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When creating your WordPress website there are a bazillion different themes and plugins that you can use. Ok, well maybe not a bazillion, but it can seem like that when you start going down the rabbit hole looking for which ones you want to use on your website. It can be completely overwhelming, and there are a ton of themes and plugins that promise a lot and don’t really deliver.
I have been designing websites for over 7 years and I now have my favorite themes and plugins that I use on almost all my own and my client’s sites. I am going to share them with you today.
What is a WordPress Theme?
In WordPress, a theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to give your website certain options for the look, formatting, and functionality of your pages and posts.
There are many free options for WordPress Themes in the Themes directory. If you log in to your WordPress website, in the WordPress admin area go to Appearance » Themes, you can see a few standard free themes. If you want to dig further, you can click on “Add Themes” in that screen and you can scroll through a large collection of free ones.
You can also go directly to the Themes Directory and search there. It is worth taking a look just to see what is out there and offered in your specific niche or field. It is always a good idea to read the reviews and look at the support areas of the themes offered to see if it will work for you.
What is a WordPress Plugin?
A WordPress plugin is quite literally a bit of coding packaged up and plugged into your website that extends functionality or adds new features to your WordPress websites. It can be added in the plugin area of the WordPress admin area, go to Plugins » Add New.
There are so many WordPress plugins available for free at the official WordPress plugin directory (many of the ones I will be recommending can be found here). There are also a ton of options for premium plugins from private companies.
Ok, now that you know why you need a theme and plugins, I want to share the ones I use and recommend!
Plugins that I use and recommend:
- AddToAny Share Buttons If your website has content that you would like people to share in any way, AddtoAny Share Buttons is the easiest to use. Within the settings you can choose the pages/posts on which you want to have the buttons. The universal button they have is fantastic, in that, a person has a ton of different ways to share, not just to the standard 4 social media platforms.
- Caldera Forms This is my go-to forms plugin. It allows you to drag and drop fields and is one of the only free plugins that allows for file uploads. You can use it for any kind of form: quizzes, contact forms, questionnaires, etc. and it is incredibly easy to use and set up.
- Duplicate Page When you are adding pages or posts to your website with the same format, I find it easiest to use Duplicate Page. You can duplicate Posts, Pages and Custom Posts using a single click.
- Easy Digital Downloads Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) is a must-have for anyone wanting to sell digital products on their website. This includes software, documents, photos, ebooks, songs, graphics, videos, or any other type of media file. EDD gives a complete system for effortlessly selling your digital products. They also have a ton of paid add-ons that make this plugin a total powerhouse. Something that you may want to know too if you are going to offer prepaid services on your website, they have a free add-on for that!
- ElementorThis plugin is a page builder. This can be added to any theme that does not already have a page builder (this will not work with Divi-see below). Essentially this lets you turn any theme into a drag-and-drop. It is incredibly easy to learn. The free version of this plugin gives you the ability to make a basic website with basic functionality.
- Elementor Pro (Premium)Elementor Pro brings you a whole new level of creation to your ENTIRE website: header, footer, single post, archive and 404 page, and many many more can be edited with the Pro version of Elementor. Also Elementor Pro gives you access to premade layouts and templates that you can use on any part of your website.
- Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights This plugin makes it easy to connect your website to Google Analytics. The free version is really all you need if you just want to see the basic views and bounce rates. This helps you to see what is keeping people on your website and what may need to be improved.
- SG Optimizer As I use Siteground hosting for all my websites, I always use this plugin to improve website speed. It gives you all the performance optimizations provided by SiteGround. (For more about Siteground hosting you can read my last article, Website Hosting: What You Need To Know).
- UpdraftPlus It is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT that you back up your website to an offsite storage. Updraft plus lets you backup and restore locally, or backup to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace, (S)FTP, WebDAV & email, on automatic schedules. This is one of the most important plugins on your website.
- WooCommerce WooCommerce is THE e-commerce plugin that you should use if you are planning on selling actual physical products. It works to sell anything and everything really, but if you are just selling digital products, go with Easy Digital Downloads. WooCommerce is open source (meaning that anyone can change the coding or create products to go along with it) so there are a TON of amazing add on plugins that can help create any kind of selling/purchase experience.
- Wordfence Security Your Website security plugin is top-three most important for the health of your website and also for your business. Nothing ruins the chance for new clients to work with you then when they search for your website and someone has hacked it and sent it to some dodgy site. Wordfence Security plugin gives Anti-virus, Firewall and Malware Scan and its incredibly easy to use and set up.
- WP Rocket Premium If you have chosen a host that is not Siteground and cannot use the SG Optimizer plugin for website speed, then the caching plugin WP Rocket is the one I would choose. It is incredibly easy to set up, just activate it on your website and it starts doing what its supposed to. If you need more than just the basics though, it has the capability for you to change the settings as you need them and the support is excellent.
- Yoast SEO Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is imperative to getting your site ranked by Google and seen by potential customers and clients. Yoast SEO makes it incredibly easy to make sure that every page and post on your website is SEO ready. It also has a handy Social media area that lets you create specific posts for Facebook and Twitter. – Just a note, at the time of writing this article, Yoast doesn’t read Elementor created pages clearly, so some of the functionality of Yoast won’t work if you also use Elementor.
Themes that I use and recommend:
- Divi Theme Premium
Divi is a theme created by Elegant Themes and is the front runner for website designers of all levels of expertise. It utilizes a visual page builder (hence the reason that the Elementor doesn’t play well with it) and they also offer customizable layouts for almost anything. You can use one of the layouts and just plug in your content and images, or delve down into it and create a page from scratch. It’s incredibly easy to use and the tutorials and freebies they give to their members along the way make this a great deal!FYI, Divi is just one of the themes and plugins that are included with a membership with Elegant Themes, there are also a bunch of plugins and other themes, but it is the most popular and most customizable theme on the market in my opinion.
- Ocean WP
OceanWP is the theme that I always use with the Elementor plugins. It works seamlessly with Elementor and is completely free. It has customizations that are easy to find and follow (though most of these, you would do with Elementor) within the theme settings, but you can also mostly ignore those when you use the Elementor plugin. Long Story short, this theme works well with Elementor and is free and incredibly flexible.
Well if you made it this far, you are completely ready to create your coaching website! Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or need recommendations for a plugin for a specific function that isn’t listed above.
Next month I will be explaining why, once you have created your website, it is important to maintain it and how to do that. Make sure to subscribe to The Coach Guardian weekly article newsletter below so you don’t miss it!