: With the launch of our new website in June 2012 we have retired the Client Area. Our customers now manage their account through the WooCommerce My Account page.
WordPress has evolved from its roots as a blogging tool into a powerful platform that can build almost any kind of site imaginable. It’s powerful, but it’s also more accessible than many people think and you can build pretty complex sites without needing to be a hardcore developer.
Case in point – our new ClickWP Client Area. I built it over the last 2-3 weeks and was pleasantly surprised at how little actual coding I had to do.
Client Area Features
Here are the key features of the Client Area:
- Fully-featured ticket system
- Private customer history
- Front-end editing of user profiles
- Mobile, responsive layout
- Email notifications with custom design
- Socially connected accounts
- Protected content for members
- PayPal shopping cart integration
The Client Area allows ClickWP to provide high quality help with WordPress for customers of our WordPress support plans. Let’s have a look at how it was put together.
Built from ready-made components
I built the Client Area with almost no custom development at all. The majority of the coding work was theme customization, which a competent designer is capable of. No need for developers.
The site was largely built from readily-available themes and plugins. The foundation of the site was built with SupportPress by WooThemes, a theme that turns WordPress into a support helpdesk. The theme took care of the ticket system, knowledgebase, custom user profiles and the responsive layout. I did a little theme customization to modify the overall styling, the guest homepage, login page and author archives page.
The next major component is the socially connected accounts. I decided that signing up and logging into the Client Area with Facebook / Twitter / etc was an important feature because I wanted to reduce the friction of creating another account. That was made possible by the Janrain Engage plugin. It took a little bit of setup, but it was pretty straightforward and now my members can login without having to remember yet another password.
The third major component of the Client Area was the membership system. SupportPress comes with a basic membership functionaility (you can make the site accessible to logged-in users only) but I needed multiple membership levels (support plans) and an integrated shopping cart.
After considering Digital Access Pass, Wishlist Member and s2Member, I decided to go with s2Member because its roles and custom capabilities approach to membership levels seemed flexible and because the price was right–the basic version of s2Member is free. It may not be the most user friendly membership plugin, but I’m glad that I went with s2Member.
Another plugin I used for the Client Area was Gravity Forms for the various forms on the site. I’m considering allowing unregistered members to post support tickets, provided they pay a deposit upfront and have got that feature working with the official Gravity Forms PayPal add-on and the GF Custom Post Types plugin by Brad Vincent.
Is it perfect? No. Does it get the job done? Absolutely.
SupportPress is a lightweight alternative but not a replacement to something like Zendesk or Tender. It’s missing some features from full-fledged helpdesk solutions. For example, it lacks an email piping feature (turning emails into support tickets) which I hope WooThemes will add sometime soon.
However I needed something more than a helpdesk. I needed something that would help manage our WordPress support business. There was nothing on the market (that I could find anyway) that did what I needed. But thanks to WordPress and some planning, plugins and hacking, I managed to create a unique customer portal for ClickWP.
The Client Area website is yet another example of the flexibility of WordPress. I take my hat off to Matt and the Automattic team for making a tool that is not only powerful, but is easy to use and more importantly, easy to create with.