WordPress powers over 30% of the internet and there are some really awesome minds behind this Content Management System (CMS). These geniuses are constantly making WordPress better and one of the ways they do that is to create new themes and plugins. Themes and plugins are one of the main ways in which we customize WordPress so the more there are the better! There are also hundreds of different choices when it comes to hosting providers. With so many options, what and who do you choose!? Listen up – Here are my top picks for WordPress themes, plugins AND hosting providers.
Top Picks For Themes
There are so many hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes out there so finding the perfect one can be a challenge. You need to choose a theme that’s going to provide a solid base on which to build your site. When it comes to themes, I swear by the Genesis Framework and the StudioPress Themes for these reasons:
They’re Mobile Responsive
The kind people of StudioPress ensure that all their themes look great across pretty much every single device there is. From smaller mobile devices and tablets to the larger 24” desktop screens. This means that, as a developer, you’ll be spending less time agonising over break points and more time doing the really important stuff, like running your business.
There Are Some Great, Exclusive Plugins
Last time I checked, StudioPress had developed 15 of their own plugins specifically for the Genesis Framework and its child themes. From helping you create gorgeous looking book libraries to managing URL’s, they have developed each plugin with a clear, well thought out and useful function. My personal favorite it the Genesis testimonial slider plugin which allows me to create beautiful looking testimonial section on my clients sites in minutes.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”The kind people of @studiopress ensure that all their themes look great across all devices. That means you’ll be spending less time agonising over break points and more time doing the really important stuff, like running your business. ” quote=”The kind people of @studiopress ensure that all their themes look great across all devices. That means you’ll be spending less time agonising over break points and more time doing the really important stuff, like running your business. ” theme=”style6″]
They’re Developer Friendly
While the Genesis child themes are down right awesome straight out of the box, they’re also developer friendly. If you have little to no interest in code, but want a stunning website, Genesis will work for you. If you’re a big ol’ geek and love nothing more than getting functions deep into PHP files, then Genesis is also for you. StudioPress have really hit the nail on the head in that sense.
You Can Completely Customize Them
With Genesis and StudioPress, I can code to my heart’s content. If I want to add a new widget area to a child theme, I can do that. If I want to take the footer widgets off of the front page I can do that too. Add a function to change the footer of the theme or a function to enqueue my choice of Google fonts, I can do that.
StudioPress knows that a lot of time and effort has been put into your site – you want to rank well, get noticed and reach your clients. So what have they done to help you? Firstly, the code in the Genesis child themes is clean and lightweight which takes care of the basics for SEO. Secondly, they brought in security expert Mark Jaquith to make sure that they’re using the best security possible.
If you have little to no interest in code, but want a stunning website, Genesis will work for you. If you’re a big ol’ geek and love nothing more than getting functions deep into PHP files, then Genesis is also for you.
The Possibilities Are Endless
Do you want a theme for a blog? How about an online store? Or maybe you’re building a site for a real estate business? Whatever you’re needs, StudioPress has made a Genesis child theme to accommodate you.
Their forums have a wealth of knowledge. If for any reason you can’t find what you’re looking for in the forums, there are Facebook groups full of fellow Genesis users. There is also a hefty FAQ section for you to browse. Most of the themes created by StudioPress themselves come with documentation that covers everything from how to set up the Genesis Framework and the child theme on your WordPress website, to integrating WooCommerce with the theme. They have even provided some cheeky code snippets to help you with tasks such as customizing the footer credits and modifying the ‘read more’ link on your excerpts.
My top picks for themes are the Genesis FrameWork & the StudioPress themes
Top Picks For Plugins
Plugins are a really good way to personalize and customize your site. With so many plugins out there that can do virtually anything you want, which ones do you choose? Whenever I’m creating a site, I always install these 4 plugins:
- Ninja Forms
- Google Analytics
All of these plugins are free and awesome for any site. They take care of a sites basic needs like SEO and contact forms as well as the all important security and backups.
This is the most powerful, flexible and easy to use form builder for WordPress, hands down! With 11 million downloads, it must be good! There’s an abundance of settings so you can fine tune every part of your form: from general settings down to individual fields, submit actions and emails. Better yet, it comes built with developers in mind with hundreds of functions, action hooks, and filters that developers can use to create their own custom functionality. By now you should know what I’m a big fan of good customer support and Ninja Forms themselves say
We take a very intentional approach to every support request we receive.
Yoast is the number 1 and most complete Search Engine Optimization plugin for WordPress. Yoast lets you pick a focus keywords. This is the word you’d like your post or page to rank for in the search results. Yoast then run a check on your content to see whether you’re using the keywords often enough – but not too often – and in the right spots.
Thanks to the snippet editor, you can see through the eyes of the Google user and preview your sites link in Google.
Online readers don’t read – they scan. Just like you are probably doing right now. Yoast will tell you exactly how to improve your articles based on scientific research on readability, such as the Flesch Reading Ease score. Yoast also says “Our wonderful and knowledgeable support team loves to personally help you with every question you ask through email”. Unfortunately support is only available on the premium version of Yoast.
With over 75 Million WordPress installs, WordFence is the most downloaded WordPress security plugin. It has a web application firewall which stops your site from being hacked, a real time threat defence feed that is constantly being updated and it blocks brute force attacks. This is by far the most comprehensive WordPress security solution.
With WordPress being as vulnerable as it is, you not only need to have your security in place, you also need to be prepared for the word case scenario. If your site does become compromised and go down, you need to have backups of your site so you can restore to the most recent version before your site crashed. Enter UpdraftPlus. If you don’t choose a fully managed hosting solution that takes care of backups for you, then UpdraftPlus is the next best thing. You can schedule backups to be taken daily which can be stored in the 1 gigabyte of free storage included with Updrafts or you can store you backups somewhere else, like in your Google Drive.
There are so many other plugins out there that aren’t essential, but still down right awesome to have on your site. My all time favourite WordPress plugin that I don’t technically need is Beaver Builder. While it’s not the be all and end all, it’s super powerful and I would definitely struggle at times if I didn’t have it.
This is a premium plugin that can be purchased for just $99 for the first year and then $60 every year after. The Beaver Builder plugin is a page builder. It allows you to edit the content area of your web pages by creating intricate layouts with columns, rows and amazing, functional modules. When Beaver Builder is activated on a page, it installs a front-end designer (Page Builder) which allows you to create any layout you could imagine and insert modules to suit your needs. From text editors to counters, all you have to do is drag and drop them into the columns and rows you’ve created.
I have numerous clients come to me that INSIST on having the Beaver Builder plugin installed on their site.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”@BeaverBuilder allows you so much control over the design and layout of your site, without knowing any code! This is why so many people, myself included, love @BeaverBuilder!” quote=”@BeaverBuilder allows you so much control over the design and layout of your site, without knowing any code! This is why so many people, myself included, love @BeaverBuilder!” theme=”style6″]
My top picks for WordPress plugins are Ninja Forms, Yoast SEO, WordFence, UpdratPlus and Beaver Builder
Top Picks For Hosting
Choosing who hosts your website is an important decision to make. But with so many hosts out there, all telling you that they’re the best, who do you choose? Don’t believe the adverts, do your research and figure out who is offering exactly why you want from a host. Be sure to put your site with the best hosting provider. You livelihood and sanity could depend on it! Here’s a list of the most important things to consider when looking for a hosting provider:
- Backups & restore
- Excellent tech support
- Speed & uptime
- Storage, space & bandwidth
- Specific WordPress support
Having spent some time working in cybersecurity this is something that I preach all the time. You’ve spent so much time on your website and your livelihood depends on it so why settle for sub-par security? It just doesn’t make sense to leave yourself vulnerable! Here’s a example of the consequences of poor security.
A client came to me asking for a complete re-design and re-build because their original website was hacked and the hosting provider didn’t act quick enough to deal with the threat (because they didn’t have the right systems in place to regularly check for malicious files). Low and behold, the host ended up deleting the ENTIRE cPanel because it was so infected. Had the client and/or host known about the attack in the early stages, it could have been dealt with and cleaned up; instead, it was missed and all the time and money that went into designing/building the site is gone forever. PS – the host was Bluehost
The moral of the story is – choose a host who takes security seriously. Don’t think “It’ll never happen to me” because it can happen to absolutely anyone. Unfortunately, I could share with you so many examples of the consequences of bad hosting security, just like the one above. Getting your security in place from the start is easier said than done, but here is how you can update your WordPress website in 8 easy steps, including security.
Getting hacked sucks. Period. It could bring your site down temporarily or it could bring the whole thing off line permanently
Backups & Restore
If your site does ever get hacked, you want to be able to rest assured that your website’s host has full backup and restore capabilities so you can get back online with minimal disruption. Backing up your site without this option through your host is possible but it’s not as simple a process compared to a site that’s with a fully managed host.
Excellent Tech Support
Things go wrong with websites, especially if you’re using WordPress. Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress and use it on all my own sites and all my client sites. But it isn’t Fort Knox. When something does go wrong, you need to know that help is on hand 24/7. Forums and blog posts can be helpful, but there’s nothing like talking to a real life person who’s an expert in web hosting and WordPress. Support teams are not created equal and I’ve dealt with some really shoddy customer support services in the past. Take the time to do some research, read reviews, and carefully compare customer support options before establishing your new hosting account.
Things go wrong with websites, especially if you’re using WordPress. Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress and use it on all my own sites and all my client sites. But it isn’t Fort Knox.
Speed & Uptime
Site speed and uptime also play a huge role when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). If your website isn’t fast enough or goes down occasionally, there’s a good chance your potential clients will go elsewhere. If you want to get in front of customers first not only through load times, but also on search engine results pages (SERPs) then you need to be sure that site is functioning at the highest level possible.
Storage, Space & Bandwidth
Storage space refers to the amount of space your host gives you to store files. Kind of like a file cabinet, you have a certain amount of space where you can keep image files, HTML files, emails, etc. You want to be sure your hosting account has the appropriate allowable space not only for your current website but also that you have enough room for future scalability.
Bandwidth is the amount of traffic your site can handle in terms of the data that is transferred between your site, visitors, and the internet. If you’re reaching for the stars for your new business and want to make sure that your host will support your growth and all kinds of crazy awesome website traffic, be sure that they offer the bandwidth you need to be successful.
Specific WordPress Support
A lot of web hosting providers offer WordPress specific support, so you probably won’t go wrong, but it’s an important factor to consider nonetheless. Seeing as you’ve chosen to create your site using WordPress, it makes sense to opt for a hosting provider who specializes in WordPress. Personally, I’ve opted for a fully managed hosting provider, specifically for WordPress and here’s why:
- Upgrades, security, migrations, everything is taken care of for you
- Your website is on a dedicated VPS (virtual private server) so you don’t have to share resources with other sites that could be dealing with malware, performance issues
- Fully managed WordPress servers are fine tuned for speed
- Fully managed servers are up to date on all of the latest security issues and reduce the chances that your website will be compromised. If for some reason you do come across an issue, it’s fixed for free!
- No more dealing with a robot. When you reach out for help, a real-live human being is there to answer the phone!
[click_to_tweet tweet=”With @HeyFlyWheel there’s no more dealing with robots. When you reach out for help, a real-live human being is there to answer the phone!” quote=”With @HeyFlyWheel there’s no more dealing with robots. When you reach out for help, a real-live human being is there to answer the phone!” theme=”style6″]
While having staging capabilities isn’t the be-all-end-all to choosing a web hosting provider, it’s still an important perk to have. Staging capabilities enable you to take a clone copy of your live site and work on it offline. You can update plugins, change themes, deal with malicious files or try re-designing a page…all while your live site continues to work with no interruption.
SiteGround is an amazing hosting option for those just starting out. You can get hosting with them for just a few bucks a month. They also have higher tier plans with all the bells and whistles. Their customer support is absolutely incredible. Ask anyone. They take your problems seriously and are 100% dedicated to resolving them. They have WordPress specific features like a one-click installer and they’ll even migrate your WordPress site over for free! They offer a SuperCacher on the higher tier plans and a staging option for the real geeks out there. These guys really do deliver some top notch WordPress web hosting!
FlyWheel is bit more pricey than SiteGround but in my opinion, it’s 100% worth every penny. They are a fully managed WordPress hosting solution. FlyWheel is exclusively for hosting WordPress sites, so they know a thing or two about the CMS. Their interface is so easy to use and beautiful. They will migrate your sites for free, every time, and real people are on hand 24/7 to give you support. With FlyWheel you’ll never have any overage charges to worry about and you can sleep easy knowing that your sites are backed up nightly. There’s also a one-click staging option so you can update and edit your site without any downtime. FlyWheel really has thought of everything you could possibly want from a host.
Just remember – you get what you pay for. Don’t go cheap and then realize they’ll charge you for any added feature down the line (i.e. free SSL certificate, help updating PHP). By choosing the right host in the beginning, you’re future proofing yourself (and your website and your sanity), so there won’t be any issues with scaling.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Be sure to put your site with the best host. You livelihood and sanity could depend on it! I recommend @HeyFlyWheel and @SiteGround” quote=”Be sure to put your site with the best host. You livelihood and sanity could depend on it! I recommend @HeyFlyWheel and @SiteGround” theme=”style6″]
My top picks for web hosting are SiteGround & FlyWheel
My WordPress Theme, Plugin & Hosting Top Picks
One of the great things about WordPress is the amount of choice it gives you. Choice allows you freedom. By using WordPress to build your site, you have the ability to make your site whatever you want it to be. With the endless number of plugins and themes, the sky’s the limit! BUT the amount there is to choose from can be so overwhelming for beginners and experienced coders. So he’s a quick recap of my WordPress top picks to help provide you with some clarity and guidance.
Top picks for WordPress Themes
- The Genesis Framework & StudioPress Child Themes
Top picks for WordPress Plugins
- Ninja Forms
- Yoast SEO
- Beaver Builder
Top picks for WordPress Hosting
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