There are a number of options for building a directory website using WordPress. However, judging by user reports, many of them appear to be lacking in some way. While no one solution will suit everyone, hopefully this review of the Directory theme by Templatic will allow you to decide if this option has the functionality you require.
It should be pointed out that this is an app theme. This means Directory is more than just a theme that is used to change the appearance of your site. This theme contains lots of additional functionality which is added to your site, in order to allow you to create and run a fully-featured directory site. The theme includes Templatic’s Tevolution plugin which provides much of the additional functionality used.
Templatic Directory Features
The purpose of Directory is to allow anyone to create a powerful directory website. The directory can be used to display practically any kind of listing, including businesses, services, landmarks, places of interest, or events. Anything that has an address or location can be listed using this theme and made easily findable by visitors to the site.
The listings are structured around cities, with each city having its own set of listings. However it is perfectly possible to feature just one city in your directory. The listings are then broken down into categories and subcategories, making it easy to manage and display the listings, as well as for visitors to find their way around the listings.
When it comes to displaying the listings, again this is done at a city level, rather than at the category or country level. Visitors can then browse the listings by using the clickable markers placed on the Google Map, by using the search tool, or by browsing by categories. The results can be filtered again by subcategory, or distance. The theme can use the visitor’s IP address to determine their location and show the nearest city to where they currently are when they arrive at the site.
Listings can be created via the backend by those with access to the site’s dashboard. Alternatively they can be created by visitors to the site by using the custom forms that can be created. Users can create profiles on the site prior to submitting a listing. Listings can also be bulk imported using CSV files to quickly populate your directory.
The site can be monetized by charging a fee for publishing a listing, with a range of options for setting up pricing plans, discount coupons, and accepting payments.
There are additional addons available for extending the functionality of Templatic’s Directory theme.
As this is a multi-featured theme, it’s a good idea to try the demo to get a hands-on understanding of how it works and how the listings are handled.
Now you’ve got a good overview of the features of the theme and how the listings are managed, it’s time to take a look at how easy it is to use, as well as checking out some of the features in more detail.
Setting up Directory
The theme is easy to install and includes the required Tevolution plugin in the theme files. Once the theme has been activated, the appearance of your site is transformed and the additional features are added to WordPress.
Workflow for Setting up the Directory
To give a quick overview of how this app theme works, here is the general workflow for configuring and setting up your directory once the theme and supporting plugins have been installed:
- Create a new custom post type (events, places, restaurant, service, etc.)
- Set the permalink for the post type
- Setup the page settings for how the listings are displayed
- Create a frontend submission form for the post type allowing users to submit their listings
- Create custom fields for storing specific information for the listing (cost of entry, opening hours, location, etc.)
- Create login/registration and profile pages for your site users
- Create profile custom fields to store specific information about users in their profiles
- Setup the site navigation
- Add pricing and payment plans
- Email notification setup
- Configure general settings for the site
To make it easier to understand the above items, read on for more information on some of the key steps.
Multiple Custom Post Types for Managing Listings
To handle the different types of listings contained in your directory, this theme uses the custom post type feature of WordPress. This might sound quite complicated but the theme and included Tevolution plugin make creating them very easy.
If you are not familiar with custom post types, they allow site owners to create additional versions of the default WordPress post. While the default post type is ideal for creating blog posts, by creating a custom post type, you can modify how the post editor works and how the post content is displayed. This allows you to create a post type that is designed to better display a certain type of content. In this case it would be a directory listing.
While the Directory theme comes with a default custom post type for creating generic listings, you can easily create your own post types for more detailed and informative listings pages.
The post types can contain additional fields, different layouts, and other elements to enhance the post. The custom post types can also have their own taxonomies – such as categories and tags – which can only be applied to posts of that type.
For example you could create a custom post type for listing events, and then create a custom taxonomy titled ‘Event Type’ and then each listing could be tagged using that taxonomy. The value entered would indicate the type of Event, such as festival, meet up, picnic, or drinks. This would allow the user to filter the listings by that custom category to find what they are looking for
The Directory theme uses the custom post type approach but takes it one step further. The Tevolution plugin, which is used to provide functionality for many of Templatic’s themes, includes a custom post type builder. Tevolution makes the whole process much more straightforward. Instead of just creating one custom post type for all listings, you can create multiple post types for each type of listing, such as properties, services, restaurants, and so on.
This approach allows you to ensure that the information stored about each type of listing is relevant to that particular listing. If using a generic custom post type for all listings, you would end up with the fields for an event listing, such as duration, also being used for restaurant listings. By using multiple custom post types, you can ensure each listing is tailored to the service or business it will be used to display.
You can find more information about creating and using custom post types with Tevolution here.
Custom Fields for Listings
Custom fields can also be created for any new post types you create. The custom fields allow you to store information in a specific field, instead of in the post content area. The Directory theme also makes it easy to create and work with custom fields.
When creating a custom field, it can be made available to all post types, or only specific post types of your choice. This allows you to create very specific fields, which will only be relevant for certain listing types.
When creating a custom field, you aren’t limited to just storing text. There are a number of types of content that can be contained in a field. The options available when creating a custom field includes:
- Text (editor, area)
- Date picker
- Multi checkbox
- Multi image uploader
- File uploader
- Geo map
- Post categories
- Multi city
As you can see, the type of information or content that can be stored in a custom field, as well as the way the information is input by the user can vary greatly, giving you plenty of options for making it easy for your users to create rich and detailed listings for your directory.
Being able to create custom post types and custom fields so easily is a powerful feature. By using them each of your different types of listings can be tailored to suit the type of information they will contain.
Creating a Frontend Submission Form
As you want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to submit a listing to your directory, this theme allows you create submission forms for each type of listing created in the previous step. This means each type of listing can have its own submission form, allowing you to only ask for the specific information relating to that type of listing.
By creating a new page in WordPress and then adding a shortcode, such as [submit_form post_type=’your post type’] you will have created a submission form page for allowing users to submit listings through the frontend of your directory.
The form will include any custom fields you’ve created in the previous step, as well as any categories or taxonomies which can apply to that type of listing. This allows your users to enter all the required information for their listing, using the inputs you defined for each field such as a date picker, uploading images, or defining a location using Google Maps.
If you are charging a fee to display a listing, then the user will be prompted to enter their payment details when they submit the completed form.
All the information on the form can be edited by using the custom field creator that comes with this theme, ensuring you can capture all the information you need and validate it as required.
Pricing Plans and Payment Options
There are two main options for monetising your directory and charging users a fee to submit a listing:
- Pay per post
- Pay per subscription
The pay per post works as you would expect and charges users each time they submit a listing. The pay per subscription option allows users to sign up for a submission package and pay once, and then create a set number of listings.
You can create multiple pricing plans using the above options. This allows you to create packages that include different numbers of submissions, such as 10 submissions for $50, 100 for $200 and so on.
If you are using PayPal as your payment gateway, you can also setup recurring payments that automatically charge your users once they’ve used their set number of listing submissions, or after a set interval of time.
When creating the plans, you can also add the ability to let users make their listings featured, and then charge them more for doing so.
One omission from the pricing options seems to be the ability to create an unlimited plan where users are charged a fee each month, but can submit as many listings in that time. However, you could get around this by allowing them to post a large number of listings that they would be unlikely to exhaust.
Another option that is lacking is the ability to offer a 10 post plan that auto-renews when the user has posted a set number of listings, rather than after a period of time. Although you can create a package that includes a set number of posts, it can only be auto-renewed after a set amount of time.
One slightly confusing aspect of pricing with this theme is that there is a third way to charge fees for listing submissions. This additional approach is to set a price for submitting a listing under a specific category.
In practice this isn’t too confusing and works in a consistent way across the site. If you have set up a blanket fee that applies to all submissions, you can also set an additional fee for listings submitted in a certain category. For example, your site could charge $10 to publish a listing, however any listings in the ‘Lawyers’ category could incur an additional fee of $5, making the total cost for submitting the listing $15.
This allows you to tailor the pricing to suit the different types of listings on your site. It can also help dissuade people from submitting their listing to multiple categories in order to try and artificially increase the exposure of their listing, as each category chosen would mean an additional fee being charged. This could help encourage users to only submit their listing to relevant categories that would justify the price of the submission.
Out of the box, the Directory theme from Templatic includes two options for accepting payments: PayPal and ‘Pre Bank Transfer’.
Both of the options can be customised allowing you to enter your bank name, and account ID for bank transfers, or your PayPal email. Each of the two default options can be deactivated if you don’t want to use them.
However, additional payment options can be added by purchasing addons for the Tevolution plugin that powers the Directory theme. There are a large number of payment gateway plugins available, ranging in price from $19 to $39 each, giving you plenty of options for accepting and processing payments from your users.
From the payment gateways screen you can also set the default currency and symbol to be used when listing prices.
With this theme you can also create discount coupons. When creating a coupon the follow options and settings are available:
- Date range
- Discount type: percentage or amount
- Discount amount
Although you can set an expiry date, there isn’t a way to set a maximum number of uses for a discount code, meaning the code could be used an unlimited amount of times during the specified date window. This could end up being costly so take this into consideration when creating and distributing coupon codes.
When a transaction takes place it is stored on your site and viewable from the ‘Transaction’ page of the Tevolution settings. Transactions can be searched by many different fields and they can also be exported via a CSV file.
Having all the transactions stored in one easily accessible place makes it easy to monitor all revenue generated by your directory site.
Frontend User Experience
When a user arrives at the homepage of a website powered by the Directory theme, they are greeted by a map marked with all the listings contained in your directory. Although the homepage can be configured to simply show the listings themselves rather than the map.
The theme includes an optional Geo-tracker that makes use of an IP-tracking script to display the nearest city to the user’s current location that has listings in the directory. This is great for ensuring that the listings are relevant to visitors and is a handy feature for mobile users looking for a service in their local proximity. As this feature is optional it can be turned off and a default city can be chosen to be shown to all users who arrive on the homepage.
When it comes to viewing the listings, the user can then either click on a marker to investigate a listing, or filter the listings using the categories which are displayed in the sidebar area.
Clicking on a listing on the map displays a marker with more details, which in turn can be clicked on to take the user to the listing’s page.
The page for the listing contains the information that was submitted when it was created, as well as any user reviews which have been left by visitors to the site.
If the directory has been setup using multiple cities then the user can opt to browse the listings by city. This can be done from the homepage too, with the cities being revealed by clicking on the main menu. However, there is no way to browse listings by entire country, only by city.
Alternatively, users can browse the listings by category and subcategories from the homepage. The results can then be filtered further by using the distance range slider. Again this can only be done on a per city basis, rather than country wide, or even for the directory as a whole.
Another option for viewing the listings is to use the search fields to enter the type of listing, the location, and distance from that location. If the directory is set to the city of London, for example, but the user searches for an apartment in Paris, the results will show apartments in Paris, but the map won’t update to show the city of Paris.
There a few options for getting access to the Directory theme:
- Standard license: $99
- Developer license: $199
- Join the theme club for $299 for the first month, then $19/month thereafter, and get access to all Templatic themes and plugins
The theme club provides access to over 60 themes including many app themes which can be used to add a whole extra layer of functionality to WordPress, including the Vacation Rental, Hotel Booking, Daily Deal, and Realtr themes.
While the price of the theme might look expensive when compared to other WordPress themes, it’s important to remember this is an app theme which provides more than just a visual template for your site, but extra functionality to transform how the site can be used.
An additional service offered by Templatic will cover them installing WordPress and the theme you have purchased for a set fee.
The Directory app theme is very powerful and is a professional solution for building a directory website. It really is feature packed and can take some time to get to grips with. Although you could install it and get started straightaway, it is definitely worth spending some time planning out how your listings will fit in with the structure of the theme, and how best to use the custom post type feature this theme makes use of.
By properly planning out what type of listings your site will feature, as well as which details each type of listings will include, you can use custom post types and custom fields to build a really powerful directory. The better you plan the structure of your directory, the easier it will be for users to submit their listings, and for visitors to find their way around the site.
The default options for monetising the site are through either bank transfer or PayPal. If you want to add other payment gateways there are plenty to choose from, but you will have to pay for them on an individual basis.
One issue with this directory theme is the use of cities for organising the listings. This means that listings cannot easily be browsed by country. For small countries like the UK, it might be necessary to view all the festivals, for example, in the country to find one near you, rather than only viewing those taking place in a particular city. While this makes Directory great for displaying listings closely built around individual cities, it might not be ideal for all types of directory.
Another feature worth pointing out is that there are a number of child themes available for this theme that will allow you to change the appearance of the site, while still keeping all the functionality.
Overall Directory is a really impressive tool for transforming WordPress into a directory site. While the features are somewhat complex, the admin pages and the online documentation make it easy to setup.
The developers also have a long history of creating themes and plugins and have a good reputation for supporting and updating their products which should provide peace of mind for users looking for a long term solution for building a directory site with WordPress.