’s free form only supports bbPress and BuddyPress Members pages, to get the groups pages customised you would need to purchase the premium version.
The kind of widgets I display on the members and groups pages vary and this is one area that I’m still looking for improvement from the BuddyPress developer base as there are not that many BuddyPress page specific widgets available, but there are a few.
Widgets for BuddyPress Pages
The BuddyPress specific pages that I worry about are the Members pages (including the members profile pages), the Groups directory and the individual groups and also the Forum and Activity pages.
Widgets for the Members Pages
For the members pages BuddyPress comes with a friends widget that displays the friends of the members profile being viewed.
There is also a widget plugin from BuddyDev called BuddyPress Extended User Groups Widget which can display a list of that members groups, it can also display a list of the groups that are managed by that member.
Another widget which BuddyDev have in Development will allow you to display the members Gallery items in a widget. I hope that this can display a slideshow rather than a list and I also hope that this can display a member configurable playlist for video and audio files. This should be quite a powerful addition to our members page armory.
Widgets for Group Pages
BuddyPress Docs comes with a widget that displays any group shared documents for that group, if the group has no documents then it remains hidden.
BuddyPress as yet does not come with any Widget for displaying Group specific information, it would be nice to get a members list and also a recent comments and latest in the forum list.
That widget under development from BuddyDev promises to also deliver group specific media items, this again will be an ideal addition to the Group widget armoury.
Widgets for Forum Pages
bbPress comes with a number of Forum specific widgets however they tend to be general rather than specific to the forum being viewed. Nonetheless, Recent Topics and Recent Replies widgets can be used to enhance any forum page view.
bbPress Style Pack also provide widgets suitable for display in bbPress Forums.
Widgets for the Activity Page
It might seem strange the idea of displaying the BuddyPress Activity Widget on the Activity page but this widget is powerful in that you can run it multiple times showing different filters such as only displaying group activity or Member updates, so it’s possible to use this to enhance the Activity Page with alternative views of the types of activities happening through the site.
Display Widgets and Content Aware Sidebars are powerful plugins that allow you to create unique views for just about any page on your site. There’s a whole bunch of additional widgets that I’ve not mentioned that can help you create a variety of information provided for different pages on your site. For example there are quotations widgets and also image widgets that allow you to display specific images or ranges of images on specific pages. These all help you create your own unique social network experience.
Having Discussed page personalisation in general, for my next article I would like to look into how you can create great group home pages.