I am always asked what tools I use at Rob McDonald Web Design. Below, I am going to show you what tools I recommend and use.
Everything I have listed below is a product or service that I actually use, or have used. So I feel confident in recommending these items to you for your own personal use.
Some of these links below may be affiliate links, which means if you end up buying the product or service after clicking on the link, I may get a commission from it. If you are uncomfortable doing that, then just open up a new window and Google the product or service and you should be able to find it that way.
This is the hardware that I use every day.
- MacBook Pro 2015
- Apple Magic Mouse
- Apple Ipad Air 2 64gb Gold
- Apple Iphone 7 Smart Phone
GoDaddy is probably the most well known and offers a set of professional tools to use for your site, and I do use them from time to time, but lately I have been going to NameCheap, as they seem to be a little lower on their fees.
Check them both out for yourself and see which one you like best. I highly recommend to all my clients that they use one of these companies to register their domain name, but to never host with them. I just think it is better if you keep the hosting separate. That way, if you ever decide to change later, it is just so much easier to do so.
Web Hosting Tools
To keep you site up and running you need to pick a good, and reliable, hosting provider. Here are some of my favorites:
BlueHost is a good web hosting provider to start with. They are really good for the beginner, and non-techie type. BlueHost is inexpensive and has a lot of powerful tools. BlueHost is one of the 20 largest web hosts, collectively hosting well over 450,000 domains.
HostGator is another web host I highly recommend. I used them for years without a single problem. With over two million domains, they host approximately 1% of the worlds internet traffic.
DreamHost is another web host that is very good to use. They are extremely popular and have a plan to meet almost anyones needs.
SiteGround is another web host that is good to use and is currently the one that I use. They are extremely fast but are the most expensive of the ones I mentioned.
Email Marketing Tools
Your mailing list is your most important asset. I use MailChimp for this. Aweber is also good, and has more features, but it does cost more to use. MailChimp will let you have up to 2000 emails before it starts charging you, so this is a good one to start out with. You can set up lists and newsletters with this one and also add an opt-in box to your website.
Social Media Sharing Buttons
I have used different methods for social sharing buttons, but I really like the Social Warfare plugin. This is the one I use on my site. It is a premium plugin, but it is worth every penny. It is a really great plugin to use and it adds so much functionally to your social sharing without slowing you site down.
Once I started using Social Warfare, I noticed an immediate increase in social shares.
Social Media Marketing Tools
The two products that I use for social media marketing are Buffer and Friends + Me. Buffer allows you to share and schedule your posts and tweets at optimal times throughout the day. Friends + Me allows you to schedule and share your Google+ posts across other social networks.
There are free, as well as premium versions, of both of these tools, but when starting out, the free versions are more than adequate. All you need to do is set up a free account for both.
I have used different methods for backup, but I feel the best one is cloud based. I have used DropBox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Google Drive. All of these make it easy to use by installing a folder on your computer that automatically syncs with your cloud account. This way, you can access your files from any computer.
Lately I have been using Google Drive, as it just seems more convenient for me to use. They all have similar plans and prices, but I like the 100 gigabyte plan with Google Drive the best, as it is only 1.99 a month.
All you really need to do is set up a Gmail account and it comes with 15 gigabytes of drive for free.
Content Creation Tools
I use Evernote to keep track of all my notes and research. It is a invaluable tool to use for note taking, and I can’t say enough about it. It is the best organizer I have ever used. I use it to record my thoughts, take notes, do research and create the beginning drafts of my blog posts. There is a free version, as well is paid. The paid one is only $5 bucks a month, but worth every penny.
One of my favorite research tools is Feedly. I can keep all of the blogs that I follow into one area and put them into categories. This makes it easy for me to read the blogs and take notes and come up with ideas for future blog posts.
Chrome is my browser of choice. I use it for anything from browsing the internet researching for articles, to editing website source code.
Graphic Design Tools
My graphic design software by choice is Photoshop. I just feel that it the best software out their for Graphic Design. I use the Creative Cloud version and it costs me 10 bucks a month, but I just feel in is worth it for what it can do.
You can get a 30 day free trial to see if you like it, then they have the monthly plan of 9.99 a month.
I like to use Illustrator as well, but it tends to be on the expensive side, so I have been trying out a newer program, AutoDesk Graphic, it is a re-vamped version of the old I-Draw. It has a desktop version, as well as a Ipad version.
I really like Canva as well for photos. If I just want to do a really quick photo for social media, than this is my go to program, as it is just really simple to use. There is free and paid version, but the free version is really all that is needed.
Web Design Tools
Here are some of the tools that help me build amazing optimized web sites.
Of course I start with WordPress. All of my sites are based on the WordPress platform. You just can go wrong with WordPress. Its free, easy to use, and is highly customizable. If you can dream it, you can build it with WordPress.
Pingdom is a tool I use to check the speed of my websites. You can choose different areas around the world to check the speed, and also it will show you where your problems are, and recommend how to fix them.
Brackets is a free text editor by Adobe, that I use to code my sites. When it comes to working with HTML or CSS code this is my go to program for this. I can also see a live version of the site in my browser as I am working on it to see immediate changes.
FileZilla is a free FTP software that I use to upload files to my server. This comes in handy when I am finalizing a web site on its host server, or just doing normal maintenance on the live site.
When it comes to WordPress themes I don’t think you can go wrong with the Genesis Framework and child themes. I use this framework on all of the sites I build, as it is just a fast and reliable, safe and secure, and SEO friendly. The Genesis child theme that I am currently using was custom designed and developed just for this site.
I use WebMaster Tools to check on the health of my sites, submit sitemaps, find error pages, see how I appear on search results, and see what the top search queries are.
Google Analytics is great for monitoring and analyzing website traffic, how many visitors you get per day, understand where your visitors are coming from, and their behavior.
Blog post commenting is such an important part of growing your website, that I have to mention this great tool to use. CommentLuv is a free plugin that gets more comments and social engagement by allowing you to reward you commentors by letting them add a link to their most recent blog post.
This encourages more people to comment on your blog and also eliminates spam. There is also a paid version of this plugin, CommentLuv Premium as well, with more features, and I highly recommend it.
CommentLuv Premium combines several plugins together that eliminates spam, magnetizes your readers, socializes your comments, and viralizes your posts.
Plugins are a big part of a WordPress site and here are the 10 basic ones that I use:
- Yoast SEO
- WP SuperCache
- WP Google Fonts
- Fast Secure Contact Form
- GASP (Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin)
- Social Warfare
- Genesis Simple Hooks
- Pretty Links
I explain all of these plugins in my article, 10 Of My Favorite WordPress Plugins.
So these are the tools that I use everyday. I hope listing these out here help you to get started with building your website. There are other great tools out there as well. Let me know which ones you use, if they are not listed here.