In my time as a blogger and web designer, I’ve learned a lot about the various tools that can make life easier. Tons of people (who are way smarter than me) have created plugins, applications, and websites that are a blogger’s best friend.
Below is a list of various products that are AMAZING and worth the investment. I’ll be posting in-depth reviews of each, which will be linked from this page, to give you an idea of why I love them and how I use them for my blogs.
Please note: Most of these are affiliate links, meaning I will get a small referral fee if you choose to use the product. However, I only recommend things that I actually use and enjoy, and the cost of each resource is the same whether or not you use my affiliate code or link.
Name.com - I use Name.com to buy most of my domains. They have the best search interface I’ve ever seen – if the domain I want is already taken, they provide suggestions for related terms or phrases that are available. Name.com makes it easy to manage all the domains I own without spending hours trying to figure out where to click.
Namecheap – I have recently registered a few of my domains with Namecheap. They offer great promo codes on a regular basis and have a newly designed site that is great to navigate!
Web Hosting and Server Management
BigScoots – Funny name, amazing customer service. Many Nuts and Bolts clients host with BigScoots because their hosting plans are affordable and their tech support staff are fantastic and responsive. BigScoots is a smaller host – not so small they can’t meet your needs, but small enough to know their customers and provide them with a wonderful experience.
RackGeek – If you have a VPS or dedicated server (or need one), RackGeek is our go-to solution for server management. Brandon, the owner, is absolutely amazing and has helped many Nuts and Bolts clients find peace of mind knowing they don’t have to deal with server issues anymore. RackGeek has amazing low rates for management and will allow you to focus on the things you care about most, like building your audience and creating great content.
The Genesis Framework - I use Genesis exclusively for my design clients, as well as for my own websites. The Genesis framework is fast, has built-in SEO, and is very stable and well-supported. Once you own the framework, you can use it on as many sites as you’d like, and child themes are only around $25 each. For more information about Genesis, feel free to check out our full review.
Dynamik – The Dynamik website builder from Cobalt Apps gives you drag and drop options for creating your own custom Genesis child themes. With checkboxes and easy options for everything from fonts to widget areas, Dynamik makes using Genesis easier than ever before. You can even export your designs as a standalone theme. (Note: The Genesis framework is required to use Dynamik.)
Genesis Extender – If you already have a Genesis child theme you love but want to customize it further, the Genesis Extender plugin gives you the features of Dynamik without requiring you to change your theme. (Note: The Genesis framework is required to use Genesis Extender.)
Genesis Design Palette Pro – Want to style your Genesis site without digging into CSS? Design Palette Pro allows you to make changes easily from inside the dashboard (and you can preview the changes as you make them). This plugin is a total game changer and one I highly recommend for non-coders. (Note: The Genesis framework is required to use Design Palette Pro.)
CoSchedule – CoSchedule is an awesome drag and drop editorial calendar for WordPress. Before you dismiss it as too basic, you should try it out! CoSchedule allows you to connect your social media accounts and schedule posts to those accounts ahead of time, whether it’s announcing your latest blog post, sharing a resource, or just posting a random tweet or Facebook image. CoSchedule also keeps track of your upcoming blog posts and makes it easy to promote them on social media in just a few clicks. Plus they send out really awesome swag to their users.
Envira Gallery – If you need to display galleries on your website, it simply doesn’t get any better than Envira. There’s nothing else to say here – it’s the best there is.
FooBox – FooBox is an amazing lightbox plugin with built-in social sharing. If you want to open images, videos, galleries, or links in a lightbox or iframe, you need to check out FooBox. It’s also responsive, so your lightboxes will work even on mobile devices and smaller screen sizes. Want to see it in action? Check out this post on the Nuts and Bolts Media blog and click any of the images.
Cart66 – Cart66 is the best plugin I’ve ever used for ecommerce. It doesn’t take over your entire site or dashboard – in fact, you can use shortcodes to put a single product on a page or post (or a whole group of them). It’s easy to set up, uses your theme’s CSS so it looks just like the rest of your site, integrates with tons of payment solutions, and can have you selling online in a matter of minutes, not hours!
Gravity Forms - Gravity Forms is, hands down, the best forms plugin I’ve ever used. With tons of add-ons for things like Paypal integration, mailing lists (Aweber, MailChimp, and many more), and even file uploads, Gravity Forms allows you to make any kind of form you want quickly and easily. While the developer version is a little pricy, you can get Gravity Forms for one site for just $39.
MaxCDN - If you want a lightning fast website that loads almost instantly, MaxCDN is the way to get it. I use MaxCDN for all my sites – it’s a service that stores copies of your site’s static files (images, scripts, stylesheets, etc.) all across the globe to enable visitors from anywhere to get your content as quickly as possible. You won’t believe the difference a CDN makes! Use promo code NUTSANDBOLTS for 25% off your order.
iStock Photo - This is, hands down, the best place to get stock photos for your blog or website. They aren’t free, but you can find really cheap photos (especially if you just need a small size, like the images I use in my posts). I use iStock because they have an enormous selection and I can always find the picture I need.
Morguefile - Morguefile is my go-to site for free stock photos that don’t require attribution. If you just do a Google search for an image, you risk violating copyright and getting in tons of trouble. With Morguefile, you know that every image is there for your (non-commercial) use and you will never be sued for putting a picture on your blog.
Dropbox - If you aren’t using Dropbox to manage your files, you’re really missing out! Just for creating an account, you get 2 GB of cloud storage space. What does that mean? Let’s say you’re working on a document or looking at a picture on your home computer, and you’ll need it later when you visit a friend. Instead of putting it on a flash drive or emailing it to yourself, you can put it in your Dropbox folder. Then you can access it from any computer, smartphone, or tablet. I LOVE Dropbox, and the fact that it’s free makes it even better!