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First off, I want to say that yes I am actually a web designer in Salt Lake City, Utah and these are tools that I have used over the years. I have confidence in recommending them, because I have used them in my workflow and they have added actual benefits to my websites and business. Many of these resources are free or have a free version and are marked below accordingly, and I don’t count free trials.  If there are other tools that have benefitted you as a web designer, please let me know in the comments! Also note that at the end of the article I include some tools that are not directly related to design, but as a web designer I do use them for my business.

This article contains a few affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission if you purchase an item after clicking the link, at no cost to you.

Themes

#1 Salient

I have used this theme extensively over the past five years. The team behind Salient continues to innovate and add new features consistently enough to stay on top (and sometimes ahead) of web design trends. This theme is design centric and where it lacks some of the more robust management features of a theme like DIVI (see below), it makes up for in jaw dropping design features and templates that are easy to implement right out of the box.

#2 DIVI

DIVI seems to have a never ending set of features and the customization capabilities are next level. DIVI can easily become your one and only WordPress theme. It is that robust. Its workflow capabilities, such as the global section feature, make designing and maintaining large websites so much more efficient than many other themes. My one gripe with the DIVI theme is that it is a little bit bloated and can cause slow load page times, but if you need the extensive feature set of DIVI then slightly slower page load times may be worth it to you.

#3 Avada

I have not used Avada as much as Salient or DIVI, but when I have it’s always been a pleasant experience. The theme settings are quite intuitive and the theme isn’t as bloated as DIVI. You get that standard WordPress look that many people are used to, but with some design skills you can use the Avada theme to create amazing websites. In fact, they have an entire library of websites that you can use to get a head start on your next project.

#4 Hello/Elementor

The Hello theme is the default theme for Elementor, a page builder. Elementor does work on other themes, but I have included the Hello theme in this list as it is the one I’m familiar with. Really, the star of the show here is the page builder, which has two versions: free and pro. I recommend paying for the pro version, because that’s where Elementor really shines. Some designers I know swear by it and say it’s the best page builder they’ve ever used on WordPress, beating out the likes of Beaver Builder, DIVI, Visual Composer, and WP Bakery.

  • free version

Hosting

#5 Flywheel

Flywheel is the only hosting company I’m going to talk about here, but if you must have more options then here’s a list of other hosting solutions. I’m only including Flywheel in my list, because they are the only hosting company I’ve been completely satisfied with. They are definitely not the cheapest solution, but they have solved so many headaches that I don’t care what the cost is. Here are some things they make incredibly simple: SSL, nightly backups, CDN, white label billing, managed plugin updates, blueprint sites, staging sites, among others. Flywheel is so much more than a hosting company. They are a business solution. If you are ready to take web design seriously and start making money, then get Flywheel and you’ll have total confidence when selling your services to clients.

Design

#6 Edit

I just recently found this chrome extension. It allows you to live edit websites. You can edit the color and font of text (or delete text altogether), but my favorite feature is being able to replace an image via drag and drop. I wish that there were more ways to edit a site using this, but still for the low price I think it’s worth it. I use it to audit or provide feedback on websites.

#7 HTML Color Codes

This is a straightforward website to grab a color from an image. Just upload your image, hover over a pixel, and grab the hex code. I use it to match color elements in a row to an image.

  • free

#8 ColorPick Eyedropper

A super handy Chrome extension that is similar to the last resource, but this time you click the extension when viewing any website and an eyedropper tool replaces your mouse. You then hover over any color on the website and click to extract the hex code. This tool is so useful!

  • free

#9 GoFullPage – Full Page Screen Capture

The GoFullPage Chrome extension takes a screenshot of the entire web page that you are viewing, meaning it scrolls for you to capture a site from header to footer. An amazing tool for archival or portfolio usage. With a little creativity you can create scrollable websites in your portfolio like this.

  • free

#10 Google Fonts

Google Fonts has over 1000 web fonts that you can filter by Category, Language, and Properties. You can even preview your own custom text and change the size on the fly.

  • free

#11 Loom

Move over YouTube. Loom fulfills a purpose that video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo do not. It allows you to capture a screen recording directly from your browser and then instantly grab a shareable link to insert into an email or even embed on your website. I use it to critique websites, help clients troubleshoot, or to make tutorial videos. In fact it’s what I used to make this video.

  • free version

Efficiency

#12 Bulk resize photos

You should always optimize your images before uploading them to your website, or they will significantly slow down your page load speeds. Bulk resize photos does exactly what is says, it resizes and optimizes photos for the web in bulk. I’ve included a plugin below that will optimize your images directly on upload to your WordPress website, but if you need a quick solution to optimize an entire folder of photos then this website does the trick.

  • free

#13 Grammarly

Grammarly is a free writing assistant that can save you tons of headaches when adding content to your website. Not only does it correct basic things like spelling and punctation, it can even offer advice on how to structure a phrase or sentence. It’s much smarter than spell check and will take your website content writing to the next level.

  • free version

Free Photo and Video

#14 Unsplash

Unsplash is my go to solution for free website stock photography. It has thousands (maybe millions?) of high quality photos that you can download and modify for free. And when I say high quality I don’t just mean in pixel count. These photos are jaw dropping and blow every other stock photo site out of the water. Unsplash has started to integrate with many software platforms, like Trello for example, so you may have seen it around. Be careful though. Due to its popularity some photos are used so frequently that many people recognize them. Try to dig a little deeper in your searches and the photography on your website will start to turn heads!

  • free

#15 Pexels

Pexels is another great photography solution for your websites. I don’t use it as frequently as Unsplash, but it does fill a need for me sometimes when I need a photo that is less cinematic and more direct. Make sure to bookmark this site as I promise you will need a photo from here every now and then.

  • free

#16 Burst

Looking for stock photos for your e-commerce website? Look no further, Burst has you covered. Burst is actually a Shopify owned website, but of course it can serve your WooCommerce photography needs as well. In fact you don’t even need to have an e-commerce website to benefit from Burst, that is just its primary use case.

  • free

#17 Mixkit

When it comes to website video backgrounds, simplicity is key. You don’t want to overwhelm your site visitors. After all, the video is in the background for a reason. Mixkit provides free looping videos edited specifically with websites in mind. Make sure to follow their usage tips so that you add to your website experience rather than detract from it.

  • free

#18 Coverr

Need even more stock video footage? Check out Coverr. They have an extensive library of free high definition stock video that should do the trick for most of your website video background needs. Of course if you have some editing skills you could create something even more interesting for your website.

  • free

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

#19 FileZilla

As a web designer you’ll eventually have a need for an FTP client. So the next time your site crashes during a plugin update, remember this article and download FileZilla. FileZilla’s website is very underwhelming, but it is a reliable product. It’s the first FTP client I used back when I worked primarily from Windows. See below for my Mac recommendation.

  • free

#20 Transmit

Another great FTP client, this time for Mac. Transmit is a lot more polished than FileZilla, but it performs the same functions. You can get it here or on the Mac app store.

Learning

#21 WPBeginner

Whether you are brand new to WordPress or you have been using it for years like me, you should keep WPBeginner at the top of your bookmarks. Pretty much anything you need to know about WordPress can be found on the WPBeginner website, unless you need to get extremely technical. Seriously though, I feel like you could spend a lifetime on that website learning about WordPress. If it hasn’t already showed up in your Google searches for your WordPress woes, it will soon!

  • free

#22 Stack Overflow

This site is known by most and continues to impress me. Many of my technical website questions have already been answered here. I just need to do enough digging. If by chance your particular question has not been answered there’s a whole community of people ready to help.

  • free

#23 The Futur

Okay so you know how to design websites, but do you know how to make money? The Futur’s goal is to teach one billion people how to make a living, doing what they love. They call it the #1BminusOne project. There’s a wealth of information on their YouTube channel, and you would be crazy to not take the free advice. Seriously go check it out and start implementing some new ways to make a living doing what you love.

  • free

Plugins

#24 Yoast SEO

Want to optimize your site for search engines? Start with Yoast SEO. It’s hands down the best SEO plugin for WordPress.

  • free version

#25 Imagify

I mentioned earlier that you must optimize the images on your website. Unoptimized images are probably the number one thing slowing down your page load speeds. Well, Imagify can optimize your images directly on your WordPress website. You can even choose the level of compression that you want, whether you want the plugin to automatically optimize images on upload, and more. I previously used Smush, but it can’t really hold it’s own against Imagify anymore.

#26 AntiSpam Bee

Spam on your WordPress website will make you want to pull your hair out. That’s why I install AntiSpam Bee immediately on all my new WordPress sites. It’s a good free solution to prevent spam comments and the like.

  • free

#27 All In One WP Migration

The simplest solution I’ve found for backing up, restoring, or migrating sites. You can pay to backup your site to cloud services like Google Drive or you can use the free version to just download a single backup file to your computer.

  • free version

#28 Classic Editor

Not everyone was ready for the Gutenberg editor when it was released, and many like me are still not fans of it. I use other page builders instead, and when I don’t want a page builder I prefer to revert back to the old Classic Editor that was standard on WordPress. Install this simple plugin and you’ll be basking in the WordPress nostalgia in no time.

  • free

#29 Official Facebook Pixel

There are other ways to install the Facebook Pixel on your website, but this is the official integration from Facebook and I’ve found that it’s the simplest to use. As you set up your pixel through business.facebook.com you’ll be directed to download the plugin and enter your pixel ID. Or if you already have a pixel ID, use the link above to download the plugin from Facebook’s website.

  • free

#30 Site Kite by Google

This plugin was long awaited and has totally simplified the process of integrating Google’s products onto my WordPress websites. Now installing Google Analytics, Search Console, Page Speed Insights, and Tag Manager is as simple as a few clicks. No more inserting code snippets into the header. You can even view basic stats from Google Analytics and Search Console right in your WordPress dashboard.

  • free

#31 Really Simple SSL

I don’t need to use this plugin anymore because I host all of my WordPress sites on Flywheel and they include SSL as a standard feature, but that doesn’t detract from how great this plugin is. If you are trying to move your site over to https then you should grab this plugin and it will make your job much easier. It can even help resolve mixed content errors which can be a total nightmare to solve on your own.

  • free

#32 Bloom

Bloom is made by Elegant Themes, the same guys who created DIVI. In my opinion it is the best email opt in plugin for WordPress. Both the design and features are top notch, and most importantly Bloom integrates with 19 email marketing systems. So keep using your email platform, but get Bloom and step up your opt in game with inline, pop up, and fly in forms.

#33 Hubspot

The Hubspot plugin for WordPress is so feature rich. Hubspot is a CRM that can integrate pretty extensively with your website. In fact I’m using it on this site right now. Head over to my contact page to see what a form looks like, or find the chat bubble in the bottom right corner of your screen. All of these conversations flow into my Hubspot CRM. If you want deep integration between WordPress and a CRM, you’ve got to check out Hubspot. Oh and they have a pretty generous free plan.

  • free version

#34 Monarch

Again from the team at Elegant Themes, Monarch is another plugin with stunning design. They claim that it is the best social media sharing plugin for WordPress, and I agree with them. They have 20 social network options, 5 placement options, pop ups, fly ins, widgets, and more. And on top of all of that Monarch is mobile friendly.

#35 WP Forms

A mobile responsive drag and drop form builder. If you’re looking to level up from Contact Form 7 then try WP Forms.

  • free version

#36 Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 has been around for a long time and is basically the default form option for WordPress. It’s pretty bare bones, but if you don’t need anything fancy it’s a great solution. I like how nicely it blends into my sites, because the CSS in my themes take precedence and styles the forms quite nicely.

  • free

Project Management

#37 Trello

Trello is essentially a virtual pin board that you can use to organize your work. Use it for project management, notes, design inspiration, or whatever else makes you happy! I’ve used it for about five years now, and it is so useful for visualizing what I need to get done and for organizing my thoughts.

  • free version

#38 Asana

I’m not a big fan of Trello when it comes to collaboration. For that I prefer Asana. It’s ability to organize tasks and projects when working with a team is a lot more streamlined than Trello in my opinion. So if you’re not flying solo, but need to get some serious work done, then you need to check out Asana.

  • free version

#39 Google Workspace

Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite) is the backbone of my digital – you guessed it – workspace. As cheesy as that sounds it’s really true. From email, docs, forms, notes, spreadsheets, video calls, and more Google Workspace really is a work horse. I can’t imagine piecing together all of these software from different places. Its cohesiveness and scalability is really impressive. I’ve seen some Office 365 setups and I don’t think I could make the switch to Microsoft in this area.

Automation

#40 Zapier

Zapier can automate almost any task between the various software platforms that you utilize. For example I use it to automatically add new contacts from Hubspot to Google Contacts.

  • free version

#41 Automate.io

Automate.io is very similar to Zapier, and to be honest I personally have found no difference between the two other than pricing and a few integrations. I recommend taking a look at both and seeing which one is a better fit for you.

  • free version

Sales

#42 Hubspot

I’ve already mentioned Hubspot multiple times in this article. Their free version is extremely generous, but when the day comes where you need to upgrade your plan, you will pay exorbitant prices to do so. The free plan includes contact management, forms, chatboxes, calendar scheduling, email tracking, and much more.

  • free version

#43 Zoom

Everybody knows about Zoom right? Although I would prefer to use Google Meet for video chats, it’s not as widely used so I often resort to sending a Zoom link to clients or leads. Oh and you can use cool custom backgrounds in Zoom!

  • free version

#44 Calendly

Calendly is the go to solution for calendar scheduling. It works great for getting leads on your calendar. For example, you could offer a free website or SEO audit and let the client choose the time that works best for them to go over the results. You can even set your own custom availability schedule. I use the calendar scheduling function built into Hubspot’s ecosystem, but if you don’t need all of that Calendly is a great standalone app.

  • free version

Finance

#45 Waveapps

I was introduced to Waveapps from a videographer friend who used the free invoicing feature. I later discovered that it is a full fledged financial system for your business, quite similar to Quickbooks. I’m a fan of the interface, invoicing, and transaction features. I think that Quickbooks has a much wider reach when it comes to integration, but if you don’t need all of that then give Waveapps a try. It has been an amazing asset to my business.

  • free version

#46 Stripe

Stripe is a payment processing platform. If you want to collect money, then get a Stripe account! I use it coupled with my Flywheel account to collect payments on recurring subscriptions.

  • free version

#47 Partial.ly

Partial.ly is a great solution for payment plans. Some clients don’t want to or simply can’t pay up front for a website, but if you offer a payment plan they might be able to swing it over six months or so. Just make sure that you have a contract with the client. You do want to be chasing down missed payments months after the project is completed.

 

So there you have it, 47 tools and resources that I use as a web designer. And again, yes I’m an actual web designer in Salt Lake City, Utah. I know many articles similar to this are written by content creators or marketers and often lack practical content that all of us web designers are looking for. I hope that this adds value to you as a freelancer or business owner. Please comment your favorite web design resources below and maybe I’ll add them into my workflow!

Steven Swank

Steven Swank

Steven has been designing websites for more than 8 years. He graduated from Johnson County Community College in Kansas City with a major in Computer Information Systems. He loves to travel and go on new adventures with his wife Madeline. He also enjoys helping people, especially when it comes to technology.

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