These are the products and services I use and are referred to as affiliates. If you click one of these links and it results in a purchase, at no additional cost to you, I might receive a small commission paid directly to me. I have initiated these affiliate relationships on my own, meaning, no one requested that I participate in their affiliate program or feature their products in any way. Rather, I enjoy sharing products, services and tools that I currently use or have worked with on client sites that have netted a positive experience. This list can change frequently — that’s why we love the tech industry right?
It would be weird to say I build and work with websites on the Genesis Framework and not be an affiliate, right? So yes, this is the best money you can spend to work with the best tried and true platform. The Genesis Framework is a mature, lightweight and SEO-friendly (even on top of WordPress’s SEO-friendliness) collection of goodness that we refer to as the parent theme. Having a parent theme lets you put all of your “pretty” in a child theme, your presentation layer. The benefit of that is you can hack up the child theme to your hearts content while Genesis, your parent theme can stay frequently updated with new WordPress core without losing any of your customizations.
Second on the list, with the notion that I could make a strong case that it should be #1, is the spiffy, easy-on-the-eyes, professional looking themes produced by those Genesis folks over at StudioPress. My reasons for it to be considered in the #1 slot is these are what most people see first. I am one of these folks. Back in 2011, before I knew what WordPress was exactly, I had searched online for “wordpress premium themes”, and also for “real estate wordpress themes”. StudioPress was one of the search results and I fell in love with their styles after only one look. I had bookmarked their themes page and there it say for two years until I became involved with WordPress directly in late 2013. I didn’t know exactly how the Genesis Framework fit into the picture, but the look of the StudioPress themes was enough of a hook to keep me coming back for more. Click to check out the latest themes, or, if you’re ready to to do client work for others, look for the Developer Pro Pack that gives you ALL the current themes for one hugely discounted price.
Next on the “important” list for me is the theme I’ve customized and built this site on, Utility Pro, and in particular the Developer’s Edition. This theme is a developer’s pal from top to bottom incorporating Sass, Grunt and other yummy extras. Now I get all of that might sound like I was starting down a path of questionable content, so I admit it’s not a theme for the newbie or beginner per say. But it has good bones as they say, with contributions from some very well respected developers in the Genesis community – definitely worth checking out!
When it comes to keeping your website’s house in order, the best tool for this in my opinion is ManageWP. With the use of a free plugin installed on the target site, you can monitor anything and almost everything from a centralized ManageWP Dashboard. This is especially useful if you provide support and website maintenance services to your clients….log into one place and update their plugins, check security, performance and backup to multiple sources. I use it when starting a new client project — I like to make backups of the entire site before, during and after the work is complete so at any given point in time you can recover if needed. The prices are insanely cheap for all this goodness as well. Click on my link above for a 10% discount and start centralizing your site productivity today!
WP Development Workflow
This course is more than just a “workflow”, it is a great primer if you are an aspiring web developer that wants to expand your skill-set to include automated processes such as using Sass, Grunt, Bourbon and Bower. Yes, these were all odd words to me as well at the beginning, but it’s changed the way I work on websites so much for the better. This course is taught by Carrie Dils and Mika Epstein and has three in-depth video webinars you can watch as often as you need to. The course uses the Developer’s Edition of Utility Pro, and offers a nice discount for that purchase if you elect to grab your copy before watching. That said, you can use any Sass theme that the has grunt as part of it to follow along.
An input form (like a contact form) are one of the things you can guarantee almost every website will have. Given that statement, there is plenty of room in the forms space for WordPress. The big guy for a long time has been Gravity Forms and they are still a solid choice, and my preferred choice. While it is what’s referred to as a commercial or premium plugin (no free version) it has everything you need in one package. This works for me. I know with my discounted renewal each year for my developer’s license, I will have access to all of the add-ons any time now and in the future. The downside to an all-premium plugin is what happens when I use it on a client’s site? With my Gravity Forms Developer’s License (unlimited sites) this is not a problem, but it does create a license “attachment”. I have no issue with this if the forms I created for the site require the additional/advanced services in the premium plugin. If, however, we only need the basic functionality of a contact form, I prefer to use a free forms plugin.
Ask five web professionals what web hosting they recommend and you’re almost guaranteed to get five different answers, along with a heated discussion to follow. This is just part of the business, and I’m not sure why exactly. I’m not a web hosting expert so I recommend these strictly from personal experience either on my own sites or those of a client.
I appreciate the philosophy to do one thing really well instead of many things just ok. This is what the folks at Hover have embraced. They are a domain registrar and that is all they do, but they do it well. I like having my domains separate from my hosting. Why? Because if your host is having a problem, you can easily point a site to another location, i.e. not a good idea to have all of your eggs in one tech basket. But probably the main reason I use them is for their UI. I know, you’re thinking “you’re registering domains, and changed DNS records, who cares about UI?” And I thought that too which is why Hover wasn’t my first choice. I gave Namecheap.com a go from another WordPress agency’s recommendation, but the interface was so bad and clunky I moved everything over to Hover, despite Namecheap’s lower pricing. To be fair, Namecheap.com has since done a full site redesign, but I’m staying with Hover for the foreseeable future.
I personally do not have a website hosted on Flywheel but I know several folks that do. First, they are only WordPress and I really like that. Second, their UI is really amazing and they have a totally different workflow than your average hosting company. They are geared toward designers — you do not have to be technical in any way regarding setting up hosting. And, they have collaboration in mind from the start — you can get started immediately without a credit card. Just sign up for your own account, start a new site and select the option that the site will be transferred to the client later for payment. Easy peasy – your client can easily take ownership when it’s time to go live, and you remain as a user in case you need to log in at a later date/time. P.S. – they also do free migrations and have kick-butt support at the ready.
WP Engine is one of the major players in the WordPress hosting space, and rightfully so. They host and manage some mega-busy websites like professional sports teams for one (Dallas Mavericks), but they are still able to give personal, customer service to all. I am using WP Engine for this website. I decided to jump onboard when they had their end-of-year 30% off specials. I was ready after working with them on a client project. Like Flywheel, you can add users to your account to give them access. Also, you can spin up a new site at no charge, and transfer the billing to the client when it’s ready to go live. The deal with WP Engine is they are more geared to the developer, offering Git push access and error logs, as well as other techie utilities. Bottom line is they might be a little more than the discount hosting companies but you get a lot of bang for those additional bucks. Note: I’ve had to contact WP Engine support via chat many times (issues were all user-create, as in moi) and they’ve been fantastic! Even helping me beyond the scope of hosting questions.
All-In-One Website + Hosting Services
The all-in-one website + hosting has been gaining popularity of late. Of course, the originators of this would be wordpress.com where you can still sign up, select a theme and have it all for free to get started. Given I operate in the world of the Genesis Framework and Genesis child themes, I’ll be focusing on all-in-ones that do the same. The first of these is called Evermore, great for small businesses and non-profit sites. Evermore is a great fit if you want to work in your website’s content (adding pages, blog posts and images) and not go beyond that. You never have to worry about hosting, and URLS, IP addresses or error messages — they take care of everything. You select a plan that includes a one-time setup fee (range $500 to $3500), then a simple monthly fee (range $50 to $75). This fee would be comparable to hosting fees, but with so much more — your site will always be updated to the latest version of WordPress, Genesis and the plugins you are using. And speaking of plugins, while you cannot install your own, they offer a list of 100+ vetted, and sometimes premium, including e-commerce plugins that are guaranteed to work with your theme. You will truly have peace of mind from a few of the brightest (and friendliest!) folks in the business running the show. If you decide to sign up, please tell ’em Ginger sent ya!