Every day it seems more and more users are finding new and inventive ways of using the WordPress software to create something that pushes the boundaries of what can be done with our favourite content publishing platform.
While plugins are one key area where developers are using their skills to meet the needs of end-users and simultaneously expand the functionality of WordPress and the types of sites it can be used to build, another group of developers and entrepreneurs are using the platform for their own ends, in order to deliver their software service applications.
In this post we will look at some software as a service (SaaS) applications which have been built using WordPress. To give you an example of a SaaS, one familiar example is the WordPress.com service which uses a modified version of the WordPress software to provide a service where users can build their own website with WordPress, which is hosted at WordPress.com. For some more interesting examples, please read on.
Happytables operates in the restaurant and eatery space and offers a website creation service for owners of this type of establishment. Customers get their own website, hosted by happytables, which features a customized WordPress dashboard from where they can publish content to their website and modify its design.
The service is all delivered through a customized WordPress installation and the content publishing powers of WordPress have been harnessed to make it easy for business owners to publish their own website content online, without the clutter of the full WordPress dashboard, or worry about things like hosting and plugins.
The restaurant websites created by Happytables can include menus, a mobile ready design, accept reservations, and take online orders, which all combines for a fully comprehensive website package. The current advertised turnaround time for a new website produced by the team is 2-3 days. However, customers can skip the queue and use the self-build feature of Happytables to setup their own website on the platform.
The pricing options include a free plan for a basic restaurant website, and also a monthly package for more established restaurant owners who want to take their business to the next level. The team behind Happytables has chosen to eschew a sign-up fee and minimum contract, aiming to make the decision to use the service as frictionless as possible.
You can get a great insight into how the happytables SaaS was created in this interview with its creator Neil Tock.
According to the marketing materials “Hello Bar is a free optimization tool that allows you to show the right message at the right time to your website visitors.” In simple terms, this service adds a horizontal message bar to the top of your website which contains a message and a link button.
You can use Hello Bar to link to an important page on your site, to an affiliate offer, or your social media profiles in order to increase click through rates on your site. While this service can run on any website, with a dedicated free plugin for WordPress users, the whole service, including the user dashboards, are run and managed from a WordPress website.
Hello Bar includes other features such as user interaction statistics, A/B testing, and a visual design customizer for creating your own notification bar.
This is a great example of a relatively simple software service that was built on WordPress, found an audience, successfully scaled, and was then sold to Neil Patel’s Crazy Egg. If you are interested in stating your own software as a service you can read about the journey of Hello Bar in a series of posts from the developer or check out the recording of the WordCamp presentation.
RestaurantEngine is another service for small restaurant owners who need a website and are looking for someone to take this task off of their hands, hosting and all. The service is managed by Brian Casel of CasJam Media, a former freelance WordPress designer.
The project was born out of a common need Brian uncovered in his web design clients, which prompted him to focus in on solving this problem for this niche audience by creating a service just for them.
After paying the setup fee and then choosing a monthly subscription package, restaurant owners and those in the food service industry can choose a design from the available options on offer and then sit back and wait for their new WordPress powered website to go online.
If you are interested in learning how to transition from a freelancer to the owner of a software service that generates predictable and recurring income, then Brian’s podcast interview with Matt Medeiros of the Matt Report is a great place to start.
PressBooks is a SaaS built on WordPress that was launched in 2011. The software aims to make creating professionally designed ebooks a straightforward task thanks to it taking just four steps to create a book using your existing content using their service. The books can be output in various ebook formats including Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or as PDFs for easy printing on demand.
To help their service standout from the crowd and offer something users don’t get when creating their own ebooks manually, PressBooks includes a number of themes for the design of the books.
As well as creating your ebook or document through the website interface at PressBooks.com, there is also a plugin available for WordPress users, which allows them to publish their content from within their website. PressBooks also offer an upsell where they will create a book on behalf of their users for a fee.
If you want to find out more about how this software as a service was built using WordPress then this WordCamp presentation provides some useful information.
Content Cloud is another SaaS built using WordPress. The software service has been designed to help manage the content creation process between users working on the same projects. The features include team collaboration tools, an editorial calendar, and a space to brainstorm ideas.
For those that have multiple authors working on the same site, Content Cloud aims to be a way to manage the content creation process from one central location. Users can create assignments, and then assign them to the registered users for them to work on. The software scales for those managing multiple sites, each with their own team of content creators.
Content Cloud is available on a range of monthly recurring pricing plans, including a free option for those just getting started.
Multiple WordPress Site Management Services
There is a decent number of SaaS that have been created to allow WordPress users with multiple websites manage those sites from one central location. The features of a typical WordPress site management service include installing, activating, and updating plugins and themes, publishing content, and cloning websites, all from a central hosted location.
The target audience for this type of WordPress-powered SaaS is mainly those who manage multiple websites of their own, as well as those designing WordPress websites for clients, and are managing them on an on-going basis.
The main operators in this space have a range of similar features, as well as offering their own unique twist on managing multiple WordPress sites, on a selection of pricing options, and they include:
These services are a good example of a SaaS built in WordPress which serves WordPress users and gives them the tools needed to save time and become more efficient when managing their websites.
Another type of SaaS built with WordPress and catering exclusively to WordPress users is the backup service. This is a good example of a SaaS that saw a feature that most customers already has access to, but then offered that feature in a better, more user friendly way.
So even though most hosting packages come with a backup service built-in, services such as VaultPress still managed to create and market a backup service that users are happy to hand over their own money for, in exchange for a more user friendly service.
Three of the big names in the hosted backup space for WordPress sites include:
The features of these services that help them persuade WordPress users to upgrade from the backup provisions offered by their web hosts include offsite backups, multiple revisions, easy rollbacks, and the ability to move sites to new domains, all through a user friendly dashboard interface.
Hosted WordPress Solutions
Registering a domain, choosing a web host, installing WordPress, finding a theme, selecting the right plugins, and then learning WordPress, are some of the steps required for creating a website or blog with WordPress.
Although WordPress.com has been offering a limited all in one hosted solution, until very recently it never occurred to anyone to simplify the process and create their own all in one hosted solution for customers who wanted their own website, without all the hassle.
New Rainmaker is one such service which launched in 2014 by the Copyblogger team. Customers get access to a choice of themes from StudioPress, a customized WordPress admin dashboard panel, all hosted through a single point of contact for a much more streamlined user experience.
The service is charged at monthly or yearly recurring rates and includes everything a user needs to start a website, all through a simplified custom admin dashboard. This is one area where WordPress users appear to be underserved, so it’s fair to expect many more all in one website creation services using WordPress to start cropping up in the not too distant future.
Hopefully you now have a new appreciation of what can be done with our favourite publishing platform. While hacking away at WordPress to build an application platform isn’t the best option for all software services, for those projects with a strong focus on publishing content and setting up websites, as well as those which deliver services specifically for WordPress users, the software can be used to great effect.
Do you have any plans to build a SaaS, using WordPress or not, and have you come across any interesting WordPress-powered SaaS on your travels? If so, please let us know below.