Building your online platform with WordPress – Pick your root

WordPress Design Brisbane, WordPress Membership Website

So I’ve started my first series on building your platform on WordPress. A series of articles of what you can have done with WordPress – dependent on your needs analysis. All items discussed will have blogs, contact forms and free downloads available.

So I’m assuming you’ve done the work of looking and not succeeding in your goal with great execution. And I also assume you’re not a WordPress programmer.

Not to worry, this isn’t a crucifixion on what not to do or what you’ve done with your business currently on WordPress.

Also this is not a direct article on looking at all the plugins that are out there. You are trying to execute a business goal, and this is an overview of what’s to come in the forms of the root plugins I use to get you there.

Root plugins I will discuss in short. And further in a later stage.

What do you mean by the ‘root’, exactly?

The most important thing to understand is simply this: What you choose, in terms of the tools you use, will impact what you can build.

It’s that simple. Sure, you can pick anything you want, and even pick several different plugins that don’t mesh well, and you’ll soon spend more time getting them to interact with each other than you will building your audience and profit. Who wants that?

Let me give you a simple, real world example to help you see what I mean.

Recently I had a client on a small budget come to Department Design and ask for a budget eCommerce website. Once in the discovery phase the client dramatised how many items they would be selling long term and the initial code involved would be a bit much for 12-15 WooCommerce items without variations.

Now for the issue. The code. We could have used iThemes Exchange and built a leaner and meaner system. By all means don’t let this turn you off WooCommerce, I use it for almost everything. and love it, though it just wasn’t necessary for this WordPress case.


People come to me for these WordPress solutions, I run a business around WordPress because I started learning it in Graphic Design School. I use WooCommerce, and these other items because WordPress isn’t a complete fix, it’s the sum of a few internal parts to be a complete fix.

I have found that more often than not, WooCommerce is the base family of plugins I use to build platforms most commonly. Let’s jump in right away.

You can almost everything to do with selling something online with WooCommerce. I say almost everything because it’s still only a few years old and selling online is changing dramatically. They support integrations with Booking online with their WooCommerce Bookings plugin, Online Course Selling with their Sensei plugin, which also supports memberships with their extension.

I recently said why I loved WooCommerce, based on their code standards. They also keep innovating around their own ‘root’ to make things better for clients.

For people looking to sell through:

  • Physical Products
  • Marketable Products
  • Online Courses
  • Events
  • Subscriptions
  • Consultations (Bookings etc.)
  • Customised Shipping

Yes, there are a lot of things to configure, so it takes time, but once you learn what they all do, it can be a great ‘root’ to build off of. And I find it to be my preference to provide more value to clients.

Pippin’s Plugins

I’ve learnt a lot about building WordPress items through Pippins plugins. He’s a workhorse who makes great plugins, for humans. I especially like how he gives novice instructions and developer instructions, packaged together!

Much, much easier too configure too. You’ll notice his flagship product is Easy Digital Downloads. And that’s his niche. Stuff that’s easy, digital and sometimes necessary to download. Though, I am a huge advocate of his product, Restrict Content Pro. This is one of the plugins I find to be most customisable in the WordPress eco-system. And I can build out a video membership website with a lot of customisation, really fast.

Pippin offers features you need, and leaves things in the docs you want to make. A root for all people looking for:

  • Free & paid digital downloads
  • Membership sites (Dripped membership content, customised everything)
  • Affiliate programs
  • Events (EDD integration with Event Calendar Pro)

Plus a number of ‘what you need’ alongside his main plugins


Initially when you work your base off WPMUDEV, you’ll need to figure out your long term goals. The buy in to WPMUDEV club is relatively cheap, as they have a pay for everything on a per month basis which gives you access to everything which provides a lot of value. Or singular plugin licenses from their extensive range. The latter leaves no cost at a buy out cost. Where you are pigeon holed to buy what you could have bought at the start.

You can do quite a lot though for choosing the WPMUDEV Club:

  • Free & paid digital downloads
  • Affiliate programs
  • Events (selling tickets too)
  • Selling of physical goods that need to be shipped
  • Membership sites
  • Social Websites

Like I said, that’s a lot of value. I’ve used them before and built a couple of small test cases and found them to be decent. Really a great base if you know exactly what you need. They have a great community that is very friendly and support is a little lengthy in the wait, though great when they communicate.

iThemes Exchange

iThemes walks the line of Pippins Plugins and makes novices be able to sell with ease and has nice entry price to add a lot of pack to your punch. Relatively new, and with a lot of guts to enter the market place, iThemes Exchange could be a good roughey for your choice.

iThemes, most well known for either Builder (their theme framework) or BackupBuddy (their backup plugin), decided a 12 months ago to step into the WordPress ecommerce space with Exchange.

A simple offering that makes selling a breeze:

  • Free & paid digital downloads
  • Selling of physical goods that need to be shipped
  • Cheap Membership sites

A simpler offering, yes. More valuable though, I’d definitely say yes in some cases. But to who? iThemes Exchange could be for you if:

  • You need the total cost for building your platform to be less than WooCommerce.
  • You need the easiest of all the WordPress ecommerce tools to use.
  • You need has a simpler and sometimes nicer checkout feature.
  • You are an author or speaker, this may be all you need.

Wait, what about the other stuff we’re after?

Like we previously mentioned these items will all be available within your WordPress base

  • Things like a WordPress blog.
  • Things like free downloads.
  • Things like digital forms.

Not to worry, you can do all those regardless of which root you start with.

Wrapping up this initial WordPress selection step

The point of this step is to make a choice. You have to evaluate what you want and need, and then compare these groups of plugins to see which family will become your ‘root’. Most of the time I look for a solution where a little learning is involved though, to get maximum profits. Though if you don’t want to think about too much probably dive in with WooCommerce. And you can be selling reasonably quickly, at a larger cost.

Whatever you choose may be different from someone else, and if it’s right for you, you’ll be fine. And making this selection will help you figure out what kind of help you’ll need, as well as the kind of budget you’ll want to pull together when seeing someone like me.

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