10 Business Growing Ideas for 10 Years of WordPress

Original article located at: http://weblog.mediatemple.net/2013/05/27/10-business-growing-ideas-for-10-years-of-wordpress/


by Suzette Franck, (mt) Media Temple WordPress Evangelist

Since its release as a blogging platform on May 27, 2003, ten years ago today, the use and applications of WordPress have grown by leaps and bounds, and continues to grow exponentially every year. Before WordPress, advanced functionality programming was difficult, costly, and time-consuming, as well as impossible to manage and maintain. Today, with the contributions of many thousands of different volunteer developers, many really useful plugins are available to transform your WordPress website into an amazing application that can do a myriad of different tasks to help you run and promote your business. In this article, I highlight ten different business-growing ideas that are made easy with the magic of the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) and the extensibility that is provided by plugins.

(1) Private Social Network

With BuddyPress, you can transform your WordPress site into a social networking platform complete with member profiles, activity feeds, and friend connections. The real beauty of this can be imagined when you think about all of the niche markets that would benefit from having a facebook-like application that is not available to the public. With the addition of the s2Member Pro plugin and a PayPal Pro account, you can monetize memberships to your online community, and the access and rebilling is all handled by the application.

(2) Event Calendar

Before WordPress, creating and updating a monthly calendar was a nearly impossible task of traversing a tangled nest of spaghetti-coded tables. WordPress has several plugins that will allow you to easily add events along with details and display the data in multiple views. One such plugin is All-in-One Event Calendar by Time.ly: http://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-event-calendar/. The interface to create events and categories is the one of the best I have ever used, and the pro version is available at http://time.ly/, which allows visitors to the site to submit events and the ability to style your calendars to match your specific theme.

(3) Store Locators and Maps

Including a map locator for multiple store locations used to mean big programming and database licensing dollars before the days of WordPress. With so many awesome plugins to choose from, adding an interactive map with driving directions or store locator by zip code is a breeze. One plugin to check out is the Store Locator: http://wordpress.org/plugins/store-locator-le/. For simple maps with driving directions, I recommend MapPress Easy Google Maps: http://wordpress.org/plugins/mappress-google-maps-for-wordpress/.

(4) Intranet / Document Repository

Small businesses and companies need Intranets for many different reasons: as an accessible repository for internal documents, to communicate alert notices, provide a listing of contact information of employees, publishing of event calendars, and much more. Most Intranets require a variety of different publishers from different departments with different access levels, and WordPress handles the administration of these different levels beautifully. For more finely grained control over roles and permissions, you can install the Members plugin: http://wordpress.org/plugins/members/. The Edit Flow plugin http://wordpress.org/plugins/edit-flow/ adds many useful tools for teams to collaborate on documentation and articles. To create a network of sites where each department can control their individual site, you may consider installing WordPress Multisite, which is detailed in the Codex: http://codex.wordpress.org/Create_A_Network.

(5) Slideshow Presentation

The ability to quickly make powerful presentations is an everyday necessity of marketing and training, but you can make it effortless and accessible by using WordPress as your platform. Natalie MacLees explains how to add the jQuery code of the Fullscreen Slit Slider to WordPress, in her presentation, “Adding jQuery Magic to your WordPress Themes”. Chris Lema also wrote an article about Natalie where you may find out more about her and many WordPress Community efforts here: http://chrislema.com/four-kinds-of-women/.

(6) e-Commerce Store

Many small businesses rely upon the sales that are generated from their web store, and with the internet, customers can come from all over the globe. There is a wide variety of different e-Commerce plugins to create an online shopping environment in WordPress; the simplest plugin will add a Paypal button ranging to some plugins that offer a fully comprehensive shopping cart application that handles taxes and shipping calculations with ease, such as the WooCommerce plugin at http://www.woothemes.com/woocommerce/, as well as the Shopp plugin: https://shopplugin.net/. These shopping cart solutions generally need to be set up by a developer but can be updated and maintained by the store owner, and offer a lot of flexibility in calculating totals and applying discounts.

(7) Image Gallery

Creating image galleries in static HTML is a laborious and time consuming task for developers, but very important to some businesses for showcasing their products. In the old days, you needed to first resize all of the pictures, then create all of the thumbnails, then embed the image tags in an HTML document with a link to a larger version of the file, and finally, upload all of the files. This is a manual process, which lends itself to a lot of errors, broken images and links. With WordPress, you can upload all of the pictures, insert them using a friendly graphical user interface instead of hand-writing code, and WordPress will even create all of the thumbnails and link them for you without any data entry errors! The latest version of WordPress features a newly updated Media Manager which is extremely intuitive, but if you would like more control of your images, you may consider adding the File Gallery plugin: http://wordpress.org/plugins/file-gallery/ or NextGEN Gallery: http://wordpress.org/plugins/nextgen-gallery/.

(8) Forums

It used to be that if you wanted to host a forum to address customer support requests, you had to pay expensive software license fees and an administrator to configure and maintain your software. Through the magic of many WordPress developers, you can now add this same functionality to your WordPress site with a $0 license fee with the plugin, bbPress, which can be found here: http://bbpress.org/. It includes all of the features you would naturally expect from a forum: the ability to create users and moderators with profiles, the ability to add new topics with threaded replies, and now installs with seamless integration into your current theme.

(9) Forms & Surveys

The ability to collect relevant, honest feedback from valued customers is a key indicator on what areas you should focus on to grow your business. Setting up forms used to be a very tedious task where you would need a programmer to integrate complicated CGI scripts, and the process of hand-coding forms was time-consuming and lengthy. With one of several very awesome plugins, you can easily create a very complex form in a fraction of the time it used to take, often with additional features like spam filtering and CAPTCHAs, conditional statements, and recording of form submissions to a database. In my opinion, the best and simplest contact form is the one that is included in Jetpack, simply called, Contact Form. Also popular, is the free and long-time favorite, Contact Form 7: http://wordpress.org/plugins/contact-form-7/. If you would like to add conditional statements, newsletter signup forms, or perform simple calculations in your form, I highly recommend the very comprehensive Gravity Forms plugin, which may be found here: http://www.gravityforms.com/.

(10) Business Directory and Review Site

Business directories similar to Yelp have become very popular, but until recently, an easy way to create a complete listing and review system was out of reach. Luckily, with WordPress and the Business Directory plugin, you can easily create a yellow pages style web listing with categories and user submitted reviews and ratings similar to Angie’s List. Users may submit free or paid listings to your directory. A number of very useful add-on modules are also available, including a radius search-by-zipcode, and ability for visitors to add images to their listings for an additional fee. The plugin may be found here: http://wordpress.org/plugins/business-directory-plugin/.

To Another 10 Years of Awesome WordPress Functionality

From its humble beginning as a simple web logging interface, to a fully scalable and extensible application framework, WordPress has matured over its ten years into a well-rounded CMS that serves a variety of different requirements to create functionality that was once only available to elite programmers with a lot of experience and hours of tedious hand-coding. I hope you have enjoyed my business growing ideas list and that you are inspired to try something new with WordPress. Make sure that you check the Official WordPress 10th Anniversary Page for pictures and tweets about all of the parties going on today.

Have you seen an unique use of WordPress that I forgot to mention? Tell me all about it in the comments below, and follow @mt_Suzette on twitter for useful articles about WordPress.

Original article located at: http://weblog.mediatemple.net/2013/05/27/10-business-growing-ideas-for-10-years-of-wordpress/

Published by Suzette Franck

Suzette Franck has been in web development for over twenty years; she started making hand-coded HTML websites on geocities with font tags and tables back in 1995. Since then, she has taught herself CSS, Sass, PHP, MySQL, as well as becoming a Wordpress expert; evangelizing and presenting at over twenty-two WordCamps across the country and multiple WordPress meetups in Southern California where she resides, about all aspects of building and maintaining sites on WordPress. Suzette is passionate about WordPress the application as well as the WordPress Open Source Community, and loves to code and teach others the wonders of WordPress. She is a purveyor of lowbrow art, and when she is not WordPressing, she is painting or visiting Los Angeles art galleries to add more work to her growing art collection.

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