How to Build WordPress Directory and Classifieds Sites using Toolset

Toolset lets you build custom directory and classifieds websites, for any content type and with your own functionality. You have full control over everything in the site, without being limited to what a theme or dedicated plugin offers.

Buy and Download

Create listings for any post type

Build powerful searches that use fields, taxonomy, and post-relationships

Display listings as grids, tables, sliders or on Google Maps

Create forms for front-end user registration and front-end listing submissions

Create user dashboards, where site members can manage their own items

Charge payments for registration and for submitting listings

Theme and plugins to install

A simple theme

You can use any theme that you prefer. There are a few themes that we specifically recommend, which let you control the content of every page on the site.

Toolset plugins

You will need the following Toolset plugins:

  • Toolset Types
  • Toolset Blocks
  • Toolset Forms
  • Toolset Access

If you don’t yet have a Toolset account, you should get either Toolset Interactive or Toolset Agency, which offer all of Toolset components.

In this tutorial, we’re using our Gyms & Trainers reference site. You can install and play with it for free on Discover WP. If you already have Toolset, you can also install our demo sites on your own test sites using our Framework Installer plugin.

Setting up the custom post types, fields, and taxonomy

First, we need to set up the main structure of our site.

In our example, we are creating a directory site for gyms and trainers. Of course, you can create directory sites for anything.

Steps to follow

1. Creating a custom post type for the items in the directory

Your custom directory lists items. These can be anything. You should not use “posts” and “pages” for the directory items. Instead, crease a custom post type.

Go to Toolset → Dashboard and click the button to create a new post type.

Fill in the name of the directory items. The “slug” is the way this post type will appear in the database.

2. Adding custom fields

The custom post type that you just added only allows you to enter the title and body of the directory items. You’ll almost certainly need more. For these, you’ll add custom fields.

Go to Toolset → Dashboard and click the Add custom fields button on the row of your directory items.

Select the field type you want to insert and fill in its name. Take a moment to review the different options that fields have. You can include a “description”, make fields “required” and more.

3. Adding a custom taxonomy

Taxonomy for custom post types is like “categories” and “tags” for blog posts. It allows to organize your directory items into different kinds. Almost all directories need custom taxonomy to organize their listings.

Go to Toolset → Dashboard and in the row for the post type, click the Add custom taxonomy button.

Fill in the name and slug for the taxonomy and click to save it.

Now that the taxonomy is ready, we can add some categories to it. In WordPress, these categories are called taxonomy terms.

You will find them in the main WordPress menu, under the post type that the taxonomy is used for.

4. Adding directory entries

Now that the structure is in place, you can add some content. If you’re only building the site now and you don’t yet have real directory entries, it’s a good idea to add some dummy entries. These will allow you to design the listings and templates for the directory items.

Displaying directory items on the front-end

Our site structure is now in place and we have some directory entries. It’s time to display them on the front-end.

Here are some examples of common templates you could create for your directory site. Follow the links and watch the videos to learn how to do it.


Single gym details

What to do

Create a Content Template for displaying single items of the post type that you set up. Your template will display custom fields and taxonomies that belong to your post type.

A list of 4 top-rated gyms

Create a View that lists only the gyms that are marked as featured.

When creating a View, you decide how your items are displayed (as a list, grid, table, etc.) and which fields to include for each item.

Custom search for gyms

Create a list of gyms with controls that allow visitors to filter the results by selecting values from custom fields and taxonomies.

Adding and editing directory items from the front-end

Most directory sites allow visitors to submit items from the front-end. To enable this on your directory site, you need to create the relevant Toolset Forms. Next, you need to choose who can access which forms.

Here is what you need to set this up. Follow the links to learn how to do them yourself.


What to do

Create a Post Form for submitting new items and set the right permissions.

Building forms for creating content

Create a Post Form for editing existing items.

Establish who can edit the content. In most cases, you will allow the gym owners to edit their own gyms.

Building forms for editing content

You can also make all posts that users submit through these forms to auto-expire. Learn more on our page about automatic post expiration.

User registration and account management

User registration

If you allow your users to edit items from the front-end, most likely you will also need to allow them to register and edit their profiles from the front-end.

Here’s what you need for creating a good user registration experience and how to do it with Toolset.

What you will need

Front-end forms for registering new users

What to do

Create a User Form for registering users

In your front-end form, you can also include additional custom fields.

Once created, you can add the form to any page.

Learn about building forms for registering users.

Front-end forms for editing user profiles

Create a User Form for editing user profiles.

Once created, you can add the form to any page.

Learn about building forms for editing content or user profiles.

Login form and account management

To allow users to log into your site, you can create a custom login form that fits the overall look of your site. After the user logs in, they see links to their resources.

The login form and user’s assets make up the “My Account” page. Here’s what you should cover on the account page and how Toolset helps you do it.

Account-related feature

Custom login form

What to do

To allow users to log into your site, create a custom login form that fits the overall look of your site.

Learn how to use Editing forms to “edit your profile”

“My Account” page

Once they log in, your users should be able to manage their resources (see, edit, and delete items they created) directly from the front-end.

Learn how to create a “My Account” page for this purpose.

More great features for your Directory Site

There are more important features that Toolset allows you to add to your Directory Site.

Charge users for submitting content on your site. For example, they could submit a premium ad.

You can do this Toolset and the WooCommerce plugin.


Charge users for registering on your site. This membership then grants them access to premium content.

You can do this Toolset and the WooCommerce plugin.

Display entries on maps and allow users to find your Directory Site items based on location, radius, and distance.

Questions before buying Toolset?

If you are not a Toolset customer yet, feel free to send us your questions using the presales questions form. We’ll be happy to answer. 

Need help?

If you’re already a Toolset client and you need help, please use our technical support forum.