Please note: This post was written a couple of years ago, I will be creating a new post soon for this new redesign!
After almost 2 years on Squarespace, which felt like far too long, I am now back with my beloved WordPress and I couldn’t be happier. Years ago I taught myself how to code WordPress sites and themes from scratch. That knowledge is still useful of course but so many awesome resources have been released in that time which means that WordPress can do almost anything you want a site to do, without too much technical complexity.
I love customising the design of a website as much as possible as well as having access to lots of features and implementations. I won’t delve into why Squarespace didn’t work for me, I still think it’s a great service for simple websites, but you can do so much more with WordPress. If you love Squarespace for the drag and drop builder, there’s a new guy on the WordPress market that is pretty awesome! More on that below.
I come from a graphic and web design background of 13 years, you may know this was my main service for many years, helping clients create gorgeous brands and websites. For a period I also offered WordPress development, but it was never my main love, which is design. To be able to build a site where I could have fun with the design while also being easy to build was really important to me.
After launching this new website a couple of months ago, I’ve had a lot of people curious to know what I used, so I thought I’d share some of the resources. If you’ve been tinkering at your site for ages, want to make some improvements, feel like you don’t know enough to work on your own website, or want to make your processes run a bit more smoothly, hopefully, these resources will help you.
Divi Theme and Visual Page Builder
I have to say that this product made me pretty excited to get back onto WordPress. The Divi theme offers a gorgeous basic layout but it’s Divi Builder that is the superstar. Just a quick word about Divi Builder, if you plan on building a whole site with it you do need to plan to keep using. If you decide to switch back to the standard WordPress page editor it will be a lot of work to sort out all your page content again. But I think once you’ve used it, you won’t really want to edit your pages any other way. You can use it with any WordPress theme though, it doesn’t have to be the Divi theme.
So Divi Builder basically switches your page editor to offer more advanced modules and options which allows you to easily create and edit sections of the page with drag and drop capability. Before the visual builder was released, the page builder was just used to replace the normal page editor in the backend of your site. But when the creators of Divi released the Visual Page Builder, you can edit everything on your page in a live preview, which makes it so easy to arrange your content and move things around.
^ How it looks editing a page using the visual page builder, simple and user-friendly.
Another thing I love with Divi Builder, even though there are layouts and templates included, is it’s really easy to just start building your own custom layouts, which is the best way to create something that looks more unique to you. You can save your layouts, sections and modules to easily load them in other pages. You can make modules ‘global’ which means if you have a section of your website that appears on other pages on the site, you only have to edit that one module and it will update in all other instances that you use it.
^ An example of the page builder which replaces the standard page editing window in admin.
You can also use the page builder on blog posts (like this one!), not just pages! Seriously, this opens up a big opportunity for people who aren’t web developers to create interesting layouts. You can mix up the content almost like a magazine rather than having all basic text. Granted this will take more time but I love that it’s an option.
And one last thing that I’ll mention, with using the Divi theme and builder, most of the site is automatically responsive for other devices. With the Visual Page Builder, you can preview the layout for Mobile and Tablet, and make any adjusts you need to make it look great.
Finally, a bonus point to Divi for using my signature colours in their design, it makes me feel all the happier when editing my pages!
MailChimp for WordPress
With the new site, I wanted to also get my Mailchimp lists, segments and automation organised and working smoothly. If you’re a MailChimp user you’d probably know that when you have one person subscribed to multiple lists, it doesn’t count that as one subscriber. This means that you could be paying more for your plan because it’s adding to your total subscriber count.
For example, say you have two lists. Your main mailing list might be 2000 people. And you have another list for people who are interested in your course with 200 people. Even if 100 of those people interested in your course are also on your main mailing list, they are still counted as an extra 100 people with them being on the second list.
If you’re still on a free plan this doesn’t matter as much, but when you are paying for subscribers this becomes more important. There are many other emailing marketing platforms which don’t do this, but Mailchimp does. I love using them too much to move, so I went about creating more effective segments and groups in my main mailing list which is for my fortnightly newsletters. This allowed me to keep the cost of my account down as I’m not doubling up on subscribers.
So my site has a few pages with different signup forms for different interests. The free resources page (which triggers an automated email to get access), the oracle deck and each of my courses. I can collect people who are interested in all of these various things, within the one mailing list. This is where MC4WP comes in because unlike a lot of MailChimp plugins, this one lets me add people from a specific form on my site to a specific group in my primary mailing list. Even if someone fills out a form on another page for a different offering, they’ll be added to that group, remain in any previous groups, and still count as one subscriber in my main list. This is the primary reason why I love this plugin.
Just quickly I did want to mention that there is one downside to having people interested in different things on the one list. Say you send an email to someone who expressed interest in a particular product, and they unsubscribe. Then they will also be unsubscribed from whatever else you send them with that main mailing list, for instance, your regular newsletters. But for me, I don’t send many emails to segments in addition to my fortnightly newsletter, so it isn’t a huge issue. Essentially I just love seeing how many people are interested in different things or where they signed up on my site (you can use merge tags for this too) and every now and then they might get an extra email.
What really helped me get all this email marketing organised finally was Paul Jarvis’s Chimp Essentials course, highly recommended!
This is the eCommerce platform that I decided to use, I really just wanted to have everything in the same place in my WordPress admin as much as possible. I’ve only used it on digital products so far but do intend to also use it for physical products. I’ve used a few other eCommerce systems in the past like Shopify, Big Cartel, E-junkie as well as the eCommerce features on Squarespace, and compared to many of those I am enjoying this system.
The core product is free to install, you may need to pay for a few extra plugins to extend the features, the three extras I’ve needed so far are eWay Payment Gateway (to accept credit cards), Sequential Order Numbers (because WordPress numbers them like posts) and Autocomplete Orders (to autocomplete orders for products that are delivered online but aren’t a digital download). I’ll also get the Australia Post Shipping plugin when I have physical products ready, for live shipping costs.
In the same way that I love WordPress for being able to find plugins to do just what I need, I like that Woocommerce has the same benefit.
This is another plugin I use to integrate Mailchimp, but this time it’s to add people who have purchased from my shop to a specific mailing list and also to a specific group (again, this adds extra benefit to segmenting your list automatically). With the plugin, you can create conditions for adding people to a list or group, such as the particular product they purchased, the category of the product, or how much they spent. For me, just the ease of implementing this feature and the fact it simply did what I needed (I looked into Zapier which was way more complicated and didn’t work exactly how I wanted) is why I like this plugin.
I know just in the last couple of weeks Mailchimp has finally introduced their own eCommerce integration with Woocommerce but I haven’t explored that much yet since things are pretty much running how I want them to now.
Instagram is by far my favourite social media platform to use so I definitely wanted to feature it on my homepage. This is a great plugin to add Instagram feeds to your WordPress site, there are so many different variations for what you can display. You can aggregate multiple accounts, target specific hashtags, customise the widget and style to match your site and select the information displayed in the popup. It’s the best plugin I’ve come across for adding Instagram to your site.
If you aren’t already aware, having good SEO optimisation helps search engines find your site and list your website in search results for keywords and content people are looking for. I haven’t really spent much time on it before but I just wanted to mention this plugin in relation to Pinterest. Now, you may think Pinterest is all about pinning gorgeous images to create your own boards for inspiration, but essentially, Pinterest most powerful feature is the fact it’s a search engine, and one that can bring lots of traffic to your website. When you create lots of visual content, this is perfect since Google search is not as visual.
You may have noticed that some pins on Pinterest have bolded titles on them, these are Rich Pins, and these are preferred when people search on there to just normal pins. The way to create a Rich Pin is to make sure you have SEO and meta tags set up on your blog post or page, then validate the URL of that page here. Once you’ve done that, when you pin an image from your post or page to Pinterest, it will show up as a Rich Pin.
^ On the left is an example of a Rich Pin, on the right is a normal pin.
In addition to that, adding keywords to the description, and making your image interesting, can mean that more people will come across your content. I’m just starting to implement this myself and am interested to see how it goes. If you’re super intrigued about growing your traffic and mailing list with Pinterest, Melyssa Griffin has an in-depth course about this called Pinfinite Growth.
So going back to this plugin, it just makes it really easy to set up SEO on your site and optimise it on each page, it even gives you a red, orange or green light based on how good your SEO is, and makes suggestions on how to improve it. In the interest of being able to do this type of thing yourself, I think it’s an awesome plugin that is also free.
This turned into a much longer post than I expected! These are just a few of the main resources I’ve used to build and run my site, I hope it’s been useful to you. I’m also keen to share more about the design aspect of the website but I think it will have to be in another post! Stay tuned.
Some of these links are affiliate links, I don’t use them often and only if I genuinely love a product and have used and tested it.