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In episode 89 of Resourceful Designer, I discussed checklists and your design business. As a bonus to that episode, I offered my WordPress Website Setup Checklist. That was five years ago, and things have changed. In that time, I've grown and expanded as a web designer. The tools I use to create websites have also grown and expanded. Here is an up-to-date list of the tools I regularly use to design and build WordPress websites. Don't build in WordPress? Don't worry. I share a few things that may help you regardless of the platform where you design websites.
Conceptualizing the website.
Before I get down to designing and building a website, I want to know what I'm building. These are the tools that help me in the conceptual stage.
Dynalist is a great outlining app that helps you get work done. I use Dynalist to outline the structure of every website I build. I like to know what pages a site will have and where they sit in the hierarchy. Dynalist helps me do this.
Coolors.co is a super fast colour palette generator. I use it to choose colours for a website before the build starts. It's also convenient for finding great colours to go along with a client's existing brand colours.
Setting up the website.
SiteGround I host all my and my client's websites at SiteGround. They're inexpensive, reliable, easy to work with and score well in web host comparisons. What more could a web designer ask for in a web host?
Siteground has a very convenient one-click WordPress install feature that gets me up and designing quickly. Their installation registers me as the site admin using my email address instead of the default “Admin,” usually generated by WordPress. If your web host doesn't have this feature, then I suggest the first thing you do upon installing WordPress is create a new Admin user and delete the default one named “Admin.”
During installations, Siteground installs two of its own plugins, SiteGround Optimizer and SiteGround Security. These are great plugins; however, I disable them until I finish building the site.
Assets and tools I use on just about every website.
Envato Elements is the first place I look for any stock images, icons or graphics I may need during a website build. Their low monthly subscription allows unlimited downloads, which comes in handy while experimenting.
Depositphotos is another excellent resource for stock images and vector graphics. They're inexpensive, and their quality matches higher price stock image sites.
Grammarly ensures my website copy is error-free and written most effectively. I've been using it for years and won't compose anything without running it through Grammarly.
Squoosh.app is a handy website that does one thing very well, it optimizes images. Every image I upload to a website passes through Squoosh first.
Screenflow is only available on Mac (sorry, windows users). It's a screen recorder that makes it very easy to create tutorial videos explaining to clients how to use their new website. Screenflow is also a powerful video editor which I use any time I need to do minor edits to a video before uploading it to a website.
Handbrake is a free video conversion tool. It allows you to change the format of a video which is very useful in reducing a video's file size.
Building the website.
Divi by Elegant Themes is the world's most popular WordPress page builder and is trusted by hundreds of thousands of website creators. Divi takes WordPress to a new level by allowing you to build a website visually. With Divi, there's practically nothing you cannot create.
The Divi Marketplace: is a one-stop shop for everything Divi, including layouts, child themes and extensions. If you need a website to do something special, chances are the solution can be found in the Divi Marketplace.
Divi Booster allows you to customize Divi without adding extra code. This plugin adds 100s of new configuration options to Divi.
Divi Express is a vast library of Divi layouts, sections, headers & footers, sub-pages and more that you can import into your Divi website. Using Divi Express has drastically reduced my website design time.
Divi Supreme Is an All-in-One Divi Plugin that adds over 50 new Modules and eight extensions to Divi. Divi Supreme eliminates the need to customize things with a ton of CSS, saving you time.
Divi Life also offers Layouts, Child Themes and Plugins. My favourite plugins from Divi Life are the Divi Overlays and Divi Bars plugins that I've used on several client websites.
Divi Engine also offers plugins and extensions for Divi. However, it's their one plugin Divi Machine that excites me. With Divi Machine, you can create dynamic content with Div and Advanced Custom Fields. Learning about Divi Machine has changed the way I imagine websites.
Plugins I use during the build.
Gravity Forms is the ultimate forms plugin as far as I'm concerned. Even though Divi has forms built in, the ease and versatility of Gravity Forms make it a must-install on every website I build.
PrettyLinks makes it easy to create prettier and easily sharable URL links for your pages directly from within WordPress.
Yoast and Rank Math are the two SEO Plugins I'm most familiar with. Yoast has been an industry leader in website SEO for years, but I've recently seen great results with Rank Math. Both are highly recommended, so research to see which one is best for you.
Once the website is built.
These are the plugins I install once I've completed a website build. These add functionality to protect and make the site more efficient.
iThemes Security Pro:
iThemes Security Pro is arguably the best WordPress Security Plugin available. I don't take chances with website security, and that's why I rely on the best.
iThemes BackupBuddy makes it easy to create and store backups of a WordPress website. Over 1 million WordPress sites trust BackupBuddy, and so do I.
iThemes Sync: I install this plugin on every website. iThemes Sync allows you to update and manage multiple websites from one location, making it very easy to perform weekly maintenance.
SiteGround Optimizer and SiteGround Security: I deactivate these two plugins while building websites and reactivate them once the site is complete. SiteGround has created two great plugins that I've come to rely on.
Google Analytics for WordPress by Monster Insights: This plugin makes it very easy to monitor your website traffic.
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I want to help you.
Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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