What we will cover
At its heart, a WordPress (WP) website is a collection of files and databases connected and controlled by a fast and flexible scripting language.
And in the same way as one type of engine can power cars of different makes and models, WP core files and databases can be used by a huge variety of websites.
This is achieved through the well-known WP ecosystem of themes and plugins.
Understanding themes and plugins
We’ve covered themes and plugins in more detail in previous WordPress articles so please check those out for more information.
In basic terms, themes control how your WordPress website looks while plugins add features to extend the capability of your site.
Themes and plugins often work in tandem to ensure a website looks and behaves in a way its users expect. This article will mainly focus on plugins but choosing a compatible theme is equally important. If an ‘off-the-shelf’ theme doesn’t quite meet your needs, Vu Online can help you to build a customised solution.
By the way, we don’t necessarily endorse any of the plugins featured in this blog post. However, we have only mentioned those which are available for free download from the official WordPress plugin directory, have been installed at least 100 times and have achieved an average 4-5 star rating.
Manage appointments and events
Whether you run a booking agency/events company or simply want to organise appointments and events for your business, there are options aplenty for WP users.
The Events Calendar and Event Tickets plugins by Modern Tribe Inc. provide a flexible multi-view calendar with the ability to manage ticket sales and payments.
Get into the property game
Virtual house hunting is a popular pastime during lockdown, especially with the recent addition of virtual tours and drone footage!
Whether you’re an established estate agent or a budding property developer, there are plenty of WP plug-ins to choose from.
Estatik’s plug-in, for example, offers customisable property detail fields, photo sliders, a sorting option and more.
Add a real estate theme and industry feed integration and you have all you need to provide a professional user experience.
Build an online community
The ability to comment on a post and social media integration, both built in to WordPress, are great but how can you build a strong community directly on your website?
bbPress, originally created by the WordPress team, is a well-known discussion forum plug-in which provides everything you need to set up and run discussion forums. BuddyPress is another popular plugin offering more ways to grow your online community.
Run an eCommerce operation
If you thought that running your own online eCommerce store was complicated, think again. WooCommerce takes a standard WP website and transforms it into a fully-fledged online shop. Even the basic version includes everything you need to organise your inventory, display and sort items, set up shipping and take credit card and PayPal payments.
WooCommerce can be extended further with additional plugins, including invoice and packing slip generators.
Set up a listings service
We come across many businesses who have advertised their services via business directories (often with disappointing results – but we digress).
Did you know that you could actually set up your own powerful directory service using WordPress plugins? Similar plugins will enable you to provide job listings, sell classified ads and much more.
Provide high-end support
If your brand is all about exceptional customer service, a basic contact form may not be enough to reflect those values. Plug-ins such as Awesome Support can convert your ‘Contact Us’ page into a fully-fledged helpdesk complete with ticketing system, automatic agent assignment, pre-set responses and cloud storage. You can even integrate AI at scale with chatbots and create a powerful knowledge centre to help customers solve their own queries.
Cash in through affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing can be a lucrative activity in its own right or a useful source of additional income. Plug-ins like ThirstyAffiliates make organising, managing and protecting your affiliate links a cinch.
If you want to convert your WP site into an affiliate marketing hub, there are plug-ins for that too.
Start a crowdfunding campaign
Thinking beyond business, WordPress is also used to power charitable causes. If you have an issue you are passionate about you could raise funds for it by converting your WP site into a crowdfunding platform or at least enable online donations (including recurring payments).
The GiveWP plugin, for example, provides fundraisers with a whole toolkit of features from donation forms and multiple payment gateways to donor management and reporting tools.
Other plugins allow seamless integration with well-known fundraising and crowdfunding platforms.
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