Let’s assume that you’ve been assigned the task, to find a person on Facebook. How would you go about it? Say you know the person’s name. You’d use the search bar, to find people with the given name. Additional details would be of great help. Like hometown or current location for example. The more the details you have, the more accurate your search results would be. And when you have to search across substantial amounts of data, you’d be better off with a detailed search functionality.
In the universe of WordPress, a site like Facebook would be built with BuddyPress. With BuddyPress, you’d have member profiles, connections, groups and communication, in place. What would be missing, would be a search functionality. Of course BuddyPress provides it’s default search functionality, which would suffice an amateur site. Personally, I’d prefer a dedicated search plugin.
Profile Search Plugin for BuddyPress
Of the plugins available, a popular plugin is BP Profile Search. It’s a free plugin, and is simple to use. It allows you to create a custom search form. You could decide the fields, which would be available in the search form. You could include extended profile fields as well. The search works as expected, and is good enough, if you need a budget solution.
The problem with this plugin, is that the search performed is always a string based search, and and results wouldn’t always be accurate. The fields used for search are always text input fields, which means, if a user makes a mistake spelling a word, an accurate search will not be performed.
The other problem is, even if a user is looking to filter results, by entering an exact term, irrelevant results may be shown to him because of search options set. This is because, you can’t decide which search terms, should be an ‘exact’ match, and which should be used for a ‘similar’ match. For example, say you have two fields, ‘Name’ and ‘Location’. You can’t set an ‘exact’ match for ‘Name’ and a ‘similar’ match for ‘Location’. This means, you’d either end up with incomplete results, if you use an ‘exact’ match search, or your search would be time consuming, if you’ve selected a ‘similar’ match search.
Creating an Advanced Profile Search for BuddyPress
For websites which contain a lot of data, you would want to provide an efficient search functionality. This search functionality for BuddyPress can be provided using a custom plugin. Essentially this plugin would be to filter member profiles in BuddyPress, and would provide the following functionality:
Dedicated Profile Search
Just like the BP Search Plugin, the Advanced Profile Search plugin for BuddyPress, would be dedicated towards searching across, and filtering member profiles. There would be a search form creator, using which, users could customize the ‘Profile Search Form’, on their site. This form could be placed on any page of their site using a shortcode. There would be an option provided to visitors, to perform an exact match search or a similar match search on a per field basis.
There would also be an option for users to provide an ‘AND’ based search (which would mean search results would have to contain all search terms), or an ‘OR’ based search (where search results would contain either of the search terms).
Refined Search using Selector Input Types
Instead of just having text input fields, which as I mentioned, could return inaccurate results, the Advanced Search Plugin for BuddyPress, would provide you an option to select the input field type. For example, you could select a checkbox, a radio button, or dropdown list. This also results in a more intuitive user interface.
Faster Search & Accurate Results
When specific input fields as used, the search performed will list refined and accurate results. It would also be faster, because it would be an exact match search for certain fields, if term is selected instead of being input by a user.
CSV Export & Sorting
The CSV export functionality would allow users to export results into a CSV file. The default sorting function, available in BuddyPress, would still be available using this plugin.
This Advanced Member Profile Search functionality in BuddyPress, can help improve user experience on your social networking website. It could make the search more usable, and help improve user connections. More features such as date based search, tag based search, could also be included. I think it could be a great addition to your BuddyPress website? Wouldn’t you agree? Do let me know your thoughts and suggestions about such a functionality.