Photo by Balázs Kétyi / Unsplash

Quickly build a powerful web application in WordPress

Lee Matthew Jackson
Lee Matthew Jackson

With WordPress you can rapidly develop website applications that are powerful, efficient and require little to no code input. You can literally make any product you put your mind to. For example, we have had the pleasure of prototyping applications such as:

  • CRM System
  • Contact Management System
  • Service Management System
  • Document Management System
  • Event Management System
  • Awards Processing System
  • Classifieds Database
  • Job Listings
  • Yup… and much more!

The tools we are about to share with you will allow you to quickly build prototypes (that frankly are so solid you could use them as a live system in many cases). You and your team can collaborate quickly using drag and drop interfaces that will build clean, easy to use screens for your clients to input data and see output.

Why should you prototype?

Code takes time. At the same time, nothing beats code to give you full control, and the ability to create extremely flexible and scalable applications that you have full control of. The fact that code does take time however, and often the discovery process for new client applications is a lengthy one, being able to prototype with little to no code allows you to quickly test ideas that the client has, and test the functionality.

It also allows you to create minimum viable products for validation of an idea. Should the MVP result in purchases and usage, then the client can go on to invest in a ground up written solution that users can be transferred to that will scale accordingly.

On the flip side, the tools you are about to learn about are in most cases scalable to sites with thousands of visitors and there are many live examples out there. Some service providers choose this method as it allows them to evolve their site over time, and to respond quickly to the needs of their audience and users. This is a whole different subject though where we talk about data structure, scalability, infrastructure and best practices. Don’t worry, we will be putting something out there soon!

Check out this video I made mid last year that shows how to pop together a quick contact database using one of the tools below:

In short, prototyping allows you to:

  • Visualise how it will work
  • Test interfaces internally
  • Test the market with a minimum viable product
  • Improve the internal discovery process experimenting with different options
  • Potentially allow you a faster route to marketing/shipping product
  • Prove concepts, and data structures before committing to development
  • Impress your clients

The Tools

Let me guess, you really want to know about these tools I am talking about right? Well without further ado, lets explore each plugin we would recommend you experiment with, and unpack its benefits and usages. Enjoy:

Post Types

A post type is a data set that will act in a similar way to a Post or a Page in WordPress. For example, you could create one called “Contacts”. This then allows you to add unique custom fields like address information etc, which can then be used and manipulated in other areas.

Custom Post Type UI

Simple to use plugin allowing you to create post types and taxonomies (categorisation structures). The beauty of this plugin, is that when you are ready to go to a code based solution, you can export clean, efficient code that you can use in your theme or plugin which means you will no longer need Custom Post Type UI installed.

Get it here:

Pods Framework

To be used if you have chosen to use Pods for custom fields as well. There is no code export, so your post types and taxonomies will rely on this being installed, however the framework is super powerful and even has an option for storing post meta (custom fields) in single tables. More on that later, but trust me, its epic.

Get it here:


A hybrid solution that allows you to create post types, taxonomies and custom fields. We do not have experience of this product, but it’s been around a long time, has over 200,000 downloads and over 4 star ratings, so could not be ignored.

Get it here:

Custom fields

Pods Framework

Epic solution for creating multiple types of custom fields including complex relationships. As mentioned earlier, the icing on the cake is this plugin includes the ability to store fields in a table which makes querying data MUCH faster, the product scalable, and reporting and exporting much easier. Pods also has the “PodsUI” for fast user interface builds that uses easy array based code. That should get the techs in the room excited!

Get it here:

Advanced Custom Fields

Fast, flexible, easy to use. ACF is perfect for quick prototypes and allows for conditional field displays based on a whole range of criteria which allows you to create very intuitive interfaces.

Get it here:

Frontend Data Display

You may need to display some of the post types and custom fields in certain formats via the front end of the website. These can done with any of the following tools.

Easy Query

This plugin is a a dream come true for developers and non developers alike. Non dev’s can quickly create lists of data based on their custom fields and post types and use shortcodes to display them. Developers can get under the hood and edit code to produce complex and gorgeous outputs quickly and efficiently. At the end of the day, anything created here can be exported out as clean code and used in a final product without the need for Easy Query to be installed any more. Boom! Time saver, simple and powerful product.

Get it here:

Easy Pods by Caldera

A simple to use visual tool to create a whole range of outputs that can be used in your site. To be used in conjunction with Pods, this is a great tool for quickly creating and outputting your prototype.

Get it here:


A great plugin that allows you to create views of your data using pick tools rather than trying to assemble complex code loops.

Get it here:

Frontend Data Input

If you are creating a prototype where users would be able to log into a front end dashboard area and submit/review data then you can use the following plugins to create all the relevant forms.

Advanced Custom Fields

Not only does it allow you to create custom fields for posts types, taxonomies, users and more, but it comes loaded with “ACF Form” which allows you to display input forms in your theme. An incredibly flexible tool

Get it here:

Pods Framework

Yep, its back again. Pods really is a web builders dream. “Pods Form”, like “ACF Form” allows you to create data input screens on your site with ease as well as selecting what fields you wish to display using simple array code.

Get it here:

Formidable Forms Pro

This is a form builder, but it packs a punch! If you have created custom fields etc, you can visually create input forms with Formidable Forms Pro that will allow for the submission and editing of data. This particular plugin is exceptionally flexible allowing for conditionality, and control over how things look.


A great tool to build out submission forms for all sorts of content types. They load in WooCommerce compatibility as well so well worth a look!

Get it here:

Getting Started

The tools we have shared are some of the best from a large pool of exciting tools that allow you to create production and prototype level websites flexibly allowing you to concentrate on design, user experience and discovery aspects. As we experiment with other solutions we will be sure to post about them in the future.

Before you get started, have a think about what you want to achieve, then read through the features of the plugins to decide what you feel best meets your needs then get experimenting. We know you are going to have a blast!

If you would like to be notified of our up-coming course “How to rapidly build a web application in WordPress” then please join our notification list:



Lee Matthew Jackson

Content creator, speaker & event organiser. #MyLifesAMusical #EventProfs