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March 10th Update: The Vantage directory theme (4.0) has finally been released. (originally, it was scheduled to come out in December…..so it’s been a long wait)
For those of you who want to see it being used for a live project, and want to see how I generated almost 18 thousand NEW subscribers to brand new directory using the “old” Vantage theme (the shitty looking one prior to this version) – be sure to download the free case study, as I share a simple, scalable, rinseable and repeatable marketing map for generating free traffic to ANY directory – in ANY moment in time (these are timeless techniques) no gimmicks, no gadgets and no goofy “gurus” required. grab it below)
We’ve covered a lot of questions about building an online directory in this series on using the “authority” site model to grow your online business. (or to use directories as a way to build an online agency of higher end offers that target the professionals (or peers) who are the ideal audience for your content, and community.
There are lots of different directories and frameworks to choose from, which is a good thing. I recommend Listify overall (notwithstanding the tongue in cheek critiques I made here 🙂 and am currently using the Astoundify suite of stuff (Listify + plugins) to drive a new directory project with a few partners – and in general, I really appreciate the quality of their work.
(especially being someone who is more of a marketer than a developer at heart or expertise – so the “ease of use” factor is high on my priority list when it comes to being able to scale an idea using this model – without the need for expensive outsourcing, custom code, etc)
With that in mind, I’d like to re-visit Vantage, by Appthemes, as *potentially* the best option of the bunch.
My most active directory – even today, is running on Vantage. And while the looks are really dated, the responsiveness and mobile friendliness factor can’t compare with Listify (or any of the other derivative themes like Listable, or competitors like Templatic’s Directory with a dedicated mobile “view” etc) – the support from appthemes (the folks behind Vantage) has been a bit spotty in places…..BUT, for an all in one directory solution that just “worked” out of the box, on day 1…..with integrated events, easy to apply payment packages (no Woocommerce extensions needed) Vantage has been pretty hard to beat.
Even so, I’ve resisted using them on any new projects for a while, simply because I think the looks and theme aesthetic are dated to the point of being a distraction, especially if you are driving most of your traffic from social media, where “mobile” experience is critically important for both the public, and the professionals you want to appeal to as well.
(this can be circumvented a bit using “child themes”, of which, there are a few Vantage marketplace “child” styles that really improve the aesthetic, most notably, Directory (the name of a popular child theme) that I’ve bought, used and really like.
The good news if you are a fan of the great Vantage functionality, but hate the dated looks?
The long awaited directory update, now called Vantage 4.0 – is set to release later this month. (within the next few weeks I’m told)
From the screenshots, the theme looks like it’s going to get a total aesthetic upgrade, will be really mobile friendly, and have a lot of the user friendly elements that Vantage has excelled at all along. (including a great “user dashboard” which I’ve always found the other more modern themes havent’ done nearly as well – and IS really important to users, both the public….and your professional audience as well)
The potentially bad news?
I may be reading too much into the blog post announcing the update – but it appears like some of the functions that have been baked into the framework in previous versions, may be put into “plugins” as upgrades or options, which is being called a WP best practices move.
(something I agree with as a general rule – but not if you are moving “events” and “reviews” and things that are central to the theme functioning in a world class way as a directory and making them suddenly paid upgrades or additional options)
I don’t know that this is true of course – or what their pricing structure would be if it is, I did leave a comment on the announcement to inquire…..and it hasn’t been “approved” yet – so hopefully it will be, and they’ll address it there.
Overall though – even with the Biggie Smalls approach to building WP solutions out of the way (“Mo plugins =mo profits”), I do think Vantage, if it looks as good as it’s competition, could actually be the absolute EASIEST way to launch a good looking, highly functional directory out of the box – for a hundred bucks or so – in any niche, market or industry you’d like.
I would love to see them build some sort of integration that seamlessly allows your users (the professionals who are listed) to sell products and services DIRECTLY from their listings – as this has been a great benefit to building this sort of community with something like Listify or Listable.
(as you can have offer your featured listings the ability to set up a “store” on your site, with services, products, programs, etc – all embedded in their listing which amps UP conversion for them, and amps UP the appeal to be included in your community for you! This set up does require a few extra plugins to pull off – but well worth it for sure)
So I’ll definitely be buying Vantage 4.0 when it is released, and i’ll share a full(er) review when I do. Or, if you get to it first, and want to share your experience, I’m sure many of my readers (which is about 8 🙂 would love to hear your thoughts.
Quick Video update: Let’s look at building traffic, interest and engagement to your directory…….regardless of what theme or framework you use