Since starting my own business just over 2 years ago I have tried countless pieces of software and productivity tools to help small businesses with their marketing. Some I have continued to use since day one and others have been replaced as I found something I liked better or found more useful.
I thought it would be helpful to list some of these favourites over two blog posts. This first one around website creation and management, and the second post about other time saving or marketing tools.
WordPress – Of course! I couldn’t live without it.
For non techies it is so easy to use and I am constantly impressed with the functionality you can add to your basic wordpress site with the huge range of Plugins available. For anyone who needs a website or blog that is easy to maintain and update without needing to pay for the expertise it is ideal. I have a split of clients some of whom manage their site themselves once I have built it and others I continue to manage. What I really love is how easy it is to completely redesign the look and feel of the site.
I have recently installed Jetpack on all my sites, which you need to have a wordpress.com account for. It contains a whole raft of functionality which I am still investigating but the tools I am using most are the site stats, displayed on your dashboard, the subscription widget which allows visitors to simply sign up for RSS feeds (how often I have hunted a site for their RSS feed and given up, losing them an interested reader) and shortcode embeds.
My additional favourite free plugins include:
TinyMCE Advanced – which enhances the visual editor in worpress.
NextGen Gallery – for great photo galleries.
Continuous announcement scroller – great for announcing upcoming events.
Exclude pages – adds a simple tickbox to your pages to exclude them from navigation if you aren’t using a customised menu.
WP Smush.it – reduces image file sizes and improves performance for sites with lots of pictures
WordPress EZ Backup – Does what it says on the tin – however, I do use a paid for solution which now incorporates the backups on the sites I continue to manage – see ManageWP below.
Fast Secure Contact Form – creates great contact forms. Again I do have a paid for plugin for more complex forms.
UnderConstruction – provides a Coming Soon page when I am designing or re-designing an existing site.
And another I am about to try on a client site Business Directory Plugin it looks like it will provide just what I need for creating a directory of recommended businesses.
Additional Paid for Tools
ManageWP – My latest and favourite management tool for all my wordpress sites.
I originally had a free trial which convinced me of the value of upgrading to a paid for version.
ManageWP helps you manage all your WordPress sites from one location, keeping them updated and secure. You can access any of your wordpress site dashboards from one location.
But it does MUCH more than that! It advises you when there are wordpress and plugin updates, which you can perform on all sites with one click, as well as allowing you to install a plugin across multiple sites.
Three other great features are the SEO monitoring, the ability to clone a site – great for building a site in a development environment and then cloning over to the new site – and the Backup function. All my sites are now backed up from this central location to Dropbox (more to come on this). This tool is worth every penny just for the time saving it provides.
Gravity Forms – Allows you to quickly build complex forms, including multi-page forms, conditional logic and order forms Click here to find out more about Gravity Forms.
If I have missed any tools or plugins that you have found really useful please do let me know in the comments. Need help with your wordpress web site design or management? Get in touch.