Long gone are the days when you would need to design and code a new website from scratch. While there are certainly some situations where you may need to invest tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars into a fully custom solution, that’s just not practical or feasible for the vast majority of the businesses. Just the same, it doesn’t always make sense to take on a “one size fits all” framework and take it well beyond what it was originally designed to do.
Just as Goldilocks had to find the bowl of porridge that was just right, there is an ideal middle ground to be had by online business owners too. If you’ve been thinking about a better way to power your directory website — and there are many different types of websites where such a solution would be a perfect fit — then you should be taking a look at Brilliant Directories, a comprehensive platform that’ll get you up and running without any plugins.
Better Than WordPress
Let’s address the elephant in the room, because everyone is probably already thinking about that elephant. It’s true. WordPress is a great platform may have started out gearing itself mostly toward running blogs, but the ecosystem and community have evolved significantly over the years to adapt WordPress for other purposes. However, we have to remember that this can result in a rather disparate, disjointed, and unreliable experience.
If you want to build a website with an online directory at its core, you want to have the best directory software that has been built specifically for that purpose. And that’s where Brilliant Directories would tick a lot of the boxes for you.
One of the big challenges that you’ll face with WordPress, in this regard, is that you could end up with a hodgepodge of themes and plugins from a number of different vendors and developers. You might turn to one company for a premium theme, another company for membership management, another for payment processing, another for content management… the list can go on and on.
If any one of those pieces doesn’t quite play nice with any other of the pieces, your whole castle of cards could come crashing down. Why would you try to jury-rig together a duct taped solution when you can have one that was built for what you need, including everything you need, right out of the box?
Choose Your Theme
When most people think about directory websites, usually one of two types of websites come to mind. First, they might think of something like an online yellow pages. These are sites that would provide key information about a number of local businesses, like their address, phone number, and hours of operation. Depending on the nature of the business, these listings might also include specific contact information for individuals at the business or they might describe the products and services that they offer.
Second, particularly if you’re in the industry of Internet marketing and online content creation, people might think about article directories. In effect, an article directory is a website with a large collection of articles written by a variety of contributors on a variety of subjects. These types of sites are sometimes viewed as “content farms,” but that’s another discussion for another day.
What we need to recognize about tools like Brilliant Directories is that the applications for online directories can be much more varied and diverse than that. And they’ve got the appropriate themes and designs to best suit these different applications.
You might actually be surprised by the sheer number of possible directory themes you can use with Brilliant Directories. For example, if you run a professional association or other similar type of membership based organization, having a directory of associates can be incredibly valuable for all the members. This way, it’s much easier for them to get in contact with one another without relying on imperfect third party social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn.
Remember that this online directory can be of almost anything and anyone. It’s an excellent solution for real estate professionals, for example, as it could be used to organize and present real estate listings in an attractive and robust website. It’s also great for product catalogs, coupon sites, industry resources, business review sites and more.
Perhaps one of the more compelling possibilities, from a business opportunity standpoint, is to use the directory website as a means of lead generation. If you focus on a particular niche, like legal advice and counsel for instance, you could have visitors to the site fill out a short form where they ask to be matched to a lawyer or other legal professional. You can then sell that lead to the highest bidder in your network. This can be incredibly lucrative with the right strategy and implementation.
On the payment side of the process, Brilliant Directories comes with the built-in functionality to handle recurring, automatic payments. It also features the ability to sell and manage your banner ads without relying on any third party software. Even premium hosting is included with every plan.
The Live Site Experience
The software is straightforward enough and easy enough to understand that even inexperienced novices shouldn’t have any trouble navigating around and getting their website up and running. All you need to do is start with one of the 15+ professional themes. From there, you can add your company name, logos, images, text and other branding elements.
You can select from a number of built-in search modules that you can then implement into your website design, making it easy for site visitors to search members and content in the most meaningful and positive way possible, including filters for keyword, category, location and other factors appropriate to the theme of your site.
The net result is a website that is both clean and robust, simple and professional, all while boasting a broad range of features running both behind the scenes and accessible to the end user. In this example site, you can see the search module featured prominently with a large background image that automatically cycles through a number of pictures.
There’s also a smaller search module in the top-right section where visitors can search for name or keyword, plus city or post code, to come up with the business that they seek. The business model here is that professionals can pay for premium listings on the site. Easy and obvious navigation is located along the top, and keyword rich content is located below the fold both for informational and SEO purposes.
Of course, depending on the theme you choose and the type of directory site you want to run, there are number of different customizations and personalizations that you can implement. This is just one example, but it illustrates the professional look and feel of the end product, even with minimal customization in place.
A Familiar Dashboard Interface
So, the online directory looks great from the end user’s perspective, but what does it look like for you as the website administrator. As mentioned, choosing from the 15+ premium themes and customizing their look with your own company logo and other elements is easy enough. The same is true with all the other moving parts that go into creating a successful website.
This is what you’ll see when you log into the back-end of your website as powered by Brilliant Directories. If you think that it looks a little familiar, you wouldn’t be alone. The basic navigation and framework here is somewhat reminiscent of WordPress, except it has been heavily adapted and optimized for the purposes of running a directory website.
The core navigation is found all along the left in the sidebar, and when you hover your mouse pointer over any of those higher-level navigational links, you’ll reveal the corresponding sub-links. For instance, when you hover over “Members” on the left side, you’ll be shown links where you can navigate to Search Members, Member Categories, Member Reviews and Import Members.
Front and center on the user dashboard are your key stats, including total members, new members in the last 7 days, new leads, and total revenue. Below that, you’ll find links and modules for popular support topics, recommend resources, recent member logins, social media quick links, and website resources. With that last point, you can easily keep tabs on your total disk space usage and your monthly bandwidth usage for the hosting that comes bundled with every package. There are also useful links to easily remove unused images and remove export files.
When you look under the Settings section, you’ll find additional pages where you can access General Settings, which is further subdivided into five tabs for General, Brand Images, Social Media, Configuration and Integrations. Naturally, this will take a little bit of time on your part for the initial setup, but it’s all easy enough to understand.
As you make your way through the rest of the settings, you’ll find Design Settings, Domain Manager, Admin Accounts, Text Labels, Country Settings and Advanced Settings. You can leave a lot of these at their defaults, but it is worthwhile to go in and tweak what you need to change. The most important, of course, are your general settings like your website name and phone number, as well as your brand images.
Manage Your Content and Members
There’s an old saying out there stating that content is king. And this is true. At the end of the day, your website still needs to provide the content that visitors are looking for. But the nature of content is getting increasingly complex and that’s why Brilliant Directories has helped to organize the system so it’s easier to follow.
You’ve got sections to manage web pages, manage posts, edit post settings, SEO templates, and the image manager. Here is the Manage Web Pages page, for instance.
The bright yellow “Edit” button next to each page is a great visual reminder, and then you’ll find the Actions pull-down next to that for each page. This may be context-sensitive, but the only Action I found was to view the page. Next to that are the page details and the permalink structure.
If you’ve ever had any experience editing content within WordPress, you’ll feel right at home here. The title and subtitle are located at the top, and then the main content area is offered as a WYSIWYG “visual” editor. It’s just like using a standard word processor where you can bold, italicize and underline text easily, as well as access bullet points, change paragraph formats, insert links and images, and so forth.
You’ll also find options, like whether or not you’d like to show the sidebar (and the sidebar position) along the right side. There’s a lot to toy around with here, and your experience can be as simple or as complex as you’d like it to be.
The interface for managing the members of your site is similarly intuitive, though again, you’ll need to take some time to familiarize yourself with what is possible. In the member search, for instance, you can search by a broad range of parameters, including name, email address, account status, membership level, transaction types, joined date range and more. Adding or importing members only takes a few clicks too.
The member directory, as seen from your back-end interface, gives great “at a glance” information, including the contact information, current status, revenue, and membership details, like the account level, date joined, IP jointed, and last login. When you hover over the “actions” button, you can view account details, perform a quick edit, view the live profile and payment history, and even send an email, all within this one system.
Built-In Marketing Too
Yes, email is built into the Brilliant Directories solution. It’s not just about building the website itself, but about providing all the tools you need for such a website business in one cohesive package.
In this way, email marketing is also integrated. You can create and customize your own email designs right from within the main dashboard, adding the images and texts and layouts that you want. You can start by using any of the 40+ pre-made templates for everything from welcome emails to account upgrade confirmations. Scheduled email campaigns, segmented lists, and personalized emails (with member variables) are some of the other key features.
How Much Does It Cost?
Rather than offer different tiers of service at different rates, the pricing scheme for Brilliant Directories is such that all paying customers get access to all the premium features they need to launch and manage successful directory websites.
That includes access to over 1,000 built-in features and support for managing up to 100,000 members, as well as daily website backups, premium cloud hosting, payment history tracking for members, job listings, upcoming events support, lead generation tools, payment processing, ad management, contact list manager, and so much more.
If you decide to go on a month-by-month basis, the cost to use Brilliant Directories is $145 per month. A better value is if you pay for a year at a time for $950, saving you 45 percent over paying monthly, effectively bringing your cost down to $79 per month. However, far and away the best value is at $1,450. That is a one-time payment and you get a lifetime license. You never have to pay another dime. Ever. You own it for life, and that includes lifetime support and lifetime website hosting.
If you’re not sure if this is quite right for you, I encourage you to try the free demo first. It’ll give you a good sense of what you can expect without any commitment on your part.