Whether it’s clients, colleagues or friends, when the conversation arrives at WordPress, eventually someone starts asking me questions about how I set up my sites. If that’s you, then you’ve come to the right place.
For years, I’ve always enjoyed looking through the WordPress stack of developers I admire and I appreciate the ones who make their tools known. It helps me learn and also helps me become a better developer. That’s why I’ve compiled my standard WordPress stack, complete with links for easy downloading.
From plugins to themes, and a variety of other things in between, here are the utilities I rely on when building and maintaining my WordPress websites.
Explore my WordPress Stack
To get started with my WordPress stack, click on any of these categories:
To me, speed matters more than anything else in the hosting game. Between mobile browsing and Google’s use of load speed in SEO scores, you need to get your pages in front of eyeballs fast if you want to be successful online.
Here’s the thing, WordPress can be a tad slow. Plugins and excess PHP code can easily bog a site down. WordPress is notorious for slow speeds. While there are plugins you can, and should, use (some listed below) to speed up your WordPress website, you really can’t beat an excellent host that’s paired with a killer CDN.
Because performance is critical for WordPress sites, if I have a choice, I prefer to host my sites on Site Ground. I used to run on Bluehost but moved to MediaTemple for the customer service and support. While MediaTemple does have what I believe to be the best customer service in the industry, I found the speed of SiteGround to be far superior.
You can try speed tests, but you don’t need them. When you run a hefty WordPress site, you know lousy hosting when you start clicking around. I’ve never felt a delay on SiteGround, and that’s even in a development environment without the CDN in use or my performance optimized. And most of my projects on Site Ground of late have been considerably sized WordPress Multisite installs. I’ve been surprised by how well the sites perform. I didn’t know WordPress could run so fast and seamless. Do yourself a favor and check out SiteGround if you’re shopping for a fast web host.
There are many beautiful themes out there, but it can often be a burden to narrow down which ones to use for a project. When it comes to themes for my WordPress stack, I go one of three routes:
- Divi Theme: I use Divi for my marketing-heavy sites. If we’re running a lot of ads and building multiple landing pages with testing, then Divi is the tool I use. I can quickly deploy new pages that would once take me hours to code out before.
- Custom Theme: It’s still hard to beat a custom developed theme and I love coding a new one from the ground up every chance I get. For a lot of projects, custom coding is still my go to.
- Genesis Theme: Genesis is a great framework to build custom child themes upon. I’ve been using it for years on client sites and personal projects with great success.
No WordPress stack would be complete without some awesome plugins. I try to limit the number of plugins I use. However, there are some essential plugins both free and premium that I find invaluable.
- Gravity Forms is still the main form plugin for my high-value sites. It’s hard to beat. I pay for the developer plan because it’s worth it with the Stripe connection and other add-ons.
- Forminator Pro* is quickly becoming a favorite form plugin for me and I wouldn’t be surprised if it beats out Gravity forms in the next year.
- Yoast SEO is my most trusted SEO plugin. If I’m doing heavy search marketing, then I’m using Yoast for the site.
- SmartCrawl Pro* is starting to grow on me and I’m using it to SEO some of my newer sites (like this one). I really like how they handle 301 redirects. I actually prefer that to Yoast.
- Hummingbird* is great for site speed optimization. I started using it on my larger sites to speed things up.
- Smush Pro* is terrific if you’re using a lot of images. The compression is solid and easily the best among compression plugins.
- Snapshot Pro* is my backup plugin of choice. If you care about your site, then you need to back it up. Snapshot Pro makes it easy for me.
- Google Analytics Plus* is the plugin I use to make my sites work with Google search. There are many routes you can take with analytics. I like this plugin because it throws some reporting data into the WordPress dashboard so I don’t have to login to GA all the time.
- Page Links To comes in handy when routing pages to other properties I’m working with. I’m surprised how often I need to install this one on a site.
- Ultimate Branding* is great for adding a little extra flare to a site. I can brand the login and control the entire back end experience for the end users.
WPMU DEV Membership*
I pay for an account with WPMU DEV and that brings with it a lot of awesome plugins that help my site’s performance. The advancements in performance and the quality of the plugins are why I’ve added them to my standard WordPress stack. Any site I value now runs through these guys.
The membership also has a site monitoring plugin that allows you to update and manage many sites from one central place they call ‘The Hub.’ I recommend WPMU DEV, especially for those running complex WordPress networks.
I hope touring my WordPress stack gives you some ideas of what tools to incorporate into your next web project.
Note: I plan to keep this page updated with all the latest tech I use so be sure to check back again sometime.