WordPress is probably the most popular blogging platform and it can also be used as a CMS to power other types of websites, such as a portfolio site. However, with some creativity and a growing number of available resources, WordPress’s limits seem to be expanding constantly.
In this article we’ll take a look at a combination of tutorials, plugins and themes that can help you to use WordPress in non-traditional ways. Hopefully you’ll find something that you can use, or at least something that will be a valuable learning resource for extending your knowledge and skills of working with WordPress.
1. Membership Directory
Last year Chris Cagle wrote a tutorial, How to Use WordPress as Membership Directory, at WPDesigner. Chris uses WordPress to power his directory, Pittsburgh Designers. The tutorial uses a few plugins for users and role management, and the end result is a moderated directory that allows members to enter information about themselves.
Update: Chris has posted a follow up to this tutorial since the release of WP 2.7 – The New and Improved Way to Turn WordPress 2.7 into a Membership Community.
2. Business Directory
The Business Directory Plugin for WordPress accomplishes a similar end result as the tutorial above. The plugin will allow you to create a directory on your website or blog where users can submit information about themselves or their business.
3. Ffffound Clone
Assualt Blog has an interesting tutorial where Tim shows how he built a Ffffound clone on WordPress. Ffffound is a great site for inspiration, and a sort of image bookmarking service for those who have access. Tim shows that WordPress can be used to build your own personal version, and he even has a working finished product, VNovember, that you can check out. The tutorial shows you how to set up the theme that Tim developed, which plugins to install, and how to make it all work.
4. Job Board
Niche job boards are now pretty common, especially in the design and development industry. The design job board here on DesignM.ag is using a great premium WordPress plugin called WPJobAds to power the job board. You could, of course, build this type of functionality into WordPress manually if you had the time and desire, but WPJobAds makes the process easier.
RecruitPress is a fee job board option. It is not a plugin, but rather a group of plugins and some core file modification that you install on top of WordPress.
I highly recommend that you do NOT buy the JobPress premium WordPress theme. I bought it, it didn’t work out of the box, and I got no response to my emails for support. The owners seemed to disappear as their site went down for an extended period, but it looks like it’s back now.
BlueFur also has a job board script that can be downloaded and used for your own job board. It’s more labor intensive than WPJobAds, but it is free.
5. Techmeme News Clone
Raj Dash wrote an article for Performancing that covers the process of using WordPress to build a “Techmeme River of News Clone.” This approach will not allow you to duplicate exactly what Techmeme does, but it is a cool idea that could be used in a variety of different scenarios.
In the article, Raj refers to a tutorial on Devlounge for mashing up feeds with Yahoo! Pipes. This is what Raj uses to create the river of news (a stream of headlines from a selection of blogs).
6. Email Newsletter
One of the older articles on NETTUTS is Build a ‘WordBurner’ Email Newsletter Manager Using WordPress and FeedBurner. WordPress and FeedBurner are obviously used together by thousands of bloggers, but in this tutorial you’ll learn how to create an email-only newsletter with content that does not show up on the front page of the blog. The tutorial shows the manual process for “hiding” the newsletter category on the blog, but you could also achieve the same thing with the Advanced Category Excluder plugin if you don’t want to deal with the code.
While there are a number of options for hosting a forum on your site, it’s also possible to use WordPress. TheDeadOne.net offers the TDO Forum WordPress Theme. The theme will give you forum functionality, although you’ll most likely want to customize the design in some way. (Note: It only claims to be tested through WordPress 2.5).
8. Contact Manager
It’s also possible to use WordPress as your own contact manager. The WP Contact Manager Theme was developed for this purpose. It is a free theme that makes the blog a functional contact manager that can be extended further with some free plugins.
WP-CRM is another theme for turning WordPress into a contact manager. With WP-CRM you can add contacts and notes from the front end of WordPress without being in the admin dashboard.
WordPress Wiki is a premium theme ($30) available at ThemeForest. This theme makes it easy to use WordPress for your own wiki. As expected, it’s not as robust as some other options, but it’s a great way to add a simple wiki to an existing site without a lot of effort or cost.
10. Review Site
WP Review Site is a premium plugin ($97) that will turn WordPress into a review site where visitors can place their own reviews and rate the listings. It also comes with a WordPress theme and some affiliate marketing tools. WP Review Site can be used as part of another site, or it can be used to set up a site dedicated to reviews.
WP e-Commerce is a surprisingly powerful free plugin that will allow you to sell items through your WordPress-powered site or blog. While WordPress is not intended to compete with platforms that have been developed specifically for e-commerce, this plugin is ideal for bloggers and website owners who want to set up a small store without a lot of effort or expense.