WordPress has been primarily a blogging tool from the start. But recent releases have been very customizable and extensible, especially 3.0. What other purposes could WordPress be used for, besides just a blog?
A lot of people use it as a full blown CMS. You can have your visitors land on any page of your choice, showing the blog as a special page (if at all). It also makes an excellent tool for photographers to publish their work, especially freelance photojournalists.
The other thing that I really, really like about WP is how easy it is to bring existing static pages into the Wordpress 'loop'. I've found it to be an invaluable tool to 'drop in' to existing static sites for clients that want to be able to publish without editing HTML. This brings (at least part of) the dynamic content to all of the static pages.
I think its also important to make a distinction between blogging and more serious self publishing. The first, of course, being more recreational. Wordpress (especially with the latest version) appeals equally to either use.
Because you can have pages (static) as well as posts (dynamic) you can use WordPress to do nearly anything, though it may not be the most efficient vehicle, depending on your needs.
The biggest benefit is separating the data, and the entry & management of that data, from the backend, technical part of the site. This enables non-technical users to create and post the content without having to know any HTML or CSS.
With available PHP functions and plugins, you can bend WP to your will easily by downloading and installing any of thousands available, or if what you need isn't available you can write or commission your own custom work.
WP Pages are technically the same as posts but are treated differently, namely they are static, and have no relationship to each other unless you build it with a hierarchy or a menu.
The new custom post type (really a page rather than a post) is a way to add structure to pages so that you can have standardized information on all of the custom posts of a given type. For example, on a real estate site, you could have a custom post type for houses, that had fields for all the standard features of these properties, like # of bedrooms, etc.
A new item is added to the admin menu for each custom type, so the non-tech content providers can add a house as easily as adding a post.
e-Commerce add-ons to WP work this way, and are all being upgraded to work with the newest version of WP, instead of having their own nonstandard approach.
I've used WordPress to create everything from high-traffic news sites with workflow-wrapped user submissions, to e-commerce sites and full blown corporate CMS style sites.
Out of the box, yes it's just a blog engine.. but the ease of making plugins and the huge availability of third party themes/plugins/extras, as well as the sheer size of the supporting community, puts it right at the top of the list for me.
I still use Drupal occasionally if the client requires something really out-there (complex workflows, integration with other systems, etc), but i'd say 90% of my work is done purely in WordPress now just due to how easy it is, and how quick I can churn out a product that delivers the client's needs.
The back-end of WordPress is also among the best out there. I find a majority of support I do for clients is coming from the minority I have running Drupal. It's a lot easier for an everyday person to break things in Drupal, and a lot more difficult for them to figure out day to day tasks. WordPress is clean, simple, and easy to use even if the person has never done any webmaster-style work before.
There is also an E-Commerce plug in for wordpress.
Also there are plugins to make a site for realtors to list their homes for sale, it's really closer to a CMS once you start looking at plugins, and custom fields. Also in the latest version 3.0 there is now support for multiple users that allows you to create a sort of mini-facebook or ning-like social website.
You really can build on WordPress to do whatever you want.
And unlike many other open-source tools, you hardly every need to hack the core, so you don't have to worry when it comes to updating.
You simply use plugins (and create your own, using its great hooks & filters architecture).
And it even works as a MVC framework, by combining the new custom post types with custom fields (and the add_meta_box function, to customize the editing screens). It's great for rapid development, as you get a built-in powerful yet user-friendly back-office. I'm actually thinking of creating a plugin that would allow you to simply define a data model (tables/fields/relationships/data types), and everything is handled automatically (customizable display, back-office and/or front-end input forms, input validation...)
Just some examples of what I've used WordPress for :
- countless custom corporate-type (non-blog) websites
- user profiles/accounts
- blog/podcast/video hosting platform (before WPMU existed)
- blog/podcast/video aggregator and directory
- mass-mailing tool
- hotel/resort availability and booking system
With the help of a few plugins you can turn Wordpress into an excellent CMS and create whatever type of website you'd like. It really is that flexible!
We currently use it for all our websites and it's just a case of rolling out these plugins (via some cloning to save you installing each time!) to name a few:
Admin Menu Editor Lets you directly edit the WordPress admin menu. You can re-order, hide or rename existing menus, add custom menus and more.
Advanced Custom Fields Completely Customise your edit pages with an assortment of field types: Wysiwyg, Repeater, text, textarea, image, file, select, checkbox post type, page link and more! Hide unwanted metaboxes and assign to any edit page!
CMS Dashboard Big user friendly buttons to make your clients happy and your wordpress a better CMS
Google Analytics for WordPress This plugin makes it simple to add Google Analytics to your WordPress blog, adding lots of features, eg. custom variables and automatic clickout and download tracking.
NIVO slider light This is a wrapper for the jQuery plugin NIVO Image Slider from dev7studios.
Pages Children Display Pages heirarchy a single level pages at a time.
Simple Page Ordering Order your pages and hierarchical post types using drag and drop on the built in page list. Also adds a filter for items to show per page. For further instructions, open the "Help" tab on the Pages screen.
TinyMCE Advanced Enables advanced features and plugins in TinyMCE, the visual editor in WordPress.
Web Editors CMS A collection of plugins that optimize WordPress to use as a CMS. Includes our custom plugins and some extra's.
WordPress SEO The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.
I'm sure there are other plugins out there but a combination of these has so far covered what we've needed for several different websites, all with different needs.