WordPress started as a blogging engine, then became a content management system, and these days is a platform for the development of simple web applications.
After all, an awful lot of applications are basically just about putting bits of text into boxes, and then arranging them in order to suit whatever your purpose is. Putting words into boxes is something WordPress is very good.
The bit of functionality within WordPress that enables this is the custom post type. You’re no longer limited to just blog style posts and static pages – you can create your own content types with their own taxonomies and as many different fields (boxes to put text in) as you like.
Here’s an example from a project I’m working on at the moment. It’s all about building up and managing a disparate community of people within a government department. I need to keep a record of all the members of this community, what they do, what interactions I have with them, whether they attend meetings and respond to surveys, etc etc.
The default position here would be to build an ever-growing spreadsheet in Excel, which would be increasingly difficult to manage and interrogate as it had more and more information added to it. I’ve done this in the past and it’s a nightmare.
Instead, of going down that route, I’ve spun up a quick WordPress instance and got he PauPress plugin installed and running. PauPress helps turn WordPress into a simple CRM (customer relationship management) system, which allows you to record details of contacts and your interactions with them.
Now, I would never dream of advocating the use of this as a corporate CRM solution for any critical purpose (it’s a bit clunky in places and I suspect with lots of data and users it could get pretty slow), but as a way of getting a simple, easy to use database up and running in minutes for a handful to people to be able to use, you really can’t beat it.
It’s a hack – a quick, cost effective and neat solution to a problem. It helps that WordPress is open source, with a huge developer community, which means that a simple Google search for “WordPress [what you want to do]” usually results in a few options to solve whatever problem you’re trying to solve.
What do you need to have in place for your organisation to be able to make the most of this stuff?
Obviously, somewhere to be able to quickly throw up new WordPress sites, and to install the necessary plugins to make this stuff happen. But also the skills and knowledge within your teams to be comfortable doing this and to advise others about making it all happen.