Tools for Self-Employed WordPress Website Designers in 2021
This is the big giant list of tools for non-developer WordPress website designers. If you are a designer wanting to venture out on your own to the big giant world of web design, you no longer have to hire a developer to build functioning and interesting websites for your clients. We’re heading into 2021 and it’s never been easier to be your own autonomous design boss.
2020 was supposed to be the year of the entrepreneur. But the unexpected happened and businesses had to adjust and in many sad cases close completely. One exception to this is the web design industry. With the new challenges and more people moving their business online, website design is a service that has been in more demand. Although web design is a highly saturated industry, it’s full of mediocre designers or designers with poor customer service. There is room for you and your skills – no coding required. You can make a living doing what you love and helping other business owners rebuild their livelihood with online solutions.
These are products I use/trust/recommend and would not share with you otherwise. A handful of these links are affiliate links where I receive a small commission should you choose to purchase. In turn, I try to get you the best deals. Win-win. *Deals are subject to change.
Over the years, I’ve worked with close to a dozen different types of hosting providers for WordPress. By far, my favorite is WPEngine. Its support chat is great, the user interface for the admin area is simple to use, and it’s fast. I moved my business website to WPEngine and it immediately increased my SiteSpeed score by 10%. It has built-in services such as daily backups, a staging area, and a super-easy migration tool to transfer a site from another hosting platform. With this link, you can get 3 months free (save $90 for the year).*
Hostinger is mega-cheap hosting for WordPress. I mean my goodness. Depending on the deal, the prices can start as low as $0.99 a month.* Hostinger will soon offer a staging area but they have many similar services to WPEngine such as daily backups and free SSL certificates. What’s the catch? It’s been reported they have slower than average response times in testing. However, if you (or your client) are just starting out and need something basic to help you build your ladder, this will get the job done.
Domain Names and Registration
You can find other domain name registrars that charge less but this is what I use. Full disclosure, this is a GoDaddy Reseller account I created years ago but I no longer recommend their Managed WordPress hosting product. I do find that their DNS interface is easy to use and they have an extensive how-to library to help me figure out technical bits when managing DNS files/zones. And so, I still use it for registering a new customer’s domain name and occasionally for CPanel hosted sites. If you are going to have your clients register their own domains (which in my opinion you should) you’ll want to consider getting your own domain name registrar reseller account.
When I first started to learn WordPress it was with the Genesis theme. If you wanted to venture outside the normal template you had to work with PHP hooks. Let me tell you, I got really good at copying and pasting PHP. But I was beholden to developers that were kind enough to share their code. As much as I wish I could, I have not been able to graduate to a higher level of editing PHP. It is not my zone of genius. With Astra, you don’t have to touch the functions.php file. You can add what you want where you want what with drop down menu options and visual builders. It’s a beautiful thing for non-developer designers. If you want to think outside the template or are a control freak like me, then spring for the Pro. Here’s a comparison list of Free vs Pro features.
The new Gutenberg WordPress editor does a lot and it is continuously being improved. Even so, if you want more control and features, you would benefit from using a page builder. Elementor was a game-changer for my business. I was able to easily do so much more in shorter amounts of time. Elementor is a fantastic WYSIWYG page editor and page styler with functional widgets. The widgets or “elements” include rolling number counters, accordions, and image carousels. Elementor (especially Pro) will take the place of many other plugins and will let you customize every aspect of your theme. The pro extends to 80 elements such as flip boxes and countdown timers. I’ve used many other builders including Beaver Builder, Divi, Site Origin, and WPBakery. Elementor far exceeds all of these IMHO. If you are really doing this web design thing full time I recommend investing in the pro version to really WOW your clients. See the comparison list of Pro vs Free here.
Ultimate Addons for Elementor is a great compliment to Elementor. This plugin will add an additional 40 widgets to the Elementor library. It includes elements like price lists, before and after sliders, image hotspots, and timelines.
Yoast is an easy-to-use plugin that will help you check your keyword balance and optimize your content. They are constantly improving and now have options to include Schema markup for About pages, FAQ pages, etc. For simple brochure-like websites, you will do just fine with the free version. If you or your client plan on blogging regularly then I recommend using the pro version.
Schema markup is the detailed code that tells search engines what type of page it is visiting and will present rich snippets in the search results. You don’t have to know how to code JSON in order to implement it. This plugin does it for you and has a lot of options for customization.