Recommended Tools & Resources

I teach non-coder graphic designers like you how to build websites the right way, without having to know code.

To do this, I’ve carefully chosen very specific services, software and tools you’ll need. I’ve extensively tested them on real-life projects‚ with real graphic designers.

Here are my whole-hearted, battle-tested recommendations…

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you buy, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. In any case, I’d use and recommend these services regardless.

Cost: FREE but essential premium features cost $49.95 (for unlimited websites). It’s well worth the small expense.

#1 Best WordPress Theme

GeneratePress is a simple, lightweight WordPress theme. 

Why is it the best for you? 
It’s the perfect framework for your custom web design creations. It’s super fast, very easy to use, but also extremely powerful.

It’s incredibly well-coded, fully responsive, and very easy to customise. Tom, the developer, provides (quite frankly) incredible support. 

GeneratePress does one job—but it does it very very well indeed.  I’ve found no better WordPress theme for non-coder graphic designers. Check out my in-depth review.

This site was built with GeneratePress. Sign-up for updates about future how-tos and tutorials.

Cost: FREE but superb additional Pro features start at $49. Unbelievable value.

#1 Best WordPress Page Builder

Elementor is a WordPress Page Builder plugin. 

Why is it the best for you?
If GeneratePress is the picture frame, think of Elementor as the blank canvas, with a palette of incredible design tools.

Elementor is a simply unbelievable drag-n-drop page builder tool. Easy to use and highly intuitive—it blows all other similar products out of the water. 

Anything is achievable, the limit is simply your own design imagination. The development team roll out mind-blowing new features on an almost weekly basis. There is no better Page Builder for WordPress.

This site was built with Elementor. Full in-depth review and tutorials to follow shortly. Sign-up to be informed.

Cost: I recommend at least the GrowBig package for WordPress, which starts at $7.45 (£4.95)/month.

#1 Best BUDGET SHARED Hosting Company

SiteGround are a website hosting company.

Why is it the best for you?
SiteGround offer a superb low-cost budget hosting service. Their servers are VERY fast, very reliable and highly secure (no worries about hackers). What’s more, their support team are simply amazing. I get friendly, helpful responses within minutes to support queries.

Their control panel is a doddle to use, and they provide valued services such as server-side caching (to make your website fast) and regular backups. And… you can host unlimited client sites on one account, if you so wish.

The best thing: they offer hosting specially optimised for WordPress. And… you can host your account in a choice of 3 different locations around the world. Perfect for international clients!

I’ve found no better shared budget WordPress host, at this quality-to-cost ratio.

Cost: starts at $14/month (billed at $165/year).

#1 Best DEDICATED WORDPRESS Hosting Company

Flywheel are a dedicated WordPress hosting company. 

Why is it the best for you?
Shared hosts like SiteGround are totally fine if you don’t have a lot of traffic, and especially if you don’t have a great deal of budget.

But if you can afford it—and especially if you start getting more than a trickle of visitors—I highly highly recommend Flywheel.

Flywheel’s platform is super-optimised to host WordPress website. They ONLY host WordPress. And consequently, page load speeds and performance are incredible. 

Yes you do pay a little more than a shared host like SiteGround. But it’s not a huge amount more. And in my opinion, it’s totally worth every last cent/penny.

My site is hosted on Flywheel. And I couldn’t be happier. Zero problems, fast load speeds. Everything just works.

Cost: The free version is great. The pro version adds even more great features for just $29. 

#1 Best WordPress Social Sharing Plugin

Social Warfare is a social sharing plugin for WordPress

Why is it the best for you?
Adding social sharing icons to your client’s pages & articles is a great way of helping your clients get found more easily online.

I’ve tried countless methods of adding social sharing icons to websites. Most of the plugins I’ve tried get it very wrong.

Now I use Social Warfare. Every time.

It’s super easy to set up. It’s super fast and won’t slow your sites down. It’s bursting with lovely styling options, including floating icons that stay in sight when the visitor scrolls down the page. Most importantly, the dev team are constantly improving and updating the product.

I’ve found no faster, better coded or easier-to-use social sharing plugin.

Full detailed Social Warfare review and instructions to follow. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

Cost: Elementor Pro starts at $49/yr. Gravity Forms starts at $39/yr.

#1 Best WordPress Forms Plugin

Elementor Pro features an easy drag-n-drop form-builder widget
OR
Gravity Forms is a more advanced form builder plugin.

Why are these the best for you?
It’s a rare website that doesn’t have at very least a simple contact form.

If your needs are fairly simple: go with the amazing form builder widget that comes as part of Elementor Pro (it’s not part of the free version unfortunately). It’s a drag-n-drop thing of beauty, and so easy to use.

If your needs are more complex: it has to be Gravity Forms. It’s actually very easy to create the forms themselves, just not quite as easy to style them without knowing a little bit of code. But… there’s nothing you can’t do with Gravity. It knocks all the other form plugins out of the water (and believe me, I’ve tried pretty much all of them).

Unless you have more complex requirements, go with the form builder that comes with Elementor Pro. You get to use all its other amazing features too!

Cost: FREE.

#1 Best WordPress SEO Plugin

The SEO Framework is an essential WordPress plugin that makes WP more search engine friendly.

Why is it the best WordPress SEO plugin?
Coding websites to be search engine friendly and up-to-date with the latest SEO is hard. Thankfully, The SEO Framework makes it really really easy, with sensible default settings suitable for most websites.

Of course, it’s not just a case of “install and all your SEO is sorted”. But it sets everything up as the perfect foundation. Among other things, it gives your clients total control over their important titles and meta descriptions, sets up proper social sharing, and provides a well-coded XML sitemap for submitting to Google Search Console (don’t worry if you don’t know what that means).

Nothing comes close to The SEO Framework for putting you on the perfect footing for a search engine friendly website, especially if you don’t really understand SEO. 

#1 Best WordPress Security & Backups

WP sometimes has a bad rep for being insecure and a target for hackers. Yes, it’s a popular platform running millions of websites so it’s bound to be a target. However, take some sensible precautions and your websites will be fine. Mine have been for years.  I recommend:

Decent hosting: Job #1. Host your websites on cheapo shared hosting and you get what you deserve. SiteGround hosting is ultra-secure AND great value. Plus they backup your site on a regular basis.

Stay updated: Always keep WordPress and plugins updated to the very latest versions. New updates fix security vulnerabilities.

All in One WP Security. We like this WordPress security plugin the best. It’s comprehensive, user-friendly and it just works.

Antispam Bee. A powerful and user-friendly WordPress anti-spam plugin that eliminates every kind of WordPress spam. Beautiful.

All In One Migration. If you want to quickly move a WordPress site to a new host, or from a test space to the live server: this is the ticket. I use it all the time to set up new WP sites, based on my constantly-updated, rock-solid ‘starter site’ (learn more).

UpdraftPlus. An excellent FREE backup plugin. You can set it up to automatically backup to Dropbox (or loads of other places). Why would you not? The premium version adds features like scheduling backups for times when your site has the fewest visitors (like the middle of the night).

I’ll write fuller instructions and reviews for these plugins at some point. Sign-up for updates.

WordPress page speed

#1 Best WordPress Page Speed plugins

How to Make WordPress FAST

Fast loading websites make visitors happy and search engines happy. Making your website fast isn’t a quick one-click fix, and it can be a complicated topic. Here’s a brief primer for how to make your sites zippy quick.

Use a fast web host: we find SiteGround to be super quick. Flywheel are even faster—a dedicated WordPress host, but that costs more than SiteGround. If budget allows, Flywheel is superb.

Use a fast WordPress theme: one of the many reasons I exclusively use GeneratePress. It’s mega-lightweight and coded to be FAST.

Prepare your images upfront: Don’t upload massive high-res images. Durr. Crop them down to the maximum size they’ll be on the website before uploading. Compress them as much as you can, using ‘Save for Web’ (or similar) in your graphics software. Educate your clients.

Use an image optimisation plugin: TinyPNG works really really well to automate a great deal of image optimisation. Super compression!

Install a caching plugin: I’ve settled on WP Rocket. It not only ‘caches’ your pages (making page loads super-fast) but it handles all sorts of other page speed issues too, fuss-free. At $39 for 1 site, it’s a steal. There are TONS of other things you can do to improve page load speeds… but WP Rocket gets you very far.

Test your page speeds: Use the free GTMetrix tool to see how you’re doing. The scores are worth a note, but it’s the actual load speeds that you’re interested in. Get them as low as you possibly can. Your clients’ website users—and Google—will thank you.

I’ll write fuller instructions and reviews for these plugins at some point. Sign-up for updates.

WordPress tools and utilites

#1 Best WordPress Utilities

Other Recommended Plugins

I don’t recommend you go plugin crazy. Only install plugins you really need. Having said that, the plugins below are regular features of every WordPress site I build.

Simple CSS: allows you to easily add bits of CSS code to your site if you need to. Check it out.

Code Snippets: allows you to easily add ‘functions’, should you need to. This otherwise would require you to install a child theme. It won’t break your site if you add incorrect code. Check it out.

Central Color Palette: set your sitewide color palette for everything in ONE place. That’s WordPress, your theme’s Customizer and Elementor. Brilliant. Grab it here.

SVG Support: SVG vector graphics are sharp at any resolution, and perfect for retina screens. However, WP won’t allow you to upload SVG files by default. This plugin changes that.

Duplicate Post: It’s very handy to duplicate an existing page as a starting point for a new one. This excellent plugin makes it easy.

Content Aware Sidebars: Sidebars can be tricky in WP. You typically get a default sidebar that appears next to your blog posts. That’s great, but what if you want different sidebars on different pages?

This is where this superb plugin comes in. It’s amazing and SO easy to use—no code required.

Popup Maker: I often want to create a ‘lightbox’ pop-up. For example: click a ‘Request a Callback’ button—up pops the form, overlaid on the page. Popup Maker makes creating these kind of lightbox/modal pop-ups very very easy indeed. And you can put whatever you like in them!

(I wrote more about how I use Popup Maker here.)

I’ll write fuller instructions and reviews for these plugins at some point. Sign-up for updates.

Mel Judson

"Dave is extremely knowledgeable and knows how to explain tech stuff to designers like me in a way that makes sense. It's hard to find a developer who is also personable and friendly and Dave is this rare combination."