This past weekend I spent a couple of hours cleaning out old emails. I’m a bit of a digital packrat so some of these emails went back several years to when I was just starting my freelance business. One email in particular caught my eye as I was deleting. It was from early 2009 and it was the first time I suggested WordPress as a CMS solution. What stuck out was the one sentence reply to my proposal, “Isn’t WordPress only for blogs?”
At this point in time, everyone thought blogging was going extinct and that it didn’t matter. The focus was on writing keyword dense copy and building hundreds or thousands of links. It’s hard to believe that at one point, this actually worked to get your site a high ranking on Google. But blogging and the concept of content marketing was so far off everyones radar that WordPress was being written off as a waste of time by almost every web consultant I knew.
Obviously a lot has changed since then. We’ve gone from WordPress 2.7 to 4.0 and WordPress now powers over 70 million websites. That’s almost 1 out of every 5 websites that use a Content Management System. At this point, WordPress can do a lot more than just provide a platform for blogging. So how many ways can you use WordPress that don’t involve blogging?
Note: This is intended as a brief overview of other uses for WordPress. Over the next few days, I’ll go into more detail on each topic. Sign up for the blog newsletter to know when these articles are posted.
Brochure Website Creation
This is perhaps the most common use of WordPress. If your business just needs a website to tell people who you are, where to find you or contact you, and maybe distribute coupons, you might not think you need a CMS. But unless you’re prepared to spend time learning HTML or being stuck with your hosting company’s site builder, you should take a look at WordPress. I always tell my clients who are a little nervous about editing their website for the first time; if you can use Word, you can use WordPress.
To get started creating a simple website with WordPress, all you need is a web host, a theme, and maybe a couple of plugins. If all you need is a simple brochure website for your business, checkout WP Engine for hosting and WooThemes for a great brochure style template. From there you can create a couple of pages, upload some photos and coupons, flip the switch, and your website is live to the world.
eCommerce or Shopping Cart Website
If your business sells physical products, event tickets, or scheduled services, WordPress can be your all in one solution. One of my favorite uses of WordPress for eCommerce is as a restaurant take-out ordering platform. If you’re a restaurant with a thriving lunch business, think of how much easier you can make your customer’s day and how many more customers you can serve if you start receiving take-out orders hours in advance.
Download the free WooCommerce plugin and combine it with extensions for Stripe payments, shipping/delivery options, and accounting integrations and you have an eCommerce system with more features than any of the leading eCommerce services. You can even download an extension that will automatically followup with customers who abandoned their cart before checkout. I’ve worked with a client to manually send out abandoned cart emails manually before and we achieved a 60% conversion rate. I’m working on converting their store to WordPress now so that we can automate this process and increase their revenue even more.
If you have content that you want to distribute to members, whether they are paying or free, you have a lot of options available to you. While some may argue in favor of a dedicated service such as Member.ly, I believe that it makes more sense to use WordPress to manage signups, payments, content access, and user communication. The fewer moving parts and integrations you need to manage, the better.
You have several different plugins to chose from to enable your WordPress membership site and each one is a little bit different and one will probably be better for you than others. If you’re already using WooCommerce with your site, then using WooCommerce Subscriptions will be the easiest option for you to implement. If price is your primary concern and you don’t mind limited customization without knowing PHP, you should checkout Paid Memberships Pro. If you’re using iThemes Exchange for eCommerce or you just want a very robust membership plugin that’s super easy to configure, checkout the iThemes Membership Add-on.
Learning Management System
eLearning in general has become a rapidly changing environment recently and this is doubly true for WordPress. If you’re reading this post and it’s after October 2014, this may be outdated. If you were looking for a Learning Management System just a few years ago, chances are you were looking at either Blackboard or Moodle, one was very expensive but managed while the other was free but not user friendly out of the box. Fortunately that has all changed. Two weeks ago a new plugin was released and I think it’s really going to shakeup eLearning even more.
WPMU DEV’s CoursePress is the plugin that I think stands out from all the other right now thanks to its robust feature set and ease of use. Depending on your needs for payment gateway and number of courses, you should be able to get setup and started for free or buy the premium version for $80. CoursePress gives you all the options you need in an LMS like video courses, quizzes, discussion boards, and live chat. An added bonus is that CoursePress allows you to charge for access to your content.
Online Community or Forum
If you want to create an online community discussion board, WordPress probably wasn’t a solution you considered. Thankfully, Automatic, the team behind WordPress core development, has also created bbPress. If you’ve used the WordPress.org support forum before, you’ve seen bbPress in action. While it was initially created as a standalone product, it is now fully integrated into WordPress as a plugin.
With a quick visit to the WordPress plugin tab inside of WordPress, you can add an incredibly powerful forum to your website. bbPress builds upon the user management system built into WordPress allowing for a separation between forum and website permissions, while maintaining a single login that gives you and your users appropriate access to both. bbPress also continues the WordPress tradition of a rich library of add-ons (like plugins) and automatic support for your existing WordPress theme.
So while WordPress was originally developed as a blogging platform, you can see that it has come a long way since then. One of the things that makes WordPress so great is everything it can do with just a few plugins.
Whether you just need a simple brochure website, a full featured eCommerce shop, a membership site, learning management system, or online community forum, WordPress can be the platform that makes it happen. With an easy to use backend, stable core code, and a huge developer, designer, and support community, WordPress is quickly becoming not just the most popular, but also the most versatile CMS available.
In the next couple of days, I’ll be going into a lot more detail about each of these options and how you can set it up on your own website. If you want to know when these articles are posted, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.