Below are various products and services that I use (or have used in the past) that I am happy to recommend to others. Each one has to meet my standards or I won’t recommend it. I’ve tried probably hundreds of products and services that I eventually rejected for one reason or another, so you won’t find those listed here. Many of the products I recommend are WordPress-related, but not all. I’ll add to and delete from this list occasionally as I see the need for changes. Of course, you can probably assume that any product link you find on my site may be an affiliate link. Just keep in mind that I won’t recommend a product just because it has an affiliate program, and you won’t pay anything extra for a product even if I do get a commission from the sale. In fact, sometimes, you’ll actually get a discount because of the special deals I can sometimes obtain as an affiliate of a product.
Must-Have WordPress Plugins
Site Management Tool
MainWP – If you manage multiple WordPress sites, you NEED MainWP. From one dashboard, you can manage every site’s plugins, themes, and core updates; install, activate, deactivate, and delete plugins and themes, manage users, content, and backups; run security checks; email client reports – and so much more. This plugin “saves my bacon” every day.
Front-End Page Builders
Page Builder Sandwich (PBS) – Just edit your pages right from the front end of the site. Drag and drop, front-end styling awesomeness!
Elementor – I also love the Elementor front-end page builder. The free version is amazing enough, but the Pro version, which among other things, lets you use Elementor anywhere (headers, footer, sidebars), rather than simply within content, is well worth considering. In fact, it’s kind of a game-changer, especially when combined with themes, such as GeneratePress, that have hooks for each of these areas. Save Elementor layout templates, and use them when and where you need them.
Both of these page builders make creating beautiful pages with drag-and-drop ease, right from the front end of your site. And neither of them leave a mess of shortcodes on your site, like so many page builders do. If people tell you to run from page builders, they mean run from those that lock you in with a tangled web of shortcodes (like Divi for example). These two page builders do not lock you in, and do not leave you with a huge mess of shortcodes if you decide to no longer use the plugins. It’s important to point this out, because with many page builders, if you stop using them, your content IS GONE. Not so with these. Your content stays put. The styling won’t look the same, but it’s all there. That’s critical!!
GeneratePress – Easily the most beautifully coded theme I’ve used. After using hundreds of themes over the years, many of them very buggy, I’ve learned that when the code is written well, then the theme works well! I have a huge crush on GeneratePress. I can create a unique and beautiful site for any niche, and I’ll have the confidence to know that it won’t be a buggy, steaming pile of ick.
The free version is suitable for many needs, but the Premium version adds some really great features. One of the most important is hooks, which lets you easily add content wherever you need it. For example, let’s say you decide you would like to show a special message above the header. Use GP’s Before Header hook, and it’s a breeze. There are lots of other hooks you can use just as easily, such as Before (or After) Content, Entry Title, Sidebar, Footer, etc. Other cool features are included such as 60+ color options, lots of typography options, section creation, and many other design control elements.
Did you notice where I mentioned using GeneratePress hooks in the Elementor Page Builder recommendation above? Elementor and GeneratePress Premium are a perfect match for one another. You’ll have an instantly awesome, professional WP website design kit with the two of these products in it. I strongly recommend this combo! So strongly, in fact, I even created an entire site devoted to this duo over at WPDesignDuo.com.
My Theme Shop – (That’s their business name – it’s not really MY theme shop). Ideal for complex sites, magazine-style needs, and even the free themes feel premium. Always look great, and I occasionally need something from their lineup of choices. You might too.
Useful WordPress Plugins
Cache – Speed Up Your Site
Cache Enabler – Want to speed up your site? Just install this free plugin and your site will immediately get faster.
WooCommerce – Easily the best, most popular ecommerce solution for WordPress. The free plugin will cover most needs, and special needs are covered by a myriad of optional 3rd-party addons.
Easy Digital Downloads – If you’re selling digital goods, instead of physical products, then EDD is definitely a great choice. Although Woocommerce can handle digital products, this isn’t its area of focus. Easy Digital Downloads, on the other hand, is designed from the ground up to handle digital download ecommerce. And like Woocommerce, the free plugin handles most situations, but there are addons for special needs.
Although I’d like to recommend one of the many popular drag and drop form builders, I’ve just had too many issues with each of them. So honestly, for now, I’m sticking with the free granddaddy of WP form plugins, Contact Form 7. It’s not as pretty to design with, but it doesn’t invisibly break with half of the updates, like some do. A good, free companion plugin is Contact Form Submissions which automatically stores all entries in the database, so if you miss an email, you can still find the entry in your wp-admin area.
Backups and Site Migration
WP Time Capsule – The only backup plugin that backs up INCREMENTALLY. That’s a significant time-saver, and prevents so many of the problems other backup plugins have when they crash because of too many files or large files. Amazing peace of mind as it automatically backs up before every update to your plugins or themes. Want to use staging first? No problem, that’s built in. Coming soon…the ability to actually TEST your restore points. Also coming soon? The ability to rollback an update. Sweet!
Duplicator Pro – Migrate a site to a new host in minutes. Great for backups too, but Duplicator Pro is well known for making site moves a breeze.
UpdraftPlus – Excellent for a number of reasons. First, it’s solid and reliable. Second, there’s a very large choice of remote storage options, in both the free and premium versions. I like the premium version because I can store each site’s backup in Dropbox subfolders. In addition, the premium version comes with ALL of the addons, including future ones. So worth it! And because I like my tools to work well with one another, this one works seamlessly with MainWP that I mentioned at the top of this page.
Tutorials / Education
Lynda.com – The leader in learning. Lynda.com has been around for a long time, and it provides tutorials that can be counted on for quality.
Easy WP Guide – My favorite WordPress documentation. I make sure every client gets this.
WPBeginner’s WordPress 101 video tutorials – Good video tutorials for WordPress beginners. I tell all my clients about this as well.
Design / Development Help
Envato Studio – Like Themeforest, Envato Studio is a part of the Envato network, this is a marketplace of web developers and designers hand-picked for you to choose from.
PicMonkey – My favorite online photo editing tool, to add filters, frames, text, and other cool effects.
ThemeMatch – This could go in either the Themes section or the Design section, but either way, if you need to create a WordPress theme that matches a current HTML site, ThemeMatch is your first stop. It will often make it super-simple to create a matching theme, so try it first before doing it the hard way.
Marketing and Conversion Help
Icegram – If you want the conversions of popups without the annoyance of popups, that are easy to manage, and your users won’t be upset by them, then you probably want Icegram. It’s free for much of what you’d want it for. You could get premium addons if you wanted to, but they absolutely aren’t necessary unless you want specific functionality. Really. Try it, and check out the demos. Very cool.
Domain Names and Hosting
Namecheap – I’ve been using Namecheap to purchase all my domain names for years. I got tired of all the crazy upsells that “other” registrars used, and I’ve been happy I moved to Namecheap ever since. Solid and dependable, without any of the annoyances. However, do NOT use Namecheap for hosting. In fact, you should never have one company have complete control over both your domain name and your hosting. But even if you purchase your domain name elsewhere, I still wouldn’t recommend Namecheap as a hosting provider. Stick to simply purchasing domain names from them, and use someone else for hosting.
Incendia Web Works (IWW) is a small but super-solid hosting company run by Budd Grant. Definitely a good choice for many.
Siteground – Siteground hits the sweet spot between shared hosting and VPS. It’s like shared hosting but with your sites being isolated from others. It’s not perfect, but I haven’t found a host yet that is.
Mediatemple – If you’re looking specifically for WordPress hosting that is a step up, and geared towards developers, this is for you. With site staging and GIT integration, SSD servers, and more, you’ll find the hosting home you’re looking for here.
My own hosting for clients – I have my own server for my sites and client sites. I like to keep it small and manageable, so I can give great support. For that reason, I won’t link to the signup here. If you would like sweet spot prices, but personal service, then get in touch and we’ll talk. I’ll only host sites that I think are a good fit, so the best way to find out is to contact me.