We all know WordPress as the perfect tool for running a blog or regular website. But due to it’s open architecture, WordPress is much more than just a CMS, with many developers taking it to a whole new level.
Making WordPress into something more than a CMS is typically done with themes and/or plugins. In this article I’ll show you 15 alternative uses of WordPress (plus 2 bonuses). I will be taking a broad look at what’s possible with WordPress, in the hope of inspiring you to use it in a way you hadn’t thought of before. For each use, I’ll show you a working example, and how it’s done.
1. Amazon Shop
Combining WordPress with WooCommerce makes for an excellent ecommerce solution. But what if you could take it a step further by adding Amazon as your supplier. You could start selling without having your own stock to worry about.
All you need is this plugin called Amazon Shop and an Amazon affiliate account. I am using this for one of my own sites, and it works perfectly.
WordPress as forum software, who would have thought? The guys at EngineThemes (you will see them mentioned several times in this article) have a great thing going on. They managed to turn WordPress into a very good forum app with a theme called ForumEngine.
It’s basically a modified version of WordPress posts + comments, combined with front-end controls and easy administration. And they know how to make slick designs.
If you’re interested in using WordPress as a forum, you should also check out bbPress from the creators of WordPress.
3. Coupon Site
Coupon sites are a perfect way to generate affiliate commissions, provided you don’t use shady tactics to draw in visitors. AppThemes made an excellent theme called Clipper which offers integrated coupon management at a very advanced level.
This is another one of those themes where you can’t imagine WordPress is running the show. This directory theme called Directory doesn’t only allow you to make an impressive homepage, but incorporates many specific directory features on it’s listing pages.
Often referenced as “Twitter for WordPress”, the P2 theme is an excellent way to enable short communication in teams or companies. It’s the theme Automattic (the makers of WordPress) use themselves for internal communication.
Due to its inline commenting, someone can post on a topic, after which other users can respond in a very convenient way. There’s not much more to it, but it’s great at doing what it needs to do.
6. Job Board
Another theme from the geniuses over at EngineThemes is this theme called Job Engine. To me, this is the best example of what WordPress can be. Because of it’s front-end controls, you don’t actually need to use the WordPress Dashboard anymore. It has Ajax filtering, infinite scroll and a slicker than slick layout. This is another theme that I am using myself, since it really is the best WordPress job board theme in my opinion.
This theme called Quality Control makes great use of WordPress functionality by turning it into a quality control tool. Posts become issues, and comments become status updates. It has an integrated ticket system, which can be filtered on priority, status or milestone. It even allows for assigning tickets to a specific user, making it a full featured issue tracking tool.
This booking plugin called Booking System Pro can be used for many different sites. Hotels can use it for room or location bookings, or restaurants can use it for table reservations. It can be configured in various ways, including hotel room booking with features such as late checkout. Combine it with WooCommerce and you can accept payments for bookings as well.
Membership plugins are some of the most popular plugins for WordPress. Because of WordPress’ convenient user system, it’s quite easy to combine it with different membership levels. Add some payment options to it, and you can start selling memberships.
This plugin called s2Member can protect your whole site, or even allow for pay-per-article. And unlike most of the themes/plugins listed here, this one is free.
Let’s bring in the guys from AppThemes again. They made a theme called Ideas for collecting customer feedback, where a user can submit an idea or suggestion for others to vote on. As a developer, you can filter by the most popular ideas to work on, as well as having the ability to comment on it immediately.
11. Support Desk
There are many knowledge base themes available, but with this theme called SupportPress it’s even possible to have your own ticketing system. There’s even the ability to enable chat functionality (plugin based). You can include documentation, FAQs and an integrated forum, all in one theme.
12. Real Estate
With real estate themes, WordPress is really stretched to the max, and this real estate theme called Real Homes is a perfect example. It allows for a Google Map with objects for sale or for rent. There are numerous ways of filtering the offered properties, and the listing page itself is a real beauty. You can put up the property agent’s information, or use a contact form. It’s a very well thought-through theme for selling houses.
While there is no theme that gives you the exact YouTube look, this theme called Video Pro gives you plenty of ways to show your videos and increase engagement. YouTube itself of course allows for direct uploading of videos, but offering that on your own site isn’t feasible for most of us.
But this theme has the option for visitors to submit any link they like, so you can incorporate the video into your site right away. The theme offers extended sharing and liking functionality to allow for proper engagement.
14. Quora Look-alike
This will be the final mention of EngineThemes, but these guys just make great app themes and really show what alternative uses WordPress is capable of.
For those of you who don’t know Quora, it’s a site where people can ask questions for others (mostly experts on the topic) to answer. With this theme called QAEngine you can build a site just like that.
Questions can be marked as answered, and answers can be up voted or selected as the best answer. This focus on engagement makes sure you are getting the best quality content, something which you might not be able to come up with yourself.
15. Classified Ads
Classified ads are still very popular, so of course there’s a great classifieds theme called ClassiCraft to convert WordPress into a classified ads site. This theme has great usability, and allows for multiple ways of monetizing your site by offering premium ads. It allows for showing a map alongside each listing and a contact form.
Bonus 1. WordPress as a Framework
Most of the alternative uses I describe above are based on the concept of WordPress as a foundation for specific use. Most functionality is achieved using themes or plugins, but you can even take it a step further.
By using WordPress as a framework you can make use of its built-in functionality on user management and security, and build your app on top of it’s APIs. Chirag wrote an inspirational article on this the topic of using WordPress as a framework.
If you’re feeling really technical, Justyn Hornor wrote an excellent series of articles on how to make real-time graphs in WordPress. He claims to turn even the most novice WordPress user into a WordPress ninja. Have a look, if you’re up to it.
As you can see, there are many ways in which you can transform WordPress. The familiarity you might already have with WordPress makes working with these themes and plugins a breeze, and you can do almost anything you want with it.
As there are tons of different uses and themes around, please don’t hesitate to use the comment section to share your suggestions or thoughts.