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Five Things You Never Knew You Could Do with WordPress

by Steve Fisher on January 18, 2010

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WordPress is not just for blogging. Sure you can install and launchWordPress for your blog or find a blog hosting provider but there are so many things you can do with aWordPress installation. With the use of plugins, free and paid, you can extend your site and do things with it that you might had wondered if it could do or never thought of. I was initially inspired as I have been working on an e-commerce site for my non-profit movie project, Browncoats: Redemption, and I dove into investigating the e-commerce plugins out there along with other community functionality. I came across this initial post from WP Candy on the 10 things you can do with WordPress. I narrowed it down to the five most requested ones I hear from clients and I put my own experiences and perspective on them.

There I said it, now what else can you do with it? That is the question I would hope you would ask! Here there are:

1.) Create a Static Web Site

You would think when you hear this, you would go “Well it Should!”, and my response “It Does, but You have to configure it”. Many install WordPress and it is set to default as the front page as a blog, naturally. What is recent in the 2.X functionality/options is the ability to set a Static Page as the home page and also specify what is the blog or page that uses the feed/RSS capability.

This is for three reasons – you can set a site up fast, you can edit content easily, the plugins make a site like this sophisticated with little or no cost.

2.) Build a Discussion Forum

Discussion forums are the basic tools in building a community. WP Candy says “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 many discussion forum tools out there PHPForum but I bet you didn’t know you could use WordPress to incorporate this into your site or make the install a dedicated discussion forum. Yeah, I didn’t either.

There seem to be five good forum plugins according to Chase Segum but the one I like and WP Candy likes is Simple:Press Forum. For my tastes, it has lots of icons, powerful search, full statistics, use registration  and allows you to create an entire (and fully featured) threaded discussion forum within WordPress itself. It has as many features than most standalone forums and it too many to list here.

3.) Create a Photography Portfolio

For those photo junkies out there or any one that would like to create a photo portfolio site, there are some fantastic ways to build this type of site. NextGen Gallery is the best of breed plugins for photo management in WordPress. Another one I like that WP Candy recommended is Page Flip Image Gallery. According to WP Candy “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.” Here is NextGen Gallery in action below:

Lastly, it would be remiss of me to not mention the photo service plugins from Picasa or Flickr. I know these might seem like lazy gimme’s but many people use these sites and want to leverage them on their web site. Here are links to the Picasa Plugins or Flickr Plugins for WordPress.

4.) Build a Membership System

Ok, so you have been thinking of building out a membership base and maybe creating an exclusive paid area for members. Maybe you want a private space for family and friends. If you want to go the quick sign-on without control, you could use Facebook Connect, but we are here to talk about doing this within WordPress. Looking at many attempts at membership systems I really like Memberwing. Memberwing is a WordPress plugin that allows you to setup a membership site. There is a free and a “pro” version and with the paid version you get some fantastic features like Gradual Content delivery functionality, Payment Processing and E-Mail Subscription Integration. However, if you want to start with the free version it does exactly what most people would need, by using special tags it separates “teasers” from premium (paid) content.

5.) Build an Online Store

This an experience I just went through and narrowed it down the five key elements you need to build an e-commerce site. When you are looking at these plugins you have consider first and foremost your payment gateway. This will narrow down your choices dramatically in some cases. If you are going with Paypal and Google Checkout you have the most flexibility. If you use a more sophisticated gateway like Authorize.net you should be fine in many cases but the choices narrow. If you are using other great gateways like First Data, HSBC or PayJunction to name a few, your choices will narrow. My recommendation in retrospect is if you haven’t seleted a payment gateway yet is to look at these shopping cart plugins and based on what capabilities you need, get the gateway that fits. Almost all work with Paypal and Google Checkout to give people a great choice of payment methods if you want to turn that on.

When it comes to setting up the online store, you can go one of two ways with this WordPress plugin – install a separate WordPress session in a sub-domain (shop.YOURDOMAIN.com or store.YOURDOMAIN.com) or you can use the plugin and designate a sub-directory (/shop or /store) which will work just fine. You will eventually have to deal with getting an SSL certificate for payment processing so plan this out well ahead of time.

With all that out of the way, there are a few plug-ins that you should be aware of for building a store. The first is the well known WP E-Commerce which is pretty cool if you need a clean and nice shopping cart. It has some cool plugins like DropBox (AJAX shopping cart) and integration with Campaign Monitor. It doesn’t have Authorize.net so you are limited with the gateway choices. The second one is called Shopp (not a misspell) which has more gateways, including Authorize.net and First Data and a slew of others. It also has shipping modules for USPS, FedEx and UPS, integration with Google Analytics which is a very powerful thing for using SEO with e-commerce.

Just so you know, we ultimately picked Shopp because we had selected First Data as our gateway, use USPS for shipping and Google Analytics.

What Things Are You Doing With WordPress?

So what other things have you been able to do with WordPress that we didn’t mention? What have you found WordPress to be great at for your business? Did we miss a good plugin for these five things? Leave a comment.

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    • http://www.websitedesign.co.uk/ Louise

      An excellent article detailing the different things you can do with the WordPress blog, good to see the e-commerce section.

    • http://www.magic-man.com/ Wedding magician

      Nice post, I have a wordpress blog but didn't realise it was a lot more than that. Thanks

    • http://www.appsolve.com Steven Fisher

      Thanks for the feedback. I am building an e-commerce site on WP now so I thought it deserved some special mention because of the great plugins out there.

    • http://www.appsolve.com Steven Fisher

      You are welcome, Andrew. There are many cool things you can do with WP. I just hit the top and best five.

    • http://www.c2webdesign.co.uk/ Jack Web

      Thank you for your excellent article; I had never really thought of using WordPress for anything but a blog so it was really good to read about the other ways that you could use this. I particularly like you suggestion for using WP as an e-commerce store using the WP E-Commerce plugin, as clearly WP is excellent for managing your content within your blog website.

    • http://www.c2webdesign.co.uk/ Jack Web

      Thank you for your excellent article; I had never really thought of using WordPress for anything but a blog so it was really good to read about the other ways that you could use this. I particularly like you suggestion for using WP as an e-commerce store using the WP E-Commerce plugin, as clearly WP is excellent for managing your content within your blog website.

    • http://www.appsolve.com Steven Fisher

      You are welcome. Glad this could help you. We are planning many more posts like this on really leveraging WordPress for your business.

    • http://www.appsolve.com Steven Fisher

      You are welcome. Glad this could help you. We are planning many more posts like this on really leveraging WordPress for your business.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EBXWIO6J3DKMOVUQGZKYFDGXGA Mary Moore

      Hello

    • http://eternalydenied.wordpress.com Swapan Pradhan

      Really great article. I can see that it took a lot of research to complete. Really amazing job on this one.

    • corporate magician

      The videos are really very interesting ,keep sharing such nice videos with us. I will be definitely looking forward to your next posts…

    • Namma Apsu

      This article is SEVERLY BROKEN and needs fixing.

      NONE of the images used to illustrate points show up and are broken at the other site as well.

      WHY is this here if it’s so broken and useless?

      And why the hades do I have to use some OTHER network to sign in other than Network Solutions? Fgs, KISS eh people?

    • http://www.networksolutions.com/small-business/getting-online.jsp Network Solutions

      Thanks for the reminder, Namma. We’ve removed the outdated graphic links. If you need help from our support team, please contact them via the following link: https://www.networksolutions.com/contact/index.jsp. Take care.

    • Jake Snyder

      Of course… You can’t build an ecommerce site on Network Solutions shared hosting because the SSL certificates are all backwards and there i no way to know, on the server, if you are currently on ssl. So Shopp doesn’t work and it is a security risk.

    • http://www.networksolutions.com/small-business/getting-online.jsp Network Solutions

      Hi, Jake. If you’d like our support team to contact you, please send us your domain name, and we’ll forward the info to them. You can also reach the team via the following link: https://www.networksolutions.com/contact/index.jsp. Thanks.

    • Jake Snyder

      Don’t get me wrong. I am not an angry customer complaining. I just think it should be said that, at least Shopp, will not run on NS servers because of the SSL issue. Though I imagine the rest will have similar issues. Wordpess, itself, can’t really run on NS with SSL. Customer support seems to be good so far with the refund process, so I am not complaining, just pointing it out. It isn’t clear in the article.

    • http://www.networksolutions.com/small-business/getting-online.jsp Network Solutions

      Thanks for the update, Jake. Please let us know if you need further assistance. Take care.