Building SaaS Web Applications using WordPress for Startups
Any startup building a web application desires three things: agility, speed, and cost-efficiency. But many struggle to build an MVP that delivers these promises.
It is hard to implement an urgent feature or takes a too long time or expensive to hire a team to build something with a high probability of failure.
The essence of this problem is that they are not taking advantage of ready-made solutions which with few adjustments can deliver a good-enough MVP to the market and test it much faster without spending tens of thousands of dollars. They should stand on the shoulders of giants.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
And what is a bigger giant in the web world than WordPress which has over 40% of the market share of the web.
I know what you will say: “What a blogging website has to do with Web Development”
and the answer will be this magic formula:
Custom Posts Types + Plugins + Core Business Code
WordPress for SaaS
WordPress is a Content Management System or CMS. This content doesn’t have to be only blog posts but rather it can be restaurants, drivers, freelancers, jobs, games, products, rings, tickets, friends, applicants, resumes, shirts, stocks, emails, quizzes, lessons, videos,… the list never ends.
All the above things are considered Custom Posts in the realm of WordPress which is the secret to its agility to do any amount of relational databases with ready API solution and solid user management system.
Besides this, WordPress has a huge plugin library with well over 58000 plugins that solve any problem that could come to mind. Here are just a few examples:
- Akismet: Spam protection
- WooCommerce: Full e-commerce solution
- WCMF: Multivendor marketplace
- LearnPress: E-learning with courses and lessons
- myCred: Gamification and loyalty plugin
- BuddyPress: Social network plugin similar to Facebook
- bbPress: Forums to grow communities
- WPML: Multilingual support
- WPForms: Drag-and-drop forms builder
- MailPoet: Newsletters plugin
… and 58000 more plugins
Plus you can build your own plugin which will be the web application core idea. This completes our formula plus you won’t need a full team of developers. Just someone who understands WordPress knows its different plugins and can integrate your idea into its system.
You will leverage existing and working solutions, customizes them, and start testing the market and see how it will respond. This is agile, fast, and cheap.
Here is my formula that you can leverage to build a web application using WordPress:
- Define the core business idea for the web application
- Search for existing and solid WordPress plugins
- Define different content as custom post types and post meta data
- Build the UI as a custom WordPress theme
- Develop a custom plugin that would link different plugins and deliver the core business idea of the application.
Below are some web applications that I personally have built using WordPress, its plugins system, and my custom code.
I only needed to focus on building what needs to be delivered. No need to implement login, sign up, permissions, user management, databases, APIs. All of this WordPress delivers out of the box.
Use-Case #1: SMS Surveys
Survey54 is an SMS survey online service to collect data and reach an audience to hear their voices.
- WordPress supported user management system for different roles
- Surveys as a custom post type
- Core code: developing survey builder, survey forms, and dashboard UI.
User case #2: Tournaments Gaming Platform
SLG is a platform for PC and console gamers where they can organize tournaments and compete against other players for money and in-game prizes.
- Tournaments as custom post type with meta data for a start date, subscribed people, and tournament brackets and sports.
- WooCommerce to do all the selling and buying for in-game prizes.
- BuddyPress for social media network among different players.
- myCred to track points and prizes.
Use Case #3: Homecook Food Ordering
Wjabat is an online food ordering system. It connects cooks who do home-cooked food and deliver it to various customers.
- Restaurants and menus as custom post type
- WooCommerce to track orders for each restaurant
- WCMF for multivendor functionality and profit distribution among cooks
- Polylang to support multilingual with both LTR and RTL
Use Case#4: Multilingual Multicurrency E-Commerce
BRIX-Silver is an e-commerce store that sells jewelry worldwide. From rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces with support for a multicurrency multilingual global operation.
- WooCommerce is the powerhouse for all e-commerce interactions
- WPML for managing multi-lingual
- Elementor for customizes pages with a drag-and-drop editor
- Yoast SEO to improve website ranking and visibility on search engines
When NOT to use WordPress
Honestly, I can’t think of a case where WordPress won’t fit. Though there were few cases where WordPress wasn’t a good option.
For instance, if you already have good funding don't use WordPress. If you develop an app with WordPress most probably you will drop it along the way as it is a highly-opinionated full solution. Still from my experience, no software lasts and usually, it has a short life span before developing again from scratch.
If speed is really critical for the core business and not just a luxury then don’t use WordPress. Use lightweight libraries which would be fast and have a small overhead on the network.
If the application is very small or API-only. Using WordPress would be an over-engineering in this case and is not required.