I get questions surrounding which tools I use to manage Blaz Design pretty frequently. And then there are other times that I see people struggling without a solution and I just have to make a recommendation.
Which inspired me to put together a quick series covering the tools I use to run my web design business. But I think these can easily translate to just about any other industry, too.
This particular post covers my favorites in the website world: from hosting to domain registration to some of my favorite WordPress themes and frameworks.
Looking for the best administrative tools to run your small business? Check out that post here.
*Please note: some of the links below are affiliate links. I’ll receive a small commission if you end up making a purchase, which is always a nice little bonus!
(Starts at $29/month)
Website hosting is a tricky matter if you’re not super familiar, which is why I see many folks settling for that $3.99 hosting package. And, if you’re just starting out, that might work just fine to get your feet wet. However, once your site starts getting a decent amount of traffic or if you’re worried about the potential of losing content, then it might be time to upgrade to something a little more feature-packed.
For those clients who plan on doing a lot of DIY posting and page updates after their site launches, I like to recommend WP Engine. It’s hosting that is exclusively for WordPress, and in my experience they have better than average support. Other benefits include daily backups at no extra charge, along with a built-in staging environment. This ensures that my clients can play around with their sites all they want—and I can sleep well at night knowing there’s always a fresh backup to pull from in case anything goes wrong.
(Starts at $7.95/month for shared hosting)
For those non-WordPress-ers out there, or for those seeking something with fewer bells and whistles, I like to recommend Dreamhost’s shared hosting and VPS services. In fact, that’s what Blaz Design (and many other sites I manage) have been running on for the past four years or so. And I couldn’t be happier with their service!
For me, it boils down to having a consistently great customer service experience, nearly 100% reliability in my years of use, and a comfortable, easy-to-use interface to access all of the hosting tools. Benefits of Dreamhost’s basic, shared hosting plan include: unlimited storage, bandwidth, domains hosted, and email accounts; 24/7 support; and a 100% uptime guarantee.
I register my fair share of domain names: a good idea strikes, and I’ve just got to have a domain for it…just in case! I’m never sure where I’ll be hosting a particular site, especially if I grab a domain name for a client, so I like to purchase these all in the same place. It makes my life so much easier when it comes to managing my registrations, and especially when it’s time to renew.
I’ve been using Namecheap for several years now, and their website and user experience has only gotten better!
Over the years, I have completely fallen in love with the Genesis Framework for WordPress. This framework is an excellent starting point for any WordPress website, and features the huge benefit of unlimited everything: updates, sites, support, etc. Additionally, it’s an extremely lightweight solution with a responsive HTML5 design, airtight security, and it’s super fast and easily customizable.
But even better than buying these individually is purchasing the entire library of StudioPress themes. You get access to EVERYTHING for just $499.95 (plus $99.95 recurring annually to maintain your access to the download library, theme updates, and support). It may seem like a lot initially, but it’s so worth it if you’re developing a lot of websites. The initial investment has paid dividends for me!
For simple website projects with small budgets or quick turnarounds, I’ll often select a WordPress theme from Themeforest and help clients customize to get their site up and running quickly. Themeforest is my go-to because they have an excellent selection of premium themes with the ability to read other purchaser reviews and comments before making a selection.
(Starts at $39/year for personal license)
Gravity Forms is one of the few premium WordPress contact forms that I just can’t live without. After fighting with trying to find the best freebie contact form solution that would meet every single one of my needs (totally impossible!), I finally started doing my research on premium options.
Gravity Forms was the winner for so many reasons: the form builder is easy to use and beyond awesome, there’s the option to use conditional logic (a total must for a lot of projects!), easy to configure notifications, tons of handy built-in form fields, and so much more! Read my complete review of Gravity Forms here.
Slider Revolution is probably my favorite slideshow plugin of all time, as it gets better and better with each update. This plugin is incredibly robust, including an extensive drag and drop slide builder and full control over styles, animations, and transitions. With Slider Revolution, you can easily feature your WordPress posts, including custom post types. This slider is, of course, fully responsive, with far more controls over how the slides look on individual devices than most other plugins. This is the perfect solution if you’re really looking to bring your slides to life with animations and beautiful transitions, and have some extra time to spend configuring each slide to perfection.
Jetpack is a handy plugin that gives your self-hosted WordPress site the features previously only available to WordPress.com users. Some of the Jetpack goodies include WordPress.com stats, shortcode embeds for sites like YouTube and Vimeo, and easy to insert contact forms for anywhere on your site. Best of all? It’s totally free!
Even though this post just starts to scratch the surface of the website side of things, these are by far the things I just can’t live without.
Need help figuring out which tools to incorporate into your small business? Send me a message! I’d love to work through it with you and make some suggestions.