Archive for Tools

My Favorite WordPress Themes

I’ve been developing websites for customers for 3 years now and actually building them myself for the past 6 months. After years of trying out different web development platforms; everything from raw html, to FrontPage, to DreamWeaver, and various PHP and online development programs, I’ve decided on WordPress as my platform of choice. With it’s wide range of templates and plugins and the active community of WordPress developers who’ve created code and tutorials, WordPress can do almost everything that I need to do in a website.

With that in mind, here are the tools that I use everyday when building websites.

The Builder Theme from iThemes

iThemes Builder WordPress theme I literally use Builder for 90% of the websites that I create.  Builder offers:

  • Completely customizable layouts
  • The Style Manager, which allows you to edit CSS on the fly
  • 38 child themes on which to base the look of your site.
  • Built-in SEO options

Some of my favorites child themes are:

Among the non-Builder theme, I really like Magazine Basic from Themes by Bavotasan.  I use a no-frills basic install for an article website that I put together.  I was looking for something simple that would allow me to display my most recent posts in an article/magazine format.  It actually has a fairly powerful back-end editor that allows you to control things like page width, headers, footers, sidebars and SEO options.  This version doesn’t have the versatility of Builder, but you don’t always need that much complexity.  If you’re looking for more options, they offer upgraded versions: Magazine Flow and Magazine Premium.

How to Start a Company from the Ground Up in the Information Age

or… Our First Month (and a half) in The Internet Adventure

Hello everyone, I hope it’s been as exciting for you in April and May as it has been for us.  As you may or may not know, I went into business for myself at the beginning of April.  I’ve been setting up websites (for myself and for customers), my email lists, billing, a customer relationship manager (CRM) & project management solution, social media, as well as working on the bread and butter projects for my customers.  It’s been exciting and scary, a mountain of work, but also very satisfying.  After setting up businesses for other people over the years, it’s extremely gratifying to actually be doing it for myself this time.

Having been through the process several times now, I’ve been able to learn from past successes and mistakes.  This time, for my own company, I’ve already tested countless programs and applications and websites.  Here’s a sample of what I use every day to build my own business.

Wordpress LogoWebsite Development: WordPress, WordPress, and WordPress

Originally a platform for blogging, WordPress has become a fully featured platform for developing websites.  Over the years it has accumulated thousands of themes and plug-ins, both free and paid, which allow you to build almost any kind of website you want.  There’s a huge community of users and developers who can answer any question that you have.

I’m in it every day, working on sites for customers or slowly developing my own sites.  One of the most useful aspects is that I can assign customers, such as Ivy Learning Solutions, their own logins so that they can also work on their website if they want to.

MailChimp LogoEmail Lists: MailChimp

For the “do-it-yourselfer” you can’t beat MailChimp to run your email campaigns, like the one I’m using to send this one out.  MailChimp keeps track of separate mailing lists, allows you to set up custom campaigns, and provides thorough reporting.  You can also link your account to Facebook, Twitter, and many other websites and applications.

WORKetc LogoCRM & Project Management: WORKetc

At the last business I worked at, we tried several different options for managing customers and projects, everything from emailed Excel spreadsheets, to Google Docs, to Google Wave, to Zoho.  As you might expect, our results went from utter dissatisfaction to mild annoyance.  Then our Project Manager, the lovely and talented Morgan, brought us something called WORKetc.

I’ve had the experience of feeling like the clouds opening up and a choir of angels descending from the sky a few times in my life: the births of my children, getting married (both times), the first time I walked into the Zendah Grotto, an a capella fast tinikling my dance company had to do when our music failed.  I really felt that way when I was first shown WORKetc.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that it completely changed the way I work.

With WORKetc, I can track a customer all the way through their lifespan with my company, all the way from a suspect to a lead to a customer.  I can create projects from templates and assign them to co-workers and contractors with personalized to-dos and timelines.  I can invoice and bill and track expenses.  I can send individual emails and I can email a list.  WORKetc is a CRM and Project Manager and Billing system all in one and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Best of all, it’s in the cloud, so I can get to it from anywhere at any time, even on my phone if I have to.

Is it perfect? No, but they add features and update it all the time, so it’s getting there.  Getting everything set up exactly how you want it requires a pretty big up front time investment, but it pays off in the time you save afterwards.  Also, it’s a per-user system (starting at $39/user) so it can get expensive quick, but it’s absolutely worth it.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

FreshBooks LogoBilling: FreshBooks

As much as I love WORKetc, it’s a jack-of-all-trades and I found a tool that does billing better than anything else I’ve worked with.  In FreshBooks I enter my customers and I can bill them as necessary or auto-bill everyone who’s on a monthly service with me.  I don’t have to remember to bill people, the bill goes out and the money comes in.  FreshBooks also keeps track of invoices that have been sent out and what has or hasn’t been paid.  It assigns all my customers their own login so that they can pay online, through PayPal or, and I can see if they’ve received their bill or not.  It literally makes billing easy for me.

The main benefit I get from these tools and applications is this:  Time.  I spend much less of my time and energy on “business stuff” and I get to spend it on my customers and my business and, frankly, I get to spend more time with my family.  That is worth every penny that they cost me.

For more information on these tools or for more information on Local Search Marketing and Web Development, please contact Chris Lontok at chris@the-internet-adventure or call him at: 813-500-9202.