Today you’re going to learn 10 things you can do with WordPress besides blogging, and whether you’re a WordPress newbie or longtime veteran – I guarantee that you will learn something after reading this post!
While WordPress is the world’s most popular self-hosted blogging solution, it’s also an open source CMS (Content Management Solution). WordPress is known for it’s blogging capabilities, but being a CMS as well it can do nearly anything that can be done within a web site. Like a Forum, photo gallery, web directory, classifieds site, jobs board, news site, and more! The advantage of doing these kinds of things within WordPress are that you can use it for either blogging or other features in as well!
Imagine being able to create a web directory, but use WP RSS, comments, pingback, plugin, and theme features? Consider the ability to add a blog within a subsection of a web site without having to install a separate instance of WordPress there (because WP runs your entire site!).
There are probably hundreds (if not thousands) of things you can do with WordPress that aren’t blogging, but here are the top 10 ones I could think of to get the gears turning inside your head!
1. Create a Static Web Site
I’m amazed sometimes when people don’t understand why I would want to create a static web site using WordPress. There are 3 reasons this is the best solution I can think of:
- Sheer speed of Setup
- Plugins and Themes
- Future Growth
I can setup an entire WordPress web site including database and initial setup options in about 10 minutes. I can customize it very quickly with a theme. I can add a very detailed contact form in about 5 minutes with a simple plugin. With another plugin I can generate an XML sitemap to register with the 3 major search engines. To do the same with static HTML (even Dreamweaver) would take soooo much longer, and would require extra scripts for a contact form and XML sitemap.
In addition if I created a 10 page static web site for a client using WordPress, I could create a login account for them and they could update their own web site (or add pages) in the future without needing my assistance. You certainly can’t do that with a static web site!
If you create a static web site in the future using WordPress – here’s what you need to know:
As soon as you setup the site, change permalink structure by going to settings -> permalink in your dashboard. Change the default date based permalink to /%postname%/ like this:
Next, since you’re building a static site you need to assign a static home page. In settings -> reading in your dashboard assign a static page to display for the home page. If you’re going to use the blogging function as well, you can assign it to a sub-page of your blog here as well:
Last, turn off comments. You can turn these back on for any invidual pages (or posts if you use the blogging feature later). Go to settings -> Discussion to turn comments off by default:
2. Build a Directory
Web Directories are old school Internet! A Directory is just a listing of sites, categorized in some way. There are blog directories, business directories, web design directories – just about any niche you can think of is available. To this day people still like directories because unlike a search engine (with millions of results), a good directory usually has great sites categorized by exactly the topic you’re looking for. From a web site owner point of view, directories are usually viewed as a great way to build links, traffic, and authority for your site.
Most web directories are built on some custom PHP script developed specifically for that purpose. Many directories I’ve seen had a script running the main web site, and then WordPress installed in a sub-folder running a blog. You don’t need to do that, because you can actually easlily build your own directory right in WordPress.
You could of course just build a static site, and then create your own pages building a directory by hand. But that would be a lot of work! Why not use a free plugin to automate the process a bit.
Build a Link Directory:
With Sean Blueston’s WP Link Directory Plugin you can build little directory of links with features like categories, search, reciprocal link detection, and the ability to allow paid premium links for a fee via paypal.
Category pages contain pagerank info, link, and description:
If you’re looking for something a bit more complex (that you could scale a bit), you need to check out Open Directory Links. You could definitely build your own open directory in WordPress with this:
It’s got great style and layout and even RSS feeds available at the category levels. It even has pagerank, refer to a friend, and add bookmark for each link:
Maybe you have more of a business site and a “business directory” for your niche would add great value for your client. The difference between a business and link directory is that a business directory has name, link, and description attributes, but also the ability to support phone number and physical address as well:
An advanced type of business directory might be one where you have an event that people have to register for, and you want to feature all the companies they work for online. In that case the Social Events and Registration Directory Plugin is exactly what you’re looking for. People can register for an event, get a confirmation email, and it can even support social networking links, RSS feed links, and custom fields.
3. Start a Classifieds Site
Maybe you’d like to start a classifieds site for your group, organization, commnity, or business. The coder of the open directory links plugin also makes a WP Classifieds WordPress Plugin!
It’s fully featured with post dates and view counts, and a fully featured submit form. Users can add contact information an image, and they have an wysiwig editor for ads! Users don’t have to create an account at all to submit ads, spam is controlled by captcha, and all category pages gave RSS links available for visitors.
You can also add classified to a WordPress site with Another WordPress Classifieds Plugin. It has nice layout, but support the ability to charge for listings.
Browsing ads is a breeze with the very flexible layout which shows image, location, date posted, and views. It’s very easy to change categories with the dropdown at the top of each page and the ability to change how many ads are listed per page:
4. Create an Article Repository
Maybe you’ve seen all those great article repositories online and thought it would be a great idea for a site of your own! It’s a great way to get free content and traffic, and there are lots of scripts and programs out there that make setting one up a breeze! With these plugins you can create your own article directory right in WordPress, and use all the normal WP features and functions available!
Using the Article Directory Plugin you can easily setup an aricle repository in your WordPress powered site. It allows you to accept articles submissions, and you can even get targeted content from the article dragon network (you have total control to accept or reject articles). You can quickly build an article repository with this plugin.
5. Make an Image Gallery
Are you a photographer? Are you the “tech guy” of your family tree? Are you in charge of the web site for a local group or organization? Having a baby or wedding? I can’t believe the amount of times I got an email with a link to somebody’s Yahoo account for pictures to a corporate event or small business picnic. I can’t count the number of photographers paying big amounts for online photo managers when there are free tools that would allow them to manage photos within their own web site. There are incredible free plugins available for WordPress for showcasing and displaying images.
NextGen Gallery is the end-all be-all of plugins for photo management in WordPress.
Some of it’s abilites are random pics in the sidebar:
It has the ability to manage hundreds and thousands of pictures in sortable and categorizable galleries. You can upload an entire zip file with pictures for inclusion, and it boasts a fully integrated flash slideshow.
You have complete control of home many galleries are displayed per page, you can have an index page listing all galleries, and you control how the galleries are shown, from the size of the images to the attributes beneath them (title, description, link, etc.).
Another plugin worth mentioning is the Page Flip Image Gallery. If all you need to do for yourself or your client is display some sample work, show a portfolio, or just a simple image gallery – this is awesome! It features full screen mode, and you can even use either JPG files or SWF flash files for gallery display! It has batch upload, upload from URL, and zip file upload.
If you just need something basic and simple, then the Lazyest Gallery Plugin might be just the right one for you! It offers automatic thumbnail and slide creation, and you can add comments on images and folders. It has widgets for random pic and folder list, and you can add captions to all folders and images:
If you’re really lazy, maybe all you want to do is just include your already existing photo galleries. If that’s the case you might want to check out the plethora of Picasa Plugins or Flickr Plugins for WordPress.
6. Build a Review Site
Another great idea is to build a “Review Site” in WordPress. Let’s face it, the bulk of the blogs online are talking about something and giving an opinion (review). There are many sites that review products and services, and there are countless ways of displaying them. I had said that all 10 of my ideas in this article would be alternatives to blogging, but reviews can be done in pages, but also in running blog fashion with individual posts. It just depends on how you decide to setup your site and which plugins you decide to utilize.
One way to do this is with the Review Box plugin. By using a simple shortcode, you can add a “review box” to any page or post in which you can summarize up pros, cons, and then set a percentage rating:
There are also tons of premium themes and plugins for sale so you can create a “review site” in WordPress, but if you want to do it on the cheap, in my opinion the best plugin for that is GD Star Rating.
If you want users to be able to rate or review pages or posts, one of the best plugins for that is WP Post Ratings by Lester Chan. It allows live ratings by users, and shows vote counts, and average rating:
7. Start a Discussion Forum
A discussion forum is probably one of the greatest sources of content you could ever ask for! It’s the epitomy of give and take online, usually people asking for help, and experts answering questions to give their expertise (and signature links) greater exposure.
There are countless hacks and plugins for integrating a “stand-alone” forum or bulletin boards into WordPress, but most people I’ve talked to don’t know that you can can actually create an entire forum inside WordPress itself!
Simple:Press Forum allows you to create an entire (and fully featured) threaded discussion forum within WordPress itself. It has as many (if not more) features than most standalone forums I’ve used. It has search, user registration, rss feeds, pagination, breadcrumbs, full stats, fine grained user control. I’ve used this plugin several times, and I haven’t setup a standalone forum script since.
Another plugin available to create a fully-fledged forum in WordPress is WordPress Forum. It’s last update is Sept 2008, but it does appear to work with WordPress versions 2.02 or higher.
I hope I don’t catch a lot of flak for this one, because WordPress aggregation is probably the single most abused feature available. It’s true, there are so many autoblogging plugins available it’s not funny – plugins that sploggers and spammers use to create sites with automatic content hoping to get indexed in search engines and make money for free on autopilot.
Aggregation can be used for good, and I don’t see that many web sites using it that way anymore. RSS feeds are available for readers to subscribe to your content. They are also available to keep track of the most recent updates, and you can aggregate the titles, links, and short excerpts of these updates on your web site for your readers (or even just for you). In addition, there are RSS feed available for things besides blogs you may not have even thought about, AND there are some plugins that provide aggregation without RSS at all – maybe they use an API!
Let me give you some examples….
Are you a twitter-holic? You could use a plugin like Tweet Blender to aggregate tweets from multiple users and / or specific hashtags:
Next I’ll show you some great uses of RSS feeds (first) and then directly after I’ll show you how to “aggregate” these feeds into WordPress using a plugin…
Nearly every category on Craigslist has an RSS feed you can use. Maybe you belong to an organization, group, or even a band that could benefit from including such a feed on your web site. A real estate site could list the latest Craigslist rental listings, a musician site could list the latest gear for sale, etc.
You could do the same thing with eBay. Maybe your client has a business that lists things on eBay. Do an advanced search and the bottom of that page has an RSS feed you can use. Maybe you have a sewing club, you could use an RSS feed from product searches you wanted to track, like fabric sewing machines, patterns, etc.
On ANY eBay search page after the auctions:
scroll down to the bottom of the page and find the RSS link:
You can search on nearly topic using google blog search, and every search there has an RSS feed as well. For example, my could could benefit from a page with an aggregation of the lastest blog postings about WordPress!
Now that I’ve given you some RSS ideas, let’s take find out how to aggregate them into WordPress in a usable fashion. I’ve used a few RSS feed aggregator plugins over the years, but the only that seems to still exist (and be updated frequently) is Feed WordPress.
By using Feed WordPress you can “aggregate” RSS feeds and publish them as WordPress posts. You can see where this can be highly abused by unscrupulous bloggers who want to steal content from other places so they can profit at the original author’s expense. There’s also no reason why you can’t use this for good, and aggregate simple titles and excerpts of posts that might be useful to your visitors. In that regard it’s no different than what a search engine or news compilation site does anyway. If you’re worried about duplicate content, you can go as far as to add an entry into your robots.txt file for noindex, nofollow, and you could even manually remove it from your XML sitemap.
Post can be configured any way you like, giving linkback attribution (or not), and web sites can even be listed as authors (contributors) in your blogroll. You choose what tags and categories are assigned to them, and where the permalinks point. For the most part, the posts you aggregate just look like regular blog posts.
Maybe you want something a little bit simpler than turning RSS feeds into actual blog posts, and you just want to take that Craigslist RSS feed, or eBay RSS feed and list the contents onto a paged page. WordPress already has the ability to parse RSS using the included magpie library.
By using this simple bit of code in any WordPress theme page:
…you can parse any Worpress feed into a list of simple linked titles. This is an incredibly simple way to add value to your blog, and you could add as many different feeds (or numbers of posts) per page as you want. Just keep in mind that this is live (nothing is cached) the more feeds, or more posts per feed you add, the slower the page might be to generate.
9. Membership site
There are bunches of reasons you might want to have a closed “members only” web site. Maybe you need something only your family can access, or a private site for your business or club. Maybe you want to sell access to content, and you need part (or all) of your site walled off from public view.
Memberwing is a WordPress plugin that allows you to setup a membership site. Like many plugins there’s a free and a “pro” version. While the paid versions have all kinds of bells and whistles, the free version does exactly what most people would need, by using special tags it separates “teasers” from premium (paid) content. In this example you can see how content is hidden and users have options to either login or “become a member”.
If you like to keep things a bit simpler than that, you could use the WP Private plugin to restrict access to certain content to registered users. This plugin only hides the content, it doesn’t managage any payment options – so it would be better for a business to use for internal employees, private family content, etc.
Honorable mention goes to the Private RSS Plugin, that would go well with a private membership site.
10. eCommerce Site (online store)
There are plugins that allow you to simple sell single items using PayPal, that’s exactly why the ArtPal Plugin was developed (to sell art). You create a post with a few custom fields and voila! you’re selling art! You could of course use this plugin to sell just about anything using paypal, it doesn’t have to be art.
Maybe your blog accepts donations, or you have a very simple service that you charge for. For that I suggest the Easy Paypal Payment or Donation Accept Plugin:
If you want a solution even simpler than that – I offer you the Paypal Shortcodes Plugin. It doesn’t even have an admin interface – once enabled it allows you to add paypal buttons automatically in posts by using simple WP shortcodes:
You could use Fat Free Cart if you want a bone simple actual shopping cart – but you still want to sell on your blog and accept payments through paypal or google checkout. This plugin is very similar to ArtPal.
There are several plugins that go well beyond the “basics” of selling something through paypal. The eShop Plugin is packed with features such as several payment options, automatic email on successful purchase, multiple options for products, stats, and various shipping options. It seems quite mature, and there are many example stores to view.
By far the most popular though seems to be the eCommerce Plugin for WordPress. It boasts social networking hooks, payment options like paypal, google checkout, Authorize.net and more. It has one page checkout, and lots of documentation and community support. I have to admit, the example sites that use the eCommerce plugin look nearly identical to any of the big box retailers online storefronts:
Well, your’re probably exhausted now – but I’ve definitely lived up to my word and showed you more ways to use WordPress (that aren’t blogging) than you can shake a stick at! I hope this gives you some great ideas for both your own blogs and web sites, as well as your clients!