Business directories have existed long before the internet. Anyone remember those big, fat, heavy books that listed professionals by category and region? “Yellow pages” (or the “Gold Guide”, as it was called in my country) allowed for locating quickly the contact details of a professional, close to your location, the moment you needed them.
This is the main idea of a business directory website. Listings of professionals and business establishments, that can be sorted and indexed by business type and location, hopefully on our mobile phones. The best business directories are multi-million dollars businesses (think Yelp, for restaurants, schools and other kind of business, or Booking for hotels and rentals, etc). And the best thing is that you can create your own business directory website using WordPress.
In this article, we will review and compare WordPress plugins and themes that facilitate the creation of a business directory. I have tested personally, in realistic setting, every plugin listed here (the premium ones too). There are many more premium plugins that serve the same objective – they are not mentioned here for the simple reason that I have never had the chance to test them, or to work on a site that uses them.
Maybe worth noting that we are listing here both stand-alone plugins, as well as themes. Obviously the themes incorporate plugins, custom post types and specific functions that allow for the creation of a business website.
- Listing views: list, grid and map view.
- Ability to sort listings by category, location, or popularity (if reviews are active).
- Allow users to add their own listing and/or claim a listing.
- Featured/sticky listings (for paid listings/advertisement).
- Optionally, listing reviews by users.
Ease of configuration (“EoC”):
- Inherits parent theme’s styling, or alternatively is easy to customize styling.
- The features offered can be added in any page, optimally to any part of the page too. We preferred functionalities via shortcode, so that it can be placed anywhere.
- Can be extended and works seamlessly with other plugins and themes.
Ease of use (“EoU”):
- Intuitive interface for the end user.
- Front-end editing strongly preferred.
- Fast, uncomplicated, works as advertised.
The plugins and themes we tested:
The results of the comparison:
|Functionality (max: 5)||Ease of configuration (max: 3)||Ease of use max: 2)||Total Score|
|Business Directory Plugin||4.5||1.5||2||8|
|Sabai Directory Plugin||5||2||1||8|
|Web 2.0 Directory Plugin||3||2||2||7|
Business Directory Plugin – 8/10
Func: 4.5 – EoC: 1.5 – EoU: 2
If I ever come across a project that needs a directory plugin in the future, I will recommend Business Directory Plugin. Despite its shortcomings, it is my personal favorite on this list.
Despite its messy looking documentation pages, Business Directory Plugin is a very versatile plugin that does almost everything one would need from a directory plugin. Every single one of its features is very well documented and the support forum is just awesome.
When Business Directory is installed, it offers to create for you a page with the
[businessdirectory] shortcode. This page must exist; however you don’t have to actually use it or display it anywhere. Once you create your first listings, on an interface very similar to the WordPress “New Post” screen, as seen in the picture above, you can use any of its features on any page or post, calling it by its shortcode.
However, not all features are available in the free version. Several modules, especially geolocation-related ones are part of the premium package.
Business Directory is an amazing plugin, with countless configuration options and a ridiculously helpful support forum (I had answers with working code within hours, before I bought the full pack). However, setting it up is quite slow, as you have to go through every option, and integrating it with your theme is quite easy, but still you to do some work. However it is amazingly flexible and very, very well documented; I cannot say this enough, every single function used in the plugin is documented with details.
GeoDirectory – 7/10
Func: 2 – EoC: 3 – EoU: 3
GeoDirectory feels a bit bare-bones when you first install it, before buying and installing any addons. Then eventually you realize that this is the philosophy of GeoDirectory: a core plugin with essential functionality and then small modules that add, piece by piece, all additional functionality that you may want. A philosophy much similar to WordPress itself.
I personally appreciate very much the “do one thing and do it well” way; however GeoDirectory overdoes some things that might be superfluous, while it won’t let you do simpler things. Like many other plugins, GeoDirectory creates a few pages (7!) when installed and activated – the user is supposed to use these pages to get the functionality. The form builder is slow and slightly buggy. Lastly, while GeoDirectory is likely to integrate seamlessly with most themes, if you try to apply any more complex styling to the default pages, it can be hard to achieve.
BePro Listings – 4/10
Func: 2 – EoC: 1 – EoU: 1
I tried out BePro Listings because it was mentioned in almost every article I found about WordPress directory plugins (and, continuing the trend, we are adding it here). I am going to say outright that my review of it is unfair, as, in reality, it is not a directory plugin. It is a listing plugin for frontend submissions, possibly meant to accompany the now abandoned BePro Listings Business Directory plugin.
However, even within the scope of this plugin, the features it offers are buggy, hard to use and hard to configure. It is hard to style and it uses many notifications on the dashboard to upsell its premium addons.
Sabai Directory Plugin – 8/10
Func: 5 – EoC: 2 – EoU: 1
Sabai is a premium plugin, very versatile and packed with features. In fact, it packs so many features that it is overkill for most simple uses. With Sabai you can create listings, claim listings, have paid listings and payment plans for featured listings, review listings and so many more.
Honestly, there is no use case for a directory plugin that Sabai does not cover it. Well, that’s a lie. There are two things I’ve found it won’t do: it is not easy to work with multilingual plugins, and it does not integrate payment via WooCommerce. Of course, this is a ridiculously specific use case that it is unlikely to be a requirement for most users.
Sabai is truly awesome for the savvy user/site owner, who has time to go through every single option and configure it. It can be non-intuitive for the more casual user, who will be overwhelmed with the plethora of options – still, it is very easy to ignore all the additional features and just build a basic directory site, if that’s what you want.
Web 2.0 Directory Plugin – 7/10
Func: 3 – EoC: 2 – EoU: 2
Web 2.0 Directory is a solid, all-around directory plugin. It has all the general features one would expect, with WooCommerce integration and a focus to paid listings and monetization.
There is really nothing exceptional to say about Web 2.0 Directory. It is solid, it works, it is regularly updated and, while you cannot bend it to do something it doesn’t do out of the box, unless you have very specific needs, you won’t need to.
Maybe the only thing to comment is the very dismissive support I usually go through the reviews, especially the negative ones, when researching for a plugin, and the answers of the plugin author to any complaint, or frustrated user are hilariously dismissive.
Directory Pro – 8/10
Func: 5 – EoC: 2 – EoU: 1
Directory Pro one of my favorites of this list. A very versatile, featured-rich plugin, that however does not overdo it and does not overwhelm the user with excess of options. However, it is also a plugin that you can love or hate using it (which, coincidentally, was my experience: I loved it, but the user was getting very frustrated with it).
Directory Pro offers all features one would expect from a directory plugin: Listings with location, front-end submissions, listing claiming, monetization options with plans and memberships, social profiles for users and more.
It is a solid plugin with plenty of features and great and efficient support. However, a non-technical site owner might have difficulty to set it up and configure it, as it is not too intuitive.
Business Finder – 5/10
Func: 3 – EoC: 1 – EoU: 1
Business Finder is a directory theme from AIT Themes, a team that has created a number of themes around business listings, classifieds, etc.
It feels a bit unfair to judge the theme on the fact that it has almost no functionality, unless you buy the extra plugins, since it is noted in the ThemeForest page description. However, it is also true that the notice is easy to miss, especially if you are scanning the page, and the pictures and feature list make it sound like if it were a fully-functional theme.
Ignoring this, the theme is still not as good as it could be. It is hard to apply custom styles, the page builder is awkward and generally the features feel non-intuitive.
ListingPro – 7/10
Func: 3.5 – EoC: 1.5 – EoU: 2
I wanted so much to love this theme, cause it is really visually stunning and it is very obvious that the authors worked really hard to provide everything needed to build a business directory site in one theme.
As it is often the case, the “does everything” approach falls a bit short. Don’t get me wrong, the theme is fantastic looking and very functional. You get out-of-the box a business directory site with all the basic functionality one would expect. It is just that, if you want to do anything a bit outside of the theme’s scope, you might run into issues. For instance, some theme templates are very hard to customize. To change some theme strings you have to use a translation plugin. To add a featured listing you have to created a, slightly convoluted, “ad campaign”.
All in all, the theme can definitively become amazing with some work from the part of the team, and maybe with revisiting some slightly surprising choices in configuration (I mean, there could be an option in the dashboard to change the theme strings as you like).
This article touches the features, as well as the shortcomings of some popular plugins and themes for a business directory website. I have personally tested all the above mentioned themes and plugins, so, while I do admire the authors and am very grateful for their work and for releasing such great tools to the community, I cannot help but noticing some margins for improvement in all of them.
The above points are simply the personal opinion and experience of the author of this article. I am thankful for the good work of the developers who made reality the above plugins and I hope that this article might be of help for some WordPress users who are searching for a directory theme or plugin.