All the tools, products and services I use to build websites
Welcome to my resource page. Here I summarise all the different tools and products I use to build websites. I’ve included information about platforms, hosts, WordPress themes and a few extra things that can come in handy. I only list things that I have personally used and the aim is to update the list over time.
Complete disclosure and how you can support this project
Websites for Architects generates income by using affiliate links. So If you click through to one of these products and make a purchase within 24 hours then we get a couple dollars from that company. You don’t pay anything extra for this, and because almost every product online has it’s own affiliate program it doesn’t bias my recommendations. So if you find the information on Websites for Architects useful please try and use our links. It’s a simple way of supporting the project.
WordPress is what I use to build all of my websites. It’s free, open source and by far the most used web platform in the world. I’ve tried a stack of different alternatives like Drupal, Joomla, Flash and Blogger, but for me WordPress is a clear winner. It has a lot going for it like usability, a stack of plugins, the most beautiful themes, and functionality. But more than anything it’s a safe bet. Developers who create tools and services for WordPress have a much larger market place than creating the same tool for an alternative platform. My thinking here is that this is a big financial incentive and while WordPress has this popularity advantage it will get better products, services and upgrades. WordPress can be downlaoded from wordpress.org, but this is almost always unnecessary because your host will have WordPress installed, or tools to install it easily. I should also mention that I’m talking about a self hosted WordPress install. You can go to WordPress.com and get a free blogging account, but that is not as powerful as a self hosted install.
WPengine is currently my number one choice for a web host for a professional site. They are part of a new generation of hosts that specialise in WordPress. You can think of them a bit like a race car. They are finely tuned to do one thing very, very well; run WordPress. Apart from having some key performance advantages (5-10 times faster than using a host like Bluehost), what makes them a great choice for a professional website is that they are taking care of a whole lot of stuff that a business needs. Things like automatic backups, security checks, staging areas, and caching are already done, or optimised Overall the package this type of hosting company offers is pretty impressive and in some ways is similar to running your own enterprise scale server, but not having to worry about the maintenance team and costs to keep it running.
Bluehost is your best choice for discount hosting. I’ve used them for several years and found them relatively secure and I’ve had good experiences with their help desk. I recommend them for students or anyone on a shoe string budget. Think of them as the family car of hosts. They do a good, safe job of getting you from A to B, they are very economical, and they have a lot of flexibility, but after using them for a couple years I found myself looking for better performance, which is what led me to a host like Wpengine who optimize everything for WordPress. I still have a Bluehost account, but use it more for a sandbox to test ideas. That’s because you can have unlimited domains and websites and you can install almost any platform. The two big things that led to me changing was speed (I wanted a faster host to compete for better Google rankings) and backups, which were manual and clunky and this meant there was a level of risk using them. I ended up paying for Vaultpress to backup my websites which was costing $15/month, so it made sense to jump up to a premium host and get all the other benefits too. That said, if you are on a budget, Bluehost is one of the cheapest ways to get online.
Vaultpress is a WordPress plugin that automatically backs up your site every day and has a one click restore button. I don’t use this on sites hosted on WPengine because automatic backups are already provided, but on cheaper hosts like Bluehost I think this plugin is a must. The manual backups on cheaper hosts doesn’t cut it for me and my sites are too important to loose them and I don’t want the messy job of trying to fix corrupted files. A good automatic backup solves these problems.
GoDaddy is the domain registrar I generally use to buy domains. To be honest I’m not sure it makes a huge difference who you buy your domain name from, but GoDaddy is a huge international provider so it’s a good starting place to find your .com .org. or .net domain names. A lot of tutorials about domain names use GoDaddy, so this is a bit of an advantage.
Themeforest is where I get most of my WordPress themes from. It’s a market place with thousands of beautiful and professional themes. You choose the one that fits your style and then simply install it. It’s easy and avoids the whole process of getting a developer to write code for a custom theme. Check out my Best WordPress Themes for Architects page for a selection of my favourite themes.
Around $35-50 per theme
Mailchimp is the email subscription tool I use. It has a stack of features that go way beyond the standard subscription functionality of WordPress. It allows readers to subscribe to your blog, for emails to be sent when you post new content, and for auto responders to be set up and provide an automatic email series. You may be wondering what all this has to do with architecture, but people who give you permission to contact them are the most valuable audience you can have. While we’re on this subject, if you haven’t already done so you should subscribe to our mailing list below in the Optinskin section.
OptinSkin is the premium plugin I use for email subscription forms like the one below. There are lots of free ways to do this, but Optinskin gives you a better looking and unobtrusive way of doing it. When you’re trying to build up something like a media contact email list this plugin is invaluable. It also gives you statistics on people using it and a wide range of skins to suit the style of your site.
Google Keyword Tool is a free tool that Google provides to help people do keyword research. So if you want to find out how many people search for Architect Melbourne each year this will tell you.
Market Samuarai is an advanced version of Google’s free Keyword Tool. It does a lot of data crunching and tells you all sorts of super valuable information. For example you can analyse all the websites that rank for a phrase like Architect Melbourne and find out why they rank well with info like what page rank they have, how old their domain is, the quantity of back links they have and a list of what those back links are. Basically it allows you to analyse the competition for any given phrase, know why they rank and choose to either compete for that google search or choose an different key word phrase that is easier. You can also use it to taylor your blog posts so you’re being picked up for the right key words, rather than competing for impossible ones. There’s a lot to this tool and I’m sure i’ll be adding multiple pages explaining how architects can use it.
Free trial ($149* full version)
*$97 if you use our affiliate link below