One of my first times designing a website was in 1998 for a Cork company MarkEire, using Netscape Composer. One of the earliest WYSIWYG website editors. It was pretty basic although it saved you a ton of time in writing all the HTML by hand. Things have moved on a small bit in the past 23 years.
I’ve just completed working on a small project for a friend and client, for the redesign of her business website SimplySing.ie. The decision was already made on the CMS (Content Management System), as Clodagh had experience working with WordPress with her old website. Over the last two decades, I’ve used a large range of tools although generally the consensus for smaller, lighter web projects, most people go with WordPress today. What I want to share with you is some of the amazing, themes, plugins, and resources that can make your WordPress web design job so much easier from the outset.
The initial phase of the project I handed my client a pre-design exercise that I created call a Business Reflection Tool. This brings it down to brass nuts. Gets you thinking at a very core level about the process ahead. Helps you get clear on your VMV (Vision Mission Values) and most importantly, who are your audience. This also gives shape and direction to the design road ahead. Clodagh was pretty amazing and went further to give me greater detail on how she wanted her new website to feel and used words that reflected her brand and audience. This makes the process far smoother and faster when working together. With this knowledge in hand I began to compile a Website Theme Shortlist.
Now, this is where I want to introduce you to something that has me working at a different level recently. I keep calling it, ‘The Candy Shop for Creatives’. There are a variety of resources you will need apart from your CMS, such as WordPress. You will need a suitable theme, like a website skin/template. More than likely you are going to need a host of plugins. Really depends on the industry and what you are trying to achieve. In most cases, some stock photography, stock video, fonts, graphics and icons. I’ll bring hosting in later as it became a solution on this project. Up until now, I will search far and wide although one resource I continuously go back to is Themeforest for WordPress themes, part of the Envato group. A few months ago I came across their advert for their Envato Elements subscription for €14.50 per month. Seemed interesting, with options to access a wide range of resources from plugins, to themes, graphics, photos, videos and so much more. Was a little sceptical! Another ‘pay on the drip’ option that you forget you signed up for, 2 years later you realise it’s over 15 months since you used it. Trust me, I’ve been there. Many a time. €30 a month here, €10 on this app, €6 a month for icons, LinkedIn Learning another €30 a month. When you use them and make money from them great. Not this time mate. I’ll sign up for the 1-month option (not available any longer) for €29.99. Before the month was out I signed up for the annual subscription.
So, how are Envato Elements of use and for whom? Any budding designer, front end web developer, videographer, marketeer, creative or digital marketeer. This resource makes me feel excited every time I use it. There is so much quality stuff on offer. With my clients’ redevelopment of the SimplySing.ie website, I used it on numerous occasions throughout. There is a newish resource out there for WordPress designers called Elementor Kits. These kits are lightweight, bare-bones templates without all the faff, bells and whistles. They allow you to take a predesigned template and build the core pages in a matter of a day. God honest. Of course, this is not a website although the skeleton of one. I began with building the Website Theme Shortlist using Elementor Kit Templates to begin. The range of ones available, as a paid member on Envato Elements, is pretty broad. Of course, you must remember, there are limitations due to the fact that these same templates and themes are still on sale on Themeforest for $30 to $50 a pop. So, you will not find everything, although more than enough. It’s simple to search, with a filter for narrowing down your choices.
After the client shortlisted my shortlist, we finalised our choice with the Yogger template kit. Oh, word of warning, a lot of the Elementor Kits work with the free version of Elementor although the majority seem to need the full version of Elementor Pro, which starts at $49 a year for 1 license. Again, may seem like an outlay you haven’t accounted for until you see the power of what Elementor Pro can do. Although that’s another article, we can explore why use a page builder like Elementor or the Pro version. Once the kit was installed it was a matter of customising based on the clients particular content needs, website architecture and audience needs. This moved me onto setting out a clear content plan and plugin requirements. When you have a subscription to Envato Elements you can install the WordPress plugin Envato Elements – photos & Elementor Templates straight away. This immediately gives you access to all the templates and all the stock imagery on Twenty20.com (owned by Envato). You will not believe how easy this makes accessing and embedding images. You get a new tab appearing in your Add Media, letting you search the photo stock and import it directly into your pages.
So all the stock imagery and stock video you see on SimplySing.ie is from Envato Elements. The other resources that I ended up using were from elsewhere. I used WP Event Manager for creating ongoing events and then decided to use Woocommerce for the eCommerce engine. This did mean having to buy two more plugins allowing customer to book and pay for places on the upcoming courses, these were Sell Tickets and Registrations. Pretty good plugins and were required based on the clients’ needs. They do require a good bit of customisation, although support is very good, so they deserve that feedback.
Finally, I designed the website on my own server, rather than touching the current SimplySing.ie website. Also, the original hosting didn’t allow for Staging so it was easier that way. After working on the clients hosting I suggested moving over to the one I use, which is Siteground. I moved from an Irish company to a UK one and finally to Siteground 8 years ago. I have never looked back. A professional company with fast servers and more importantly excellent customer support. This has to be the biggest bonus in hosting. Someone you can talk to immediately when you have an issue. No comment on Irish companies! Sitegrounds’ hosting packages begin from €6 per month.
Two other reasons to plug Siteground, is two features that I used in the final stages of design SimplySing.ie. One that is a must for every website is the SG Optimizer plugin, remember SG stands for Siteground so will only work on their hosting. It allows you to optimise everything you can possibly consider on your website and has taken the crown as the best host-provided caching plugin on the market right now. This is going to speed up your website to no end and make it more streamlined for Google ranking. The latter one is one that is super when moving a WordPress site from one server to another, is the Siteground Migrator plugin. Unbelievably easy and done in four simple steps.
One final thing, I thought I might mention, is a payment gateway. Of course, we need to support our own when possible, therefore you might hope I support the Irish billionaire boys at Stripe, although in this scenario I am going to recommend considering using Revolut Gateway. They now offer the same option for taking payments through Woocommerce as Stripe and a discounted price. Additionally, people paying with their Revolut card have no charges. It’s really worthwhile looking into this and the WordPress plugin is available also.
Were you to like help or support on your digital journey I am available for digital coaching & consulting. I still do a small bit of actual design work when the demand is there. I look forward to your feedback and questions.
The above article is a true account of my experience. Most of the links above have affiliate links embedded. This does nothing to you, although were you to decided to purchase any of the products, it allows me to earn a small revenue from writing this content.