Stuff I Love
This page was created for those interested in learning what products and services I use for my web projects. Some of these are free, while others are not (as noted).
As mentioned on the “Disclosure” page, I’ve linked to some of the paid products via “affiliate links” (see: “Affiliate Marketing Explained” if you are new to all this). In other words, if you end up clicking through them and purchase the products/services I may receive a commission. The price will NEVER be affected by this (if anything it might even be lower) – and rest assured, I only recommend the products and services I myself own and love (with perhaps the exception of the occasional product/service recommended by someone I trust).
In the case of web-hosting (Hostgator) – if you do end up purchasing via my link I will be more than happy to help you get the ball rolling with your website (install WordPress for you, help you with initial settings/plugins etc). And in general, these commissions allow me to put even more time and effort into this website.
** Domain Names **
Psychic Whois (Free) – my favorite tool for brainstorming available domain names.
1and1 (Paid) – this is who I register all my domain names with. They offer great pricing, and even the option of registering your domain privately (so your contact info doesn’t show up in the WHOIS info) which normally costs extra.
** Web-Hosting **
Hostgator (Paid) – after trying multiple hosting companies over the years – including some very highly recommended ones – hostgator is now the ONLY provider I use! Unlike the other ones I’ve worked with (won’t name names – lol), HG offers excellent reliability and support. You can literally reach a support person ANY time you need help. They have a live-chat access link on their home page (and they’re open for business 24-7; again, unlike some others I won’t mention). For those just looking for an awesome starter account – with the option of adding as many websites as you want – I recommend the “Baby” Shared plan. Be sure to drop me a line before you order though – I have a special coupon worth 30% off your first invoice (which can work out to substantial savings if you lock-in for longer periods).
** WordPress Themes **
StudioPress (Paid) – if you are going to purchase themes, StudioPress is a FANTASTIC company to purchase from. They’ve are now part of Copyblogger Media, so you’re going to be well supported every step of the way. Make Websites Now! uses the Genesis Framework – “Prose” child theme (definitely one of the most flexible and easy-to-use child themes in the StudioPress line-up).
Elegant Themes (Paid) – this is a smaller company, but they’ve produced some beautiful themes! For an affordable yearly price you get access to ALL past and future themes, which is pretty cool if you ask me!
Artisteer (Paid) – if you’re tired of trying to find the “perfect theme” for your needs (been there, done that – bought the t-shirt), Artisteer is a BRILLIANT, and user-friendly program that allows you to very easily build your own custom themes. Take it from a technical-dunce – this product is almost “magic”! lol
The price is surprisingly low too (all things considered)!
** Sales Page / Membership Site Builders **
One of my MAJOR challenges over the years has been to find WordPress-compatible programs (typically WP plugins) that would allow me to create decent looking sales and membership pages, while still being relatively easy to use. One of my favorites for quite some time was “WP Sales Engine” – but alas, the developer stopped working on it so as to pursue another venture. Another one has been OptimizePress. Fantastic software (now offering a plugin AND theme) – but with a steep learning curve for someone like myself.
More recently, I rediscovered a program I actually purchased quite some time ago (forgetting about great products I’ve purchased is a bad habit of mine!), called “PT Instant“! Learn more about it below.
PT Instant – I just can’t get over HOW EASY and flexible this WordPress plugin is for creating a wide variety of sales pages, “squeeze pages”, and membership pages. Unlike with other programs I’ve worked with, I actually get the look I’m trying to get without fiddling around for hours on end. The company that created this plugin provide excellent support for their software, so you don’t have to worry about it suddenly not working after the next WordPress update.
** “Tips ‘N’ Tricks” WordPress Plugins **
I love these guys SO much they get their OWN category! As you may or may not know by now, I am very much into “K.I.S.S.” (“Keep It SUPER Simple”) online solutions. If there is one company that has helped me more than any in this department, it’s definitely Tips ‘N’ Tricks Headquarters! They offer a range of awesome WordPress plugins that can make your life a LOT easier (especially if you are a tech-dunce like me) – and they won’t cost you a fortune either!
WP eMember (Paid) – excellent, easy-to-use (with many cool functions) membership site plugin!
WP eStore (Paid) – excellent, easy-to-use (with many cool functions) shopping cart plugin! (Best used for digital products, but I use it for fixed-shipping physical products as well)
WP Affiliate Platform (Paid) – want to create your own affiliate program? It’s super easy with this plugin!
WP PDF Stamper (Paid) – great for reducing the chances of file-sharing with your eBooks. It stamps your customer’s contact information in the footer of every page.
What nice is that ALL these plugins integrate with one another beautifully (as you would imagine) – when you are using plugins from different companies it’s a lot more challenging to integrate them successfully and there can be conflicts etc.
Note: Tips ‘N’ Tricks Headquarters ALSO has some cool free plugins as well!
** Graphics **
PhotoScape (Free) – this is the ONLY tool you need for just about ALL your graphics needs! You can re-size, crop, add watermarks, create borders, make your own banners/headers, create screenshots, create animated gifs – the list goes on! It’s rare for a day to go by when I don’t use this awesome tool! NOTE: The one REALLY annoying thing about photoscape is actually trying to get to the download – they’ve got so many ads with fake download buttons etc that you can end up on a wild Goose chase if you are not careful. The link above takes you to a reliable download page – look for the big green “Free Download” button in middle of page (not banner up near top).
** Video Creation/Promotion **
Camtasia Studio (Paid) – This is an expensive piece of software, but WELL worth the money if you are serious about creating high quality videos. I even use it to create podcasts. If you are just starting out (on a limited budget), though, there are various free programs that can help you create decent videos/audios (see “Audacity” in the Audio section for example).
Easy Video Suite (Paid) – This is the latest release in the Easy Video Player series, and it completely blows EVP and EVP2 out of the water! This is another expensive piece of software I would only recommend for those who are really serious about video production/marketing etc, and those who can afford it. There are other options for those on a budget (I’ll aim to write about this on the blog at some point).
Amazon S3 (Paid) – For anyone wanting to host their own videos (i.e. NOT put everything on YouTube), I would almost call this a “must-have”. Running videos from your own hosting account is just a BAD idea all around. You use up lots of bandwidth and it will likely impact the performance of your site(s). Amazon S3 is a brilliant service, and it’s incredibly affordable – you literally only pay for what you use (and just to give you an idea of costs – as I type this I am still down below $5/month and I have lots of video/audios being accessed in my S3 account). It also may very well be the only service that actually goes DOWN in price over time!
Jing (Free) – I haven’t actually used this tool, but I figure anything created by TechSmith (developers of Camtasia Studio) is awesome. This is a good option for those who want to create screen recordings, but don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for Camtasia. Only downside is that you are limited to 5 minutes of recording time (if I remember correctly).
Screenr (Free) – This is another really cool screen recording program – which has the same 5 minute limit as Jing, but the added advantage of being able to add your new videos directly to Twitter and YouTube. I’ve used this one a number of times and really loved it.
NOTE: I should probably mention that “screen recording” is NOT just about recording whatever it is you are doing on your computer (for tutorials etc). It’s also an excellent way to create all manner of other types of videos. On that note – perhaps I should recommend my favorite screencasting course (wink wink)…
How to Screencast Like a Pro (Paid) – Everything Dave Kaminski puts out is fantastic, and this is certainly no exception. I learned a great deal about creating high quality screen recording videos via this course (reminds me – I definitely need to go through it again! lol). It’s very important to note that much of the content presented relates to the use of Camtasia Studio and Powerpoint – so definitely not for everyone!
Prezi (Free) – I learned about this cool program in Dave K’s “How to Screencast Like a Pro” course. I played around with it, before basically forgetting about it (lol) – but this is definitely a program I want to get back to!
** E-Mail List Management **
Aweber (Paid) – anyone really serious about building a following will at some point need to consider starting their own e-mail list(s). A responsive, appreciative audience can be one of your most valuable business assets. Of the “pro” list management programs, Aweber is likely the one with the best reputation. I pay between $200 and $300 USD for my Aweber account (can have as many lists in a single account as you want – but a max of 10,000 subscribers total before you have to pay more), but it’s absolutely worth every penny (many, many times that in fact).
That being said, if you don’t want to invest in a good list-building program initially there ARE other ways to build a “list” of sorts. For example, using Feeburner you can have people sign up to receive emails every time you post something new on your blog. I should also point out that MailChimp, a fairly well-respected (and widely used) provider, offers a free account for up to 2000 subscribers! Not too shabby at all.
** Audio **
Audacity (Free) – this is a fantastic free program for recording and editing audio files. I now just use Camtasia for my audio recording, but Audacity is likely every bit as good (if not better) – and especially nice since it doesn’t cost anything! If you have any plans to create podcasts, audio courses etc, this is a great piece of software to start using!
** Productivity **
FreeMind (Free) – if you’ve never used “mindmapping” software and you tend to have trouble getting all your (awesome) ideas out of your head and organized nicely in one neat package – I’ve got a serious treat for you! Once you start using it, you won’t be able to live without it! You might want to check out this video I made about FreeMind as well: “FreeMind – Mindmapping Software”
Roboform (Paid) – speaking of programs I can’t live without. Roboform is the ultimate tool for keeping all my (countless) login credentials organized and protected – and of course helping me quickly and easily login (i.e. it’s not just a place to store your passwords).