As a skincare enthusiasts, I’m fascinated by the ingredients in skincare products and how they benefit our skin. As a web developer and total geek, I’m naturally interested in what tools and services people use to create their blogs. So today, I’d like to share my website blueprint with y’all, which is essentially a big list of all the tools and services I use to create and run this blog.
Hosting & Infrastructure
CloudWays– I’ve long moved away from shared hosting and now have a VPS on DigitalOcean’s servers, but managed via CloudWays. I pay $5/month for 512MB of RAM, 20GB of SSD storage, and 1TB of bandwidth, which is excellent compared to what most shared hosts offer.
- SiteGround – I’m now on SiteGround’s WordPress GrowBig plan. Don’t love it or hate it, but it’s easier to manage than CloudWays.
- CloudFlare – No matter who you’re hosted with, you can benefit from the additional caching and optimization features CloudFlare offers. Most of the features you’ll need are free, but some advanced ones (which I never use) do require an upgrade
MailGun– To send out emails from the server using SMTP, I’m using MailGun’s free service which allows 10,000 emails a month. This is what allows my blog to send out comment notification and reply emails. No longer required now that I’m hosted with SiteGround.
All about WordPress
I try to avoid front-end plugins as much as possible because every additional plugin means loading additional resources that can impact your speed. As a result, most of my plugins focus on under-the-hood improvements:
- Akismet – The obvious choice for spam protection.
- Better Internal Link Search – When adding a link in WordPress, it allows you to search through your existing posts to easily link to them. This plugin extends that search to include tags, categories, and any custom taxonomy you’ve created.
DsgnWrks Instagram Importer– Traditional Instagram plugins work by pulling your photos directly from Instagram and loading them on your blog, which is fine, except that external requests can negatively impact your speed. This plugin imports your Instagram photos into WordPress (as a media file) and you can then setup a custom query to display these images. ElasticPress– This replaces the default WordPress search with the faster and more powerful ElasticSearch, a search server that’s integrated with CloudWays. Epoch– improves the speed, user experience, and overall functionality of the native WordPress comment system FD Footnotes– I use this for citing sources when discussing skincare ingredients. It’s like college all over again.
- JetPack – I’m using this mainly for its related post feature, which offloads the processing to a separate server. Other related posts plugin are extremely database intensive, and are actually banned from most many WordPress hosts. I also like their SSO and protection services.
Postmatic Social Commenting– This allows users to login using their social profiles instead of filling out their name and email.
- Revive Old Post – When you see old posts being shared on my Twitter, it’s all done by this plugin
ThirstyAffiliates– I use affiliate links on the blog, and this is a nice way to organize them and give them prettier link. W3 Total Cache– Not my ideal caching plugin, but it’s the one that works best with my host, so I have no choice.
- WP Review – This creates the ratings widget you see at the bottom of all my review posts!
WP SEO HTML Sitemap– To improve internal linking (and thus SEO), I use this to generate a site map that’s linked at the bottom of every page. WP Mail SMTP– Uses SMTP (MailGun) instead of the PHP mail() function to send out WordPress emails. Yoast SEO– All-around excellent SEO plugin with lots of features.
Bourbon + Neat– If you’re a designer and haven’t started using a Sass or Less yet, you’re missing out. I still use Sass, but no longer use a framework.
- IcoMoon – I use their free font for my social media icons.
- Noun Project – You can literally find an icon for anything under the sun on this site. The icons are free to use as long as you give proper credit. The category icons are all foun on here.
Tools & Services
- Google Analytics – Hands-down the best analytics tool out there. If all the features seem overwhelming, I highly recommend signing up for the Google Analytics Academy – it’s free too!
- Canva – I use this to create all my Pinterest images (which you can see by clicking the Pin button at the end of each post), but it’s excellent for creating any type of blog or social media graphics!
- MailChimp – Free for the first 2000 emails each month (which I’m nowhere near), this allows me to send out weekly post updates with a customized template.
- ImageRecycle – This is one of my favorite image optimizers as it really reduces the size without compromizing quality. I optimize all my photos using this before uploading them to my blog.
- Buffer – This allows me to schedule all my social media posts and post them when my followers are most active! I love this tool so much I upgraded (which I never do) to the awesome plan and now I schedule my pins as well.
- Disclosure Policy Generator – A disclosure policy is a must have for all bloggers, and this one is really easy to use.
So there you go – a big list of everything that I use to run this blog! Of course there are also some custom functionality, like the ingredients listing, that I hand coded, so if you’re interested in those, or any features you see on this blog, let me know!
If you have anything you use for your blog that you think is AH-mazing, please share! Or better yet, I encourage you to write your own website blueprint post to share your knowledge with fellow bloggers! Remember, sharing is caring!