Want to Take Your WP Site to the Next Level? Use These Top WordPress Plugins

Your business might be doing OK with a run-of-the-mill online presence. Although a flat conversion rate is nothing to brag about. Spice up the website by using a few special features (the salt, and pepper). You should expect an uptick in conversions.

Or, take advantage of what plugins offer.

They can do for websites what sour cream, cheese, and bacon bits can do for baked potatoes. Visitors come back for more, and they spread the word about your cool products or services.

Check out our selection of top WordPress plugins (condiments if you prefer) to see what they could do for you.

1. Logic Hop – Personalized Marketing for WordPress

Logic Hop

You’ve probably spent a lot of time building your website. Tweaking content. Massaging your message. Working on ad variations. A/B testing and wondering what is going to click – Or, more importantly, get clicks… Sure, some things work, but only for a specific ad or certain social media posts.

What if your content and messaging could react to your ad variations? What if your content knew what social media post a user clicked on? What if your site could remember your visitors’ behaviors? With Logic Hop for WordPress, it can.

Welcome to the world of content personalization where Logic Hop makes it easy to personalize your site based on UTM codes, geolocation, on-site actions, and even data from Gravity Forms, HubSpot, Drip and ConvertKit.

Stop missing clicks, conversions, and sales. See for yourself with a 14-day free trial. Logic Hop’s premier customer support will help you get up and running quickly. What are you waiting for? Take your digital marketing to the next level.

2. LayerSlider

LayerSlider

With the Layer Slider plugin, you get a multi-purpose animation platform on which you can create image galleries, mind-blowing slideshow effects, animated page blocks and, naturally, an excellent variety of sliders. Layer Slider is also a great tool for building landing pages, and even complete websites.

Layer Slider is mobile device friendly, easy to use, SEO friendly, and developer-friendly as well. Its cutting-edge technologies, drag and drop visual editor, and other smart features eliminate any need for coding.

This plugin’s many useful features include a built-in Photoshop-like image editor and an expanding selection of professionally-designed and handcrafted slider templates. These templates serve as excellent starting points for new projects and cover a wide range of topics from personal to corporate needs.

Layer Slider users have access to detailed documentation, lifetime updates, and a dedicated help team.

3. NextGEN Gallery & NextGEN Pro

NextGEN Gallery & NextGEN Pro

NextGEN Gallery is the industry standard for WordPress plugins of its type. It makes it easy for beginners to put together a …

Inspiring One-Page Portfolio Websites

If you’re looking for a great way to show off your skills, have you considered a one-page portfolio? They’re concise and to the point, which is good for potential employers who may be short on time.

And in a smaller sandbox, you have more reign to creatively show off your design expertise. One-page portfolios tend to have some of the most interesting and well-made layouts in web design. With a single page, you can make your site less like a static webpage and more like an experience sure to thrill anyone who comes across it.

Looking to create your own one-page portfolio? Here’s a bit of inspiration from some of the best designers and developers online!

Owltastic

Owltastic

With a charming duotone palette and beautiful starry space theme, this is one fantastic example of a one-page site. There’s plenty of links to case studies, past projects, and the designer’s social media accounts. Frequent use of a call to action leading to the contact form means that clients won’t ever have to scroll far to send a message.

Gordils & Willis

Gordils & Willis

This portfolio wastes no time at all in diving into the project showcase. As you scroll, you’ll get to see various pages, logos, and parts of the UI that were designed for each website or app. If you’ve seen enough, just use the menu to snap to the bottom, or click the hovering email button that’s always on the left.

BRNDMKRS

BRNDMKRS

Big ideas need a big website, and this full width page features huge typography, large videos, and full screen images. There are even a few interactive elements, like a service checklist that lets you see an estimated cost for what you want.

Ollie

Ollie

Bold and dark design are what this portfolio is all about. The black background makes the more colorful images pop, and the custom cursor is a nice touch. This one is a good example of an image-focused portfolio without too much text.

Aristide Benoist

Aristide Benoist

Gigantic text is certainly one way to grab attention. Once you’re interested and start scrolling down, you’re immediately introduced to the developer and his work. Hover the image and you’ll get a taste of this dev’s experience in interactive design.

Portfolio of Oliver Gareis

Portfolio of Oliver Gareis

Oliver Gareis’ portfolio opens with a brief about and awards section before getting right into the portfolio. Each project includes a brief description of what the designer was going for, showing off his expertise. There’s quite a bit of content, but you can use the sticky header to scroll right to the contact info at any time.

Kevin Dunbar

Kevin Dunbar

One of the best parts of this portfolio …

Represent Your Business with a Free .design Domain Today

The right domain name is a vital part of your overall branding strategy. It should be both easy to remember and reflect what you do. Yet, for years designers have settled for domain extensions that really don’t fit in. While .com, .net or .biz work well enough, do they really provide users with context?

Thankfully, we no longer have to settle. Now that .design domains have arrived, they offer a unique way to promote your business. They look great on all of your branding materials, such as business cards, resumes and even as your custom email address.

And, best of all, you can register your own .design domain for free! If you already have a website – not to worry. You can simply connect your new .design domain to your existing site. Or, use the available site builder to start from scratch.

Porkbun .design domain

Why .design Stands Out

Having your own .design domain name presents quite an amazing opportunity. After all, it’s rare that an industry has such an easily identifiable domain extension.

Not only that, but there are several other reasons to go with .design, such as:

Great Names Still Available
Because .design is fairly new, there are still plenty of outstanding names available to register. However, that won’t always be the case – so consider getting yours as soon as possible.

Unique Branding Opportunities
A great rule of thumb is that, the shorter your domain, the easier it is to remember. And since .design is so industry-specific, it allows for some clever name shortening.

For example, janedoedesign.com can become janedoe.design. Not only is this shorter in length, it also makes for more memorable branding.

Perfect for Redirecting
Even if you don’t use your .design domain for your main website address, it can still be a valuable resource for redirecting elsewhere.

If, for instance, you have a profile at a design community such as Behance or Dribbble, you can point your .design domain directly to your portfolio page. This makes sharing your profile with others super simple.

Get Your FREE .design Domain

We have teamed up with Porkbun to offer all 1stWebDesigner visitors a FREE .design domain name. The first year is free, and yearly renewals will be just $35 instead of the $70 offered at some registrars.

You also get:

Free Email Hosting
You can add an email address (or multiple!) that matches your domain name. For example, anne@goldsmith.design or info@goldsmith.design, or any other name you want.

SSL Security
An SSL certificate will encrypt your visitors’ sensitive data, and also display your site with “HTTPS” in your address bar, which will let visitors know that you’ve made …

Free Illustration Sources for Your Design Projects

For web and graphic designers, purchasing illustrations for a project can be expensive. That extra unique touch of custom artwork is often worth the price, but what if it’s not in your budget or vision?

Whether you just need placeholder illustrations, or aren’t planning on purchasing expensive commissions at all, you don’t have to settle for clip art. There are plenty of beautiful, free illustrations out there, fully available for use in any project. We’ve compiled a few sources here. Icons, art, and vectors; anything you need, you’ll find it.

Absurd Design

Absurd Design

Looking for illustrations that are weird, imperfect, and human? Absurd Design has beautiful artwork that looks like it comes from a surrealist painting. For free, you get eleven black and white designs in PNG format. They’re free for use in personal and commercial projects. You can also pay a monthly fee to get colored versions, SVG vectors, and even more great artwork.

unDraw

unDraw

If you need some stylish vector illustrations with a strong focus on people and technology, unDraw has hundreds of images that are just your taste. Tech-focused websites or graphics will find plenty of material here, but there’s a little something for everyone.

And the neatest feature: use the drop-down color picker at the top of the screen to customize the main colors to match your brand!

DrawKit

DrawKit

These beautiful modern icons would look great in any project. There are dozens of illustrations covering a variety of topics, each in black and white or color. It’s easy to edit them in any vector editor, and they’re available for any type of project. You can also purchase a pack of 5 premium illustrations, or a kit of 100+ components to mix and match into your own unique image.

365cons

365cons

365 cute, minimalist icons, available for use via the MIT license. Each icon comes in SVG and PNG form, so you can use them anywhere. And each icon related to the artist’s life that day in some way, so you’ll find all sorts of stuff!

Streamline Illustrations

Streamline Illustrations

How does 50 colorful, cartoony icons available for commercial use sound? People, objects, and technology are all represented here. Each icon comes with color, duotone, and line art versions – and in six different file formats! If you like those, you can also purchase premium packs or the whole set.

You can also install 240 totally free LGBT vectors on top of this, so that makes nearly 300 free icons from this site!

Ouch

Ouch

16 different art styles covering hundreds of illustrations sorted by subject – and all you need to do is link back. These icons were …

What Do Potential Clients Want to See in Your Portfolio?

A design portfolio can be a tricky thing. On one hand, it’s very much a necessity for showing the world the great work you’re doing. At the same time, not everyone is going to pour over every bit of your work with a microscope. In fact, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition.

So, what impact should this have on how you build out your portfolio? It can actually depend a good bit on the types of projects you’re looking for.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some considerations for targeting your portfolio towards the intended audience.

Detailed or Not?

If you check out the portfolios of other designers around the web, you’ll find a wide variety of styles and levels of detail. Some offer in-depth case studies of the process of taking a website from concept to finished product. Others are sparse and let the work speak for itself.

Is one approach better than the other? Again, this is where your intended audience comes into play.

If you’re looking to book large, high-paying projects where you want to demonstrate the full spectrum of what you offer, a more detailed portfolio may make the most sense. This could be especially important if you do a lot of custom development. Potential clients will be looking to see how you get things done and will want to have a more complete picture of what’s involved.

This is also a scenario where case studies or project profiles can be a big help. If you go this route, try to write them all in a similar format and point out any specific challenges you helped solve. This offers some solid proof that you’re an expert in your field.

Alternatively, many feel that a simple listing (text or gallery-style) of projects is enough. If your goal is to show off your great design skills, a strong visual may be all you need to get people’s attention.

Man creating a flow chart on a whiteboard.

Projects to Include (and Leave Out)

Whatever approach you’ve chosen, all portfolios require a selection of projects. That’s right – a selection. We often think that, just because we’ve completed a project, it belongs in our portfolio. But this may not be the most effective way to go about it.

For instance, if you’ve been in the web design business for a number of years, you will probably have some projects that haven’t been touched in just as long. You need to ask yourself: Is this really relevant to what I’m doing now?

Not only will some of these older projects utilize outdated technologies, they will also send the wrong idea regarding what you do. If you’ve …

7 WordPress Alternatives for Web Designers

There’s a lot to love about content management systems, or CMS. Maybe it’s the streamlined web design process: The website builders, themes, and no coding knowledge needed for any of it. Maybe it’s all those nifty plugins that can pull off technical features you’d have no idea where to begin with. But if WordPress just isn’t cutting it, what can you do?

Luckily, there are dozens of quality CMS and website builders out there that can potentially take WordPress’ place, depending on you and your clients’ needs. We’ve collected a few of them below.

Craft CMS

Craft CMS

Craft’s single best feature is that it’s intuitive – both for you and your clients. WordPress can be difficult to get the hang of and even harder to customize due to its API. But Craft starts with nothing and allows you to add pieces as you need them. Third-party themes and plugins are there too!

The only trouble is the price tag. This is not something you want if you’re working with small projects. But give the free version a spin on your own time and see if it’s something you’d enjoy working with.

Perch

Perch

Need all the benefits of a CMS without having to deal with one during the design process? Create your website first and foremost, then add Perch to it later. Your clients get the simple interface and you get to design the site yourself.

Webflow

Webflow

Webflow was built as a comprehensive tool for freelance web designers. Design a site without ever touching code, build it with a CMS, and deploy to your clients with hosting available right from Webflow. It works great for small design teams, too!

Bolt

Bolt

Bolt CMS is defined by its simplicity. The code is simple and not bogged down with features you don’t need – but they’re easily added if you want them. This CMS use Twig to craft templates, so you can code them yourself from scratch. And editing the sites you create is super easy. No more frustrated clients! Plus, the platform is free and open source.

Kirby

Kirby

If your biggest woe with WordPress is the difficult installation process, Kirby might be what you’re looking for. It’s lightweight and super easy to set up on a server. No more 5000-step installation guides. There are no databases to contend with and the admin panel is reasonably client-friendly too. Kirby, however, is best for designers who can do some coding in PHP.

Drupal

Drupal

Drupal is not easy to learn as a web designer, especially if you’re used to WordPress. However, when you need a CMS that is capable of running websites that WordPress …

10 Free Tools and Apps for Optimizing Images

In our never-ending quest to create websites that are as lightweight as possible, image optimization plays an important role.

Poorly optimized images not only increase load time, they also take up precious bandwidth from both users and networks alike. Larger websites with copious amounts of images and traffic can be especially impacted.

TinyPNG

TinyPNG is a web-based image optimizer that will shrink the size of your PNG and JPG images with minimal loss in quality. The service is especially adept at significantly lowering the size of complex transparent PNG files.

TinyPNG

ImageOptim

ImageOptim is a free, open source app for OS X that will optimize images while also deleting unnecessary meta info. Removing meta also has the side benefit of protecting your privacy. There’s also a lossy minification mode that will aggressively shrink PNG, GIF, JPG and SVG images – including animated PNGs and GIFs.

ImageOptim

gulp-image

If you use the Gulp task-runner, gulp-image will automatically optimize GIF, JPEG, PNG and SVG images through a script. It’s a great option for those who have lots of images to process. Prefer to use Grunt? Then grunt-image has you covered.

gulp-image

Pngcrush

Pngcrush is a command-line script that can run on both MSDOS and Linux. The utility will scan your PNG files and try various compression levels and filter methods to reduce file size.

Pngcrush

APNG Assembler

Use APNG Assembler to create highly-optimized animated PNG files. This standalone app includes versions for Windows, OS X and Linux.

APNG Assembler

Compressor.io

Compressor.io is a free online service that will optimize GIF, JPG, PNG and SVG files. You can choose from either lossless or lossy compression types.

Compressor.io

Simple Image Optimizer

With Simple Image Optimizer, you’ll be able to both optimize and resize your images through a basic web interface. There are also separate options to simply resize or convert images.

Simple Image Optimizer

Smush Image Compression and Optimization (WordPress)

Smush is a WordPress plugin that can automatically optimize and even resize your site’s images as you upload them. You can also bulk-optimize up to 50 images at once. It’s a very handy solution for ensuring images are optimized without having to lift a finger.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

Image Optimize (Drupal)

Image Optimize is a module for Drupal websites that will utilize image optimization scripts already on your web server, such as OptiPNG or jpeglib. The module will also integrate with some 3rd party optimization services as well.

Image Optimize

Apptrian Image Optimizer (Magento)

Apptrian Image Optimizer is an extension for Magento that uses lossless compression to optimize GIF, PNG and JPG files. Images can be batch processed and a cron task can be set up to periodically scan for and optimize new uploads.

Apptrian Image Optimizer

Saving Time and

Best Practices for Managing Multiple WordPress Sites

Both WordPress and its ecosystem of themes and plugins are seemingly always in a state of change. While WordPress core updates are usually limited to a few times a year (save for a quick bug fix/security release), plugins in particular are constantly being tweaked.

Regardless of what’s being updated, there is always the possibility of something breaking. Plugins may not have kept up with core updates and end up hindering the functionality of a site (or worse).

With that in mind, let’s explore some best practices for juggling multiple WordPress websites.

1. Keep Backups

Whether you manage one WordPress site or 100, make sure to use backups. There are tons of free plugins that can back up the site’s database and/or file system.

Depending on how often the site’s content changes, you’ll want to run backups accordingly. If something goes wrong due to an update or security issue, you’ll be glad that you have a stable copy of your sites backed up.

2. Craft a Plan

Ideally, you’d use an all-in-one dashboard that allows you to update multiple sites from a single screen. The ubiquitous Jetpack plugin includes this feature, as do third-party services like ManageWP. These solutions are great because you have everything you need, all in one place. This will save you a lot of time having to manually login to each site individually.

jetpack banner

Short of using a unified dashboard, you’ll want to come up with a schedule for keeping your sites updated. Whether you want to update everything at once or do a few sites per day, it’s important to ensure that you have everything regularly updated (at least once every two weeks, if not more often).

3. Do Your Homework

While it’s tough to keep up with what’s running on every site you manage, it pays to look at a plugin’s changelog before hitting that update button. This is especially true if you’re working on a site using WooCommerce or another mission-critical plugin.

Unless there’s a vital security fix that absolutely needs installed right away, it may also be a good idea to give new releases a few days to see if any further bugs are discovered. Checking support forums first can save you a huge headache.

Also consider using a staging environment. Having a place to safely test updates beforehand is always recommended for eCommerce sites and those that get a lot of traffic. Some web hosts offer staging as part of their packages. Otherwise, you can also set up a local staging environment on your own machine.

4. Use Reputable Themes and Plugins

Just because a theme or plugin is readily available for …

5 Things to Look for in a WordPress Theme

One of the first steps to building a great WordPress website is finding the right theme. Yet, this can also be an incredibly tough choice. Why? Because there are so many themes. And it seems like each one promises the moon, stars and a slice of pizza.

When you think about it, themes carry an incredible amount of responsibility. They not only have to make our content look pretty, they must also make it easy to navigate and consume. Plus, they have to effectively adapt their layout to everything from a small mobile screen all the way to a 60” 4K monitor. And this is just scratching the surface.

In such a crowded marketplace of free and premium themes, how can you choose the right one? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there are some general characteristics to look for. Here are a few of the most important ones to consider.

1. The Ability to Turn Off Unused Features

Theme authors are looking to sell their products to as many people as possible. So, they often include a wide array of attention-getting bells and whistles. Things like scroll animations and fancy JavaScript effects can be compelling – but they can also get in the way of your site’s purpose. Not to mention that they can also hinder performance.

Ideally, a theme should allow you to disable the extras that aren’t being used – whether through a settings panel or via code. This provides you with some measure of control when it comes to what scripts and third-party libraries are loading on your site.

A cardboard robot looking at a series of switches.

2. Thoughtfully Responsive Layouts

It should almost go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Any theme you decide to install should work on all screen sizes. In this day and age, there’s simply no excuse for anything less.

But this also goes beyond just being responsive and fitting content onto mobile screens. A theme should also make it easy for users to navigate on touch-enabled devices. So often, we see menus just thrown behind a hamburger icon without much thought to ease-of-use. Hamburgers are fine, but they should allow for easy access to multi-layered navigation and even multiple menus.

In addition, important site functions such as shopping carts shouldn’t be hidden on smaller viewports. Users need to be able to access these features without having to search for them.

Man looking at mobile phone.

3. Doesn’t Require Plugins

Have you ever installed a theme, only to find that it “requires” a specific plugin? There are times when this might be acceptable – such as a niche theme specifically for use with WooCommerce. However, this tactic often gets taken too far.

No …

9 Time Tracking Apps for Freelancers

When you’re not working on the typical schedule of a nine-to-five job, it’s easy to lose track of all those hours. Where is all that time going? If you’re struggling to stay on task, or just want to make the most of your hours, one of these time tracking apps is just the thing. It’s time to reclaim your work life!

Toggl

Toggl

How does free/cheap time tracking software sound? Toggl is flexible and designed for teams of any size. One-click timers turn into valuable insight and business statistics, so you can reclaim those lost hours. Super affordable per-user billing means you don’t need to pay more than the app is worth, and teams up to five can use Toggl for free!

Harvest

Harvest

Harvest is a business-oriented time tracking app, rich with features and loaded with everything you need to keep you and your team on target. The program works by letting you set timers or fill out a timesheet yourself – super simple. Manage projects, see how your team is doing and bill clients from your phone, desktop or browser.

Clockify

Clockify

A simple time tracker, 100% free with no strings attached. Clockify was created because every team and freelancer should have an easy way to track their time. It may not have the flashy features of other apps, but it does exactly what you need. Individual, team and project tracking, hassle-free.

DropTask

DropTask

Made for visual thinkers, DropTask is the free management software for those looking for something a little more flexible. If other software is too restrictive, you’ll be pleased with this app. Work alone or together in real time with two teammates, or try the business version if you need even more control.

RescueTime

RescueTime

Time to create a balanced work-life schedule! RescueTime runs in the background and creates a report on what apps and websites you’ve spent your time on, letting you accurately identify distractors.

The software is free, but the premium version lets you block websites or set up alerts. RescueTime for organizations offers insight into your employees’ habits while allowing them to keep their privacy with generalized reports.

Hubstaff

Hubstaff

Running a freelancing team? Hubstaff is made for businesses and freelancers who need a way to track employees’ time spent. You can also use it for free by yourself! This is an all-in-one program that includes time tracking features as well as payroll, invoicing, scheduling, and more.

Billings Pro

Billings Pro

The no-nonsense slogan sums it up pretty well: “Track, invoice, and get paid”. Send clients quotes, track your billable time while creating helpful reports and send an invoice when you’re done. Simple and to the point. The cross-platform …