Developers who want to contribute to the project can submit their modules by creating a ticket on BP trac and attaching a zip file that includes the CSS/JS files, a readme.md, and a screenshot.
Users who want to add a module will need to create a /style-modules/ directory and then unzip the module inside it. The next step requires the user to copy functions from the module’s readme file to their theme’s functions.php file, a step which provides a significant hurdle for a non-technical BuddyPress community manager.
“Initially this is a trial to see whether we get sufficient interest in the concept to continue and develop further, perhaps enhancing the loading process with enqueueing of files based on directory scanning and loading of files as an array but run from the core theme compat class, removing the need for users to copy the loading functions to their functions file,” Ashmore said.
The project’s GitHub repository includes an example module that re-styles the members list into a grid layout. Other example ideas Ashmore suggested include a new look for profile entries, a different presentation for the activity posting form, or something as simple as changing the font size for the activity stream.
The experimental initiative will test the waters to see if the BuddyPress community will chip in to provide enough modules to make this a real library. The support policy stated in the proposal doesn’t offer much incentive for module authors to submit their work:
Provision of modules and use of them is entirely the discretion of the authors and users, while BP will run some basic checks on the module BP does not guarantee that the modules will work in all given situations or installs, or accept any liability in their use. Support for a module remains the responsibility of the author to ensure the continued effectiveness of the module with updates to themes, WP or BP.
Historically, BuddyPress has struggled to present itself as an easily customizable solution for communities. Theme compatibility, introduced in April 2013, made it easier to use BP with any theme, but unless you purchase a theme specifically designed for the plugin, its default output is rather generic and in need of heavy styling.
The BuddyPress Style Modules concept is an attempt to make it easier for community managers to enhance BP components with different looks, but the project will need to provide a compelling reason for developers to contribute modules and continue to maintain them.