BuddyPress vs. Elgg: Theming

Hands down, BuddyPress is much easier on the eyes than Elgg. There’s more activity on the homepage and whatever your WP site’s theme looks like, your BP installation will just look as pretty. Elgg, on the other hand, is the ugly duckling that just won’t grow up to be the graceful swan. The whole mods/views system it’s based on is a freakin nightmare. Most of the files that control the look are hooked up to one another, so if you’re changing the layout for the homepage, you’re changing the layout out for several other pages in the process. Now, is that good or bad? To me, it’s worse than bad. It’s just atrocious. And while Elgg’s css file gets pretty granular, it’s sooooo long that you’ll have to print it out and actually see what’s going on. Personally, I feel that BP has more control over this issue than Elgg will ever have. Also, if you’re on WP right now, you can port over your theme to BP… good luck doing that with Elgg. That said, if you don’t mind the sort of bland layout of Elgg (the default homepage isn’t too bad, but the profile pages are pretty heavy on empty space… and not in a minimalist sort of way), this probably won’t be a huge issue for you.

BuddyPress: 1
Elgg: 0

8 responses

  1. cristiano Avatar

    Hi mike,

    This is my great doubts, or Elgg Buddypress, help us decide

  2. cristiano Avatar

    Hi mike,

    This is my great doubts, Elgg or Buddypress, help us decide

  3. This really depends on your type of community and timeline (ie. when you want to have this thing up and running). There are definite pros and cons to each system. I’ll definitely write up a more detailed post today/tomorrow for users like you that will, hopefully, make this decision easier.

  4. cristiano Avatar

    I waited almost an entire year by the launch of Elgg 1.0, and when he finally was released, appeared to Buddypress

  5. Guy Incognito Avatar
    Guy Incognito

    I’ve been learning the Elgg theming system for the past couple of days and I have to agree. It’s a nightmare. There’s a reason why there are so few themes for Elgg… and those that do exist are mealy window dressing of the default theme… changing little more than backgrounds and colors.

    I think the worst thing from an interface developer’s point of view is the annoying “simplecache” which takes 20+ PHP generated “CSS” files (a main one and one for most of the default plugins) and caches them all in one giant file. Great for production… horrible for development. In order to use my regular developments tools properly (BBedit/TextMate + CSSEdit)… I had to create a theme plugin that duplicated ALL of the CSS files (21 files in all in 21 different directories). Then I turned all of them into actual CSS files (as opposed to PHP files) and hard-coded links to all of them in my header.php. Kinda nasty. The CSS itself is also full of validation errors. And the HTML has a bad case of div-itis. Much of it not very semantic either.

  6. Guy Incognito Avatar
    Guy Incognito

    Ok. I’m getting deeper into it now and I’m really not liking Elgg at all. Everything… and I mean just about every single little thing… every link… every bit of text… every icon… every interface element you see on screen seems to be wrapped in a span or a div and is nested anywhere from 4-12 deep inside other divs, tables, you name it. All of these markup is deeply embedding inside core “mod” view files. You can override them of course to clean up the markup… but that would make updating a huge pain. There is also no shortage of table-based markup. When on when will programmers and developers learn to separate logic from presentation. I mean… they are separate in the sense that they are using a “view” system and you can override that… but ideally… you should be able to completely change the look of a site (and I mean completely) using only CSS. The markup and CSS in Elgg is a bloated, tangled, confusing mess.

  7. Thanks for all the feedback, and sorry about all the headaches you’ve encountered! I wholeheartedly agree with all your frustrations within Elgg. It’s a great system if you just want to use it out of the box without any massive customizations. Once you go beyond trying to re-create a new nav or otherwise moving stuff around, it becomes a coder’s nightmare with the Tools menu and all. I actually started theming Elgg around v1.1 but then dropped it because BP was getting closer to launching its 1.0 version. Now, I’ve dropped Elgg completely and am tinkering with BP and WPMU… something that’s a bit more native to me since I build a lot of sites on the WP these days =)

  8. da best. Keep it going! Thank you

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