What plugins (free or paid) do I need for my multi-purpose website?

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I want to make a website that has a blog, a store, and a forum. I’d like for one unified login/account experience with a single dashboard for the user to change account info such as email, shipping address, notification settings, etc and also see their purchase history, forum activity, and other relative information.
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Hello all! I am currently trying to build a website and every time I think I am taking a step forward I end up have to take many more steps back.

I’ve watched countless hours of various YouTube tutorials over the last 2 months and spent many hundreds of dollars on domains, hosting, plugins, etc that I’m hoping to still get the best value out of.

In the infancy of the site, it was simply going to be an webshop so at that point I went with WordPress and WooCommerce. While it might not be the best solution for an online store, I preferred using this to other e-commerce platforms because of the versatility of WordPress in general.

I then decided it would be useful to utilize the blog feature of the WordPress site to write articles about the products I’m selling or other things related to the hobby. This was easy enough as well as WordPress is natively a blogging platform.

Now I wanted to add single pages but was still under-educated on the WordPress platform as a whole and this is where the mistakes began.

I didn’t understand the block editor concept and while I could put information on the page, I couldn’t get the pages to look “good” so I thought the solution was to buy premium themes. I tried a couple and got them to function almost the way I wanted but never resulted in anything I loved.

At this point I figured I would cut my losses and pay someone to finished/rebuild it for me. I’d had good results using Fiverr for my logo and other small projects so I found a designer I thought I was satisfied with and a week later was handed over my site.

It too was just functional enough but not something I loved. I decided to tweak their designs (mostly color schemes, typography and images used) but in the process learned that they had used Elementor and realized that this was what I was missing when trying to design my site.

I purchased my own license and played around with it on a test site until I was comfortable enough to blow up the site I had paid for and start creating my own. Which I did.

Everything was going well until I then decided that I wanted the site to also have forum/discussion board functionality and that is where I currently stand now.

I started with asgoros, and may ultimately end up going back, but I eventually stumbled upon buddyboss and really like the community aspect that they try to build around. I feel like its functionality would be really helpful in helping users create a sense of community that keeps them coming back for more than just webstore purchases or blog/news articles.

The issue, at least for the moment, that I’m running into is account profiles not being fully reflective of all the customer/members information.

At the moment I’m only using the free buddyboss platform plugin, if I need to upgrade to pro I am willing to do that but would like to make absolutely sure before blowing that much money on another add on.

I don’t know that I’m having any one problem that I need to ask for help with more so than I’d just like to know if I’m heading in the correct direction in general.

What plugins/addons/resources would you recommend I try for achieving the type of site I’m trying to create?

Current plugins:
BuddyBoss Platform
Elementor
Elementor Pro
Essential AddOns for Elementor
Essential AddOns for Elementor Pro
Fluent Forms
WooCommerce

Sorry for such a long winded post. I’ve been trying to figure out as much as I can before asking for help but just haven’t come across results touching this topic that are using currently supported addons. Thank you for anyone who can offer any help or insight!

1 Comment
  1. Sounds like you decided to try things on “the big hill” first. The good news is that what you’re trying to do is very ambitious! Very!!! The better news is you probably have all the plugins you’re likely to need.

    BuddyBoss is very good forum software and if you’re planning to charge for access it should integrate with WooCommerce, or at least have extensions what will let you. (I don’t recommend charging for forums but there you go.)

    Woocommerce is a fine platform for e-commerce. But just because you can install it with a couple of clicks doesn’t mean it’s not a huge undertaking. Think “what would I need to do if I was opening a real, brick-and-mortar store?” It’s easier than that because you don’t have to deal with physical real estate, but it’s still a big undertaking. (Example: My beginning price for a Woocommerce site is typically 4-5 times higher than for a comparable site without Woocommerce. It’s a *lot* of work.)

    Blogging, as you say, is easy.

    Gutenberg, as you noticed, is *not* easy for end users like yourself. It’s great if you’re a programmer because it *seriously* streamlines the work you’d have to do if you were building the old-school “classic” way. But! There’s been so much emphasis from the core developers on helping programmers that they’ve almost entirely neglected basic usability.

    I’m extremely sorry you’re stuck using Elementor, but that’s what happens when the core developers lose track of usability. There are, unfortunately, tens of millions of other ordinary WordPress users who are choosing Elementor and other page builders because they can’t afford to hire the full-stack professional programmers it still takes to work with Gutenberg.

    So. Are you on the right track? I’m going to say yeah. You’re probably doing pretty well. But I’m also going to say don’t try to do everything at once.

    Use the Hello theme or a similar “base” theme like Astra, OceanWP, etc. Avoid for now any of the so-called “Full Site Editing” themes. (Note: this isn’t a forever rule — when FSE themes mature you should be able to swap them in without losing any content.)

    1) Build out a basic site. Get your design and logo, colors, menus, etc. looking the way you like. Add basic pages and put them on the menu. So a homepage, About, Contact, maybe Services or Products. Don’t worry about forums or the store yet.

    2) Start blogging. I strongly recommend installing the Classic Editor plugin, which bypasses the Gutenberg page builder in favor of the old-school email-like blogging interface. Treat blogging exactly like email, by the way: add a subject, type your content, drop a photo or paste a video URL, click a category in the right sidebar, add tags (like hashtags), and click Publish. Extra credit if you add a Featured Image from the sidebar.

    3) With your blog talk up the services you’re going to offer. Let anyone who drops by know what to expect. Open comments (you’ll probably want a comment spam filter plugin though) and ask what people would like to see. Brag about your capabilities. Post kudos to referral partners and current clients when something good happens to them. Post tips and advice in the subject area you’ll be serving.

    4) “Behind the scenes” get your basic WooCommerce shop setup and add one or two products, even if they’re “dummy” products. Either give them a $1.00 price or add 99% discount coupons and practice making purchases. Or, alternately, set up the “pay by check” payment method (but disable it when you’re ready to go live.) Figure out shipping, return policies, privacy policies, terms of service, etc. Figure out any necessary variations (e.g. sizes for t-shirts if you’re selling those.) Get your categories and tags figured out so you can take advantage of “you might also like” features of WooCommerce.

    Once you’re ready to offer something mention it in your blog first. With a link to the actual product. Don’t worry about getting the catalog working just yet. Wait till you have enough products to make the Shop page interesting. Then put it on the menu and start thinking about how you want to promote things on the homepage. Also — blog about new products early and often. “Coming soon?” Check. “Holiday sale?” Check.

    5) Forums: only one in 100 forums get any traction. Maybe one in 1000 *paid* (non-porn, non-gambling, maybe non-sports) forums get any traction. So wait till you feel you’ve got a critical mass before opening that up. It ain’t field of dreams: if you build it they still won’t come until you give them an *extremely* compelling reason to get off of Reddit/Facebook/Quora.

    6) Last point: speaking of Reddit/Facebook/Quora: you only get customers and contributors who know you’re there. So you’re going to have to publicize your site relentlessly. They won’t even find you on Google unless they know to look for you.

    Oh wait: extra credit if you get good hosting. You aren’t going to be able to run an e-commerce shop with forums on GoDaddy Deluxe Linux Hosting. You can start small on something like that, building your site out and just blogging. But as soon as you start looking at actual engagement with e-commerce, let alone BuddyBoss, you’re going to need beefy hosting.

 

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