Alternative to 37 Signals’ Highrise: A WordPress Theme

In case you missed my last post, I believe we can build a simple WordPress theme that rivals 37 Signals’ Highrise application in terms of functionality and ease of use.

I got so excited about the prospects of building that theme that I stayed up all night working on it.  It is currently working well, with the ability to add “Contacts” and “Deals” (similar to how you do it in Highrise) using custom post types as well as task management via Google Calendar (my calendar of choice).

The theme is currently a child theme of Hybrid.  Down the road, I might convert it to a plugin, but for now I am focusing on the theme.

Following are some specific steps I have taken to date:

  • Started with a Hybrid Skeleton-based child theme of Hybrid
  • Added custom post type for “Contacts” and “Deals” (I did this rather than regular, old posts just to gain some experience using custom post types.)
  • Installed “Custom Field Template” plugin (The need for this plugin will likely be replaced with a custom plugin that I build into functions.php.)
  • Installed “Simple Custom Post Type Archives” plugin to create “index” directories for custom post types.  This plugin didn’t work as expected, so I deleted it.
  • Created “All Deals” and “All Contacts” page templates to display the custom post types (WordPress does not have this functionality out of the box as of version 3.0.1)
  • Added “Tasks” page and embedded Google Calendar iFrame into it


  • Style the site
  • Fix business card view (it’s quite buggy right now)
  • Figure out how to sort by custom field info that is attached to custom post types


  • Notifications
  • Figure out how to utilize WordPress categories within custom post types.  (Do I really need to use custom taxonomies???)

I am still undecided as to whether or not all this is necessary for a small operation like mine.  Frankly, a Google calendar would do the same job as Highrise.  Really, we are just talking about different systems that do the same thing.  Both Google calendar and Highrise do different things better.  Google Calendar by its very nature is better for scheduling and keeping track of follow-up meetings, while Highrise is better at sorting contacts.

The bottom line is that CRMs require time and effort.  Nothing worthwhile is free.


  1. Jeffrey on March 22, 2011 at 4:23 am

    How is this coming along? Did you end up using it or going back to Highrise?

  2. toby on March 25, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    I have been using this successfully for about 5 months now. Screw 37 Signals! haha!

    I plan to turn this into a plugin soon. I will need some beta testers…

  3. Thomas on May 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I’d be interested in this too. Is your install easy to reproduce?

  4. toby on May 6, 2011 at 3:54 am

    It’s quite easy to reproduce. I have it wrapped in a plugin right now and plan on releasing it into the wild soon.

  5. Scott Hack on May 17, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Looking for a CRM that is WordPress based so I can integrate my gravity forms entries into it. Still looking for beta testers?

  6. toby on May 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    @Scott: I would love to have you as a beta tester! Hit me up via my contact form so I can get you into my flow. 🙂

  7. Ryan on May 30, 2011 at 3:23 am

    Hi Toby,

    I just wanted to register my interest with you for beta testing the plugin.

    Look forward to seeing it.



  8. Steve on June 25, 2011 at 1:19 am

    You have another beta tester if you are still working on this – this is exactly what I have been looking for!

    • toby on June 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      Great! Thanks! Now I just need to get a release ready. I have been thinking a lot about this, so expect it soon!

  9. Jack on July 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Toby,

    Do you have any date in mind when you expect to release your plugin into the wild? I’m really interested to see what you created. It sounds great!



  10. toby on July 5, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    @Jack – I don’t have a date set yet, but I hope to get it out the door soon. It is one of those things that is always sitting there begging me to complete it, but it isn’t paying any bills (that said, I am getting some great benefits from using it, myself!).

  11. Kelsi Guidry on September 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    What is the latest on this theme or plugin! Would love to have this and replace Highrise if possible. I don’t like completely relying on a third party source.
    This is a WordPress theme or plugin I would pay for for sure!

  12. toby on September 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    @Kelsi, I am currently discussing the prospects of releasing this plugin/theme as a product you can buy and we will support. I am reluctant to release it to the world until we are ready to support it.

    That said, the plugin is working great for me! I’ll keep you in the loop if/when we are ready for beta testers.

  13. Rob on December 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Hi Toby, any concrete plans yet for releasing this theme?

  14. toby on December 21, 2011 at 5:18 am

    @Rob – I still use this theme every day as my main CRM, but I have not had time to think about releasing it into the wild. Sorry!