Tools, Apps and Plugins: The Making Of A Website
It’s simply astonishing just how many tools, apps, plugins and extensions a typical online business is likely to rely on in the background, or specifically use on any given day. I’m guessing that most people reading this will be all too aware of this. We’re always open to knowing how we might upgrade on some of what we use though, and I’m sure we’re far from alone in this.
Of course there is that major caveat. Time! How many 30-day free trials have you started, only to maintain the good intentions to do something about it when time permits? Without help, it can be so much easier to not upgrade!
By all means, please do tell everyone what you use – especially if you’re convinced it would be an upgrade for us or others.
Here are the tools, etc. that I easily thought of. I have no doubt that I’ve missed some
Full Disclosure: Some of the following are affiliate links. Each of those has been marked. Also, we use and stand by each of the affiliate links we have included.
- Domain broker: Go Daddy. (affiliate link) Everything has a beginning. While it’s fine for hobby bloggers to have a “.wordpress” or “.blogspot” address, if you’re setting up a business, you’ll not be taken seriously if you don’t own a domain! There are so many domain brokers, but these guys have far and away the best customer service.
- Platform: WordPress.org. Is there a better platform to build a site on? And can you believe it’s only been around since 2003? How this platform has changed! It has evolved from a blogging only platform to the platform of choice for most sites you visit.
- Hosting: WP Engine. (affiliate link) In our almost 3 years since launching, this is the 3rd hosting company. The first two came highly recommended. One was certainly highly respected. We’ll not name and shame the first two, but can tell you what we left behind:
- Being the subject of hacking attempts and cyber-attacks
- Questionable to poor customer service
- Customer service confined to very limited hours
- Frequent server maintenance leading to the site being down for hours at a time, and the sleepless nights that go with that.
We have had no such problems with WP Engine. I’m sure you can get cheaper hosting. But these guys are just SO good, we can’t recommend them highly enough. And that glowing report has nothing to do with us enrolling in their affiliate program. They’re the gold standard, plain and simple!
- Social Share counts: Social Warfare. (affiliate link) After Twitter stopped supplying their share counts, people had to choose between displaying counts for the other networks, or removing the numbers altogether. Social Warfare was one of the first tools to integrate an API that includes Twitter counts. Check out the glowing testimonials below! We concur, and can add that it is very developer friendly.
- Landing page builder: Wishpond. (affiliate link) This came highly recommended by Sam Hurley. We’d had only good experiences with Leadpages, but this is an upgrade, complete with the additional cost.
There are plenty of free landing page builders, but the general rule seems to be that you must pay to remove their branding. On the other end of the spectrum is Unbounce, which is a little more expensive than Wishpond. Check out their site if you’re looking to redesign your own. Whether you subscribe to their product or just get some design ideas, it will be time well spent.
6. Email Marketing Tool: Aweber. (affiliate link) Maybe leading doesn’t mean best. Maybe it does. But we’re certainly happy with it!
7. Image optimizer: WP Smush. Image optimizers are important! Not only can an un-optimized image play havoc with your formatting, it can and will slow down your page load times. This is probably an area that we could make improvements in, as while Smush is very easy to use, other optimizers reduce images further. This article might give you some good hints. And we’ll be happy for some good old-fashioned word-of-mouth in the comments, if anyone has a strong recommendation.
While we use gmail for Curatti, we are also using a free account through Zoho for an upcoming project. Honestly, this is a swings and roundabouts thing. Gmail offers more, but perhaps the $5 per address per month is an expense that it is worth cutting out.
(To find out more about Zoho, you may consider reading this in-depth article from Time Doctor)
Call me fussy, but I don’t like any of the ones I’ve seen. From Active Collab, which we are using now, to Evernote, which we used when setting up Curatti, to the very popular Trello, I find them to be unwieldy. Certainly not what I would design if I had the time, budget, network and infrastructure to create and market a tool.
Might there be something that incorporates the design and prototyping aspects of InVision, which we also use?
All ears on this one! Please tell us what you use and why you like it!
Seriously, how can any one or two or five people do all of this stuff? Talking of collaboration tools, some of these things require a level of expertise that few people who are good at pulling together a business, can also handle to the point of really getting the most out of them.
Obviously, everyone uses Google Analytics to the best of their ability.
Before there was GA, however, there was Clicky (affiliate link). And somehow, they’ve retained almost a million accounts. They have various options, from free (1 site that has up to 3,000 views per day) or paid options ($80 a year and up) for more sites with greater traffic. These also come with premium options including heatmaps.
I confess to finding the basics of Clicky more intuitive than GA, and certainly, it integrates nicely into our back end.
Another option for heatmaps that we’ve used and appreciated, is Hotjar. Again, the free and paid options depend on your traffic and needs – up to 2,000 visitors a day and 3 heatmaps.
I’m sure Canva is better, or at least considerably more powerful than Stencil (affiliate link) (formerly Share As Image). But I’m not very artistic, and haven’t figured out how to take advantage of its power. I’ve started a few projects on there, including trying to create simple Infographics. I had to abandon each!
Stencil has free and paid options to add captions to single images. The free version includes their branding in your images. For someone who has issues creating visual graphics, this is intuitive and easy.
Another tool you might look into, is Visme. It appears to be competition for Canva, rather than Stencil, and has a highly impressive client list. I haven’t yet tried it. Perhaps the next time I feel brave enough to make another attempt at creating a less simple image, I’ll give it a shot.
The great conundrum – we love survey results but hate taking surveys. Certainly though, if you can avoid some of the more common mistakes and get your survey in front of enough people, it could provide great benefit. Alternately, this is one of the areas you can easily avoid getting into!
With that said, we’ve used two different survey tools:
Survey Funnel is a powerful WordPress plugin that allows you to create responsive surveys. You can actually have multiple possible paths based upon responses. Sounds great, right? Don’t get too carried away though! You can get stuck in the design phase approximately forever, give or take an eon. If you have it in you to start with a simple plan and execute it, I’d recommend this tool.
Survey Monkey is less complex and far more widely used, and offers (potentially expensive) paid audience options. We used it (not the paid audience!) for our recent surveys.
- Here’s the 10-minute version, complete with several text responses and a potential prize
- Here’s the 2 to 3 minute version
Triberr has been good to us since our inception. Not sure if we started doing something wrong, but rather than our hope of building up our tribes and shares, our numbers dropped. Or maybe the downturn is due to these guys, who came from nowhere to become the surely the most important content hub
Medium. The new kid on the block such a short while ago, but by now, you almost have to be here. As with Triberr, you can have your articles post directly here when you publish them. Unlike Triberr, it seems as if it picks up your featured image. So if you lead off with an image, it appears twice!
If I could invent some time for myself, I’d try to figure that out, along with how to get the benefits we hear so much about. Certainly, you can’t just expect to post articles here and miraculously pick up 100 extra shares. Hope, by all means! Good luck with that!
LinkedIn Pulse. Last but far from least. The difference between this and all other hubs is clear. Presuming you already have a network on LinkedIn, and are in some Groups, you have a ready-made audience of connections…. and their connections. Just scroll a short way into your own profile and click on that “Write a new post” button.
We love Bundlepost almost as much as we love it’s founder and our friend, Robert Caruso. There is so much we could do with this but don’t. What we do, is bring all of our rss feeds into one place, and schedule up to 100 posts at a time in any one of several schedules. We auto-hashtag each, based upon our preferences. And then we export it to Hootsuite.
Hootsuite. I know people swear by and love Buffer. We’d love to find out more about it and Post Planner. Is it possible that either or both of these is better than Hootsuite? Absolutely! And some people have even figured out the best aspects of two of the 3, and use them in tandem! But I refer you back to that lack of time thingy that stops us from looking into so many great and worthy tools.
Grammar checker: Grammarly. Certainly there are others, but this has long been the most used tool of its type. I’m sure not one of them is perfect, but it is important to employ some kind of checking – particularly if you don’t have anyone to proofread your stuff for you! And even if you do, it might be a good idea.
I will caution you against one thing though. You can have this running in the background, checking everything you type. This is a very good example of something that you can do but absolutely shouldn’t! It slows down computers. It nitpicks whether you want correcting or not. The ultimate butt-insky! Just don’t! Use it when you want to, not when it decides.
Put your suggested content inobtrusively on every link you share. This is so valuable. But as with everything, there’s a little learning curve. You load the Chrome plugin first onto your computer, then into your scheduling tool. Great! Sort of. It actually doesn’t seem to work with the hootsuite bulk uploader. And it positively hates the short links provided by Triberr! We’re very new to this tool though, so I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it quickly.
Different Strokes for Different Folks (Everyday people)
It certainly doesn’t end with the above, but perhaps you can avoid these and a myriad of other needs for a while:
- An Invoicing tool
- Billing (beyond PayPal and Google Pay)
- A good (free?) PDF editor
- [what do you use that hasn’t been mentioned above?}
Ultimately, there are so many tools, apps, plugins and extensions, you could – probably will at times – drive yourself crazy trying to get to grips with them all. Remember this. Because someone else did something that you didn’t do, it doesn’t mean you have to follow suite. And because they made some different choices to you, it doesn’t make theirs right and yours wrong. Different strokes for different folks!
It’s a Wrap
Friends, Romans and Countrymen, you’ve lent us your ears. Now I beseech thee, please leave your comments.
- What tools do you use?
- What hints can you give?
- What entire groups of needs haven’t been addressed above?
And if you have more to say than should be left in a comment, but want to say it anyway, please click here and ask to write for us.
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