The internet can be super confusing, so here is my list of the products, tools, and resources that I’ve found to be the best after years of designing websites for medium and small businesses.
I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t have your URL registered with the same company that provides you with web hosting. I’ve known too many companies hold people’s URLs for ransom when they try to switch to a different hosting provider but keep the same URL. Save yourself the headache.
- Name.com – They have an easy search features for find new URLs and great customer support. I’ve never run into an issue using their services.
I personally only use WordPress as my CMS for all of my websites. It really scales well and gives you more flexibility than a service like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace. Hosts are listed in order of least technical knowledge to the most.
- WordPress.com – Completely stumped by the supposed “famous five minute install“? Want to move your site off of Squarespace/Wix/Weebly/Blogspot? This is the service for you. Owned by Automattic, WordPress.com is separate from the free open-sourced WordPress.org (confused yet?) but they take care of the headache of installing and updating WordPress. They also take care of the security for you. This service comes with some limitations however since you have to use their themes (some free and some paid) and you have to have their business plan to be able to install plugins from a limited list. Blogs listed as __yourname___.wordpress.com are free, but they make money off ads placed on your site. You definitely need to upgrade your plan if you’re using it for business. (Disclaimer: I’ve done some freelance work for Automattic, but that doesn’t change my opinion of them. I wouldn’t list them if I didn’t think that they were good.)
- Siteground – This is my current favorite hosting provider for small businesses. It’s great if you want to have access to your cPanel but don’t consider yourself a SysAdmin. They have excellent live customer service and if you are really stumped they can normally just do whatever complicated technical thing for you. Their plans are super good and I’ve not run into any security problems with them. Similar to HostGator, BlueHost, etc, Siteground doesn’t do anything beyond give you access to your cPanel. You are responsible for your own installations (although they have quick install options for you), software updates, plugins, personal website security, etc. They give you free SSL certificates with your plan, so that’s a major plus.
- Amazon Web Service “AWS” – These are the same servers that run the famous Amazon.com, so if you really need power, this is the option for you. You really need a SysAdmin to handle this advanced service for you, however. If you are at this stage of the game, you should probably have a dedicated web design company maintaining this for you because it requires advanced knowledge of systems to manage well.
WORDPRESS PLUGINS AND EXTRAS
- Beaver Builder – A great drag and drop solution for those who don’t want to spend all of their time coding or came from a Squarespace-type background. It basically turns your WordPress website into a drag and drop system similar to Squarespace.
- What WordPress theme is that? – Interested to know what WP themes or plugins a site is using? Just type the URL here and it will list most of the things for you. Super helpful.
- Easy Digital Downloads – If you’re selling digital products, this is the best way to go.
- WooCommerce – My favorite option for selling physical goods. Setup take much longer than say Shopify, but it really gives you a ton more flexibility and the expensive 3rd party plugins let you customize and enhance your shop to sell more products and have more control over the buying and up-selling process.
WORDPRESS TUTORIALS AND EDUCATION
If you don’t come from a coding background, WordPress is super confusing to grasp. Fortunately, the WP community was all in the same boat at some point and there are lots of great friendly resources out there.
- WordCamps – The WordPress Foundation partners with volunteers across the globe to put on WordPress conferences that are a max of $20 a day. Having been a speaker and organizer for several years at WordCamp San Diego, I can tell you that everyone is super friendly and there to help you learn as much as possible. It’s also a great place to meet other business owners and pick WordPress gurus’ brains for free.
- WordPress.tv – Watch all WordCamp talks online for free. It’s not quite the same as being there, but it’s a great resource and almost every topic possible is covered.
- WP Beginner – Tutorials for complete newbies.
- WordPress.org Forums – If you have a question, this is the place for you. Thousands of volunteers put hours in answering people’s questions. Most likely, someone has already had the same problem as you and the answer is already here.