10 Alternative Uses for WordPress

This is the Guest Post by Tom Walker. If you are interested in writing for us then check out the details here.

WordPress is the best and most popular blogging platform around. It’s free, easy to use, endlessly customizable and supported by hundreds of excellent plugins. With WordPress setting such high standards, however, many people have started to question why other types of sites are so much more difficult to set up and manage.

Fortunately, WordPress has

become more than simply a blogging tool; it’s now possible to run almost any type of site imaginable using the right mix of plugins and themes. In fact, so many people are now using WordPress to power sites other than blogs that over 50% of today’s WordPress downloaders will use it as a CMS (content management system), according to Matt Mullenweg, the WordPress wizard himself.

Below we explore 10 alternative uses for WordPress, taking a close look at everything from the more common, like shops, forums and photoblogs, to the more unusual, like news aggregators, contact managers and even social networking sites. It will soon become clear that with a bit of ingenuity and creativity,

anything’s possible with WordPress!

1. eCommerce

Transforming your WordPress blog into an e-commerce shop is easier than you think using WordPress e-Commerce Plugin. It’s integrated with PayPal, Google Checkout and other popular cart types and its appearance can be customized to suit your brand image and the products you’re selling. Shop, another great e-commerce plugin, is also worth checking out. With themes such as Crafty Cart and SimpleCart(js) also available, few people will even realize you’re running your shop through WordPress.

2. WordPress Wiki

Dan Milward, Tom Howard and Allen Han are geniuses. Not only have they managed to create the best e-commerce plugin around in WordPress eCommerce Plugin, they’ve also made an excellent wiki plugin called WordPress Wiki. It’s devastatingly simple, but can be quite restricting for advanced users. If you want to make your wiki site more customizable and slick, you should check out WordPress Wiki Theme, available for just $32.

3. Forum

Rather than using themes and plugins, the best way to run a successful forum in WordPress is to integrate a forum script into your blog. bbPress is the best piece of forum software we’ve come across so far, in terms of both looks and ease of use. It was created (reportedly in just a few days) by Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, so you can be sure that it compliments WordPress perfectly. If you find bbPress somewhat limiting, however, you might prefer to use a more high-tech piece of forum software like vBulletin, although this can be a more expensive and trickier option.

4. Contact Manager

Using WordPress to create a basic contact manager is really easy. Creating a contact manager that’s taggable, searchable and members only is a little bit more difficult, requiring a careful mix of additional plugins. RoloPress, an app built on top of WordPress, will be sufficient for most users’ needs however. With RoloPress, you can easily add, edit and makes notes on contacts and companies from the front-end, so you’re not constantly logging into the admin area.

5. Job Board

There’s no better theme available than JobPress for using WordPress to run a job listings board. It’s not free, but at $79, we reckon it’s worth it. Not only can you post, edit and display job classifieds with ease, its payment system lets users charge securely using both PayPal and credit/debit cards.

6. Review Site

WP Review Site is the one powerful plugin you need to operate a review site through WordPress. With this great plugin, you can either add a star rating system to your current blog, whichever theme you’re using, or create an all-encompassing user-powered review site of your very own, complete with Top 10s, embedded Google Maps and rating widgets for your sidebar and marketing tools too. At $97, it’s not cheap, but if you can make your site a success, there’s no reason why you can’t start charging commissions to companies reviewed.

7. Social Networking Site

BuddyPress is a suite of open-source blogging extensions for WordPress MU which gives you the power, as a WordPress user, to run your own social networking site. Your site’s users sign up, get a profile, create their own blogs, chat in forums, private message one another, become “friends” and join “groups”, all from the comfort of your own WordPress site. The only downside to BuddyPress is that you can’t simply transform your existing blog into a social network, unless you’re already using WordPress MU. Migrating content across, however, is fairly simple.

8. Photoblog

You can easily upload images and photos in your WordPress posts and pages, but if you want to create a polished photoblog, you’re going to have to look beyond core. There are tons of gallery plugins available, it’s just a case of choosing the ones that are right for you. I highly recommend PhotoQ, a plugin capable of turning your ordinary blog into a photoblog in an instant. You can batch upload several images at once and even create an upload queue, setting a time at which the top ones will automatically upload themselves.

9. Video Site

Some image gallery plugins will let you upload videos too, but none do so as successfully as “VideoFlick”. At first glance, it looks like a thumbnail gallery (albeit a good looking one), but click on any of the images and a video is launched in a full-screen Ajax window. YouTube, Google Video, MetaCafe, DailyMotion, FLV (Flash) Video, Quicktime and Windows Media Video are all supported. VideoFlick is fully customizable, letting you adjust layout and colors as well as thumbnail size and orientation.

10. News Aggregator

When it comes to running a news aggregator through WordPress, one theme stands head-and-shoulders above the rest: OneNews WP. It lets you easily create a single page aggregator like Popurls or a multi-page aggregator like Alltop. Although it might look difficult to manage from the front-end, in fact it couldn’t be simpler. Feed blocks can be added and arranged with no coding whatsoever. Unlike some other themes in this list, OneNews WP requires no additional plugins to achieve its main objective.