April 7, 2021
Platform Roundup: Development
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Part of my mission to run my business in a better way and to find that balance that allows businesses to do well & do good relies heavily in factors that are outside of my control. I am a developer, but there is no way I can, or would want to, build every single tool I use in my business from scratch. So the next best thing I can do is choose my platforms in an informed and conscientious way.
I often get asked what my “tech stack” or which tool I recommend for x or y, so I thought it would be a helpful resource to share what tools I use in different parts of my business. These are not “the best” nor “the only” tools and platforms, these are just the ones I use and feel good about recommending to people after having read on their practices and how they balance function, accessibility, inclusivity, sustainability and privacy.
None of the links below are affiliate links and there is no monetary gain for me from mentioning these tools, just an acknowledgement of what I use and what works for me. Your mileage may vary.
GreenGeeks is the company where I host my personal website, and the one I recommend to my clients, family and friends. I’ve even got my mom on GreenGeeks, so that should say something. They are committed to green hosting and put their money where their mouth is. In addition, the quality of their service is very good and their price points are very accessible to businesses of all sizes.
Cloudflare is a free Content Delivery Network (CDN) that works as a proxy between your site and your visitors. I won’t get too techy about it (Not yet anyway) but know that it helps your site load faster by storing static assets and delivering from the closest data centers. It’s also a great security addon to help your site stay spam and attack free.
I use WordPress on my site and most of my clients’ sites. I really appreciate the result of the Open Source effort behind WordPress, the community they have built and the focus on accessibility and inclusivity throughout their presence. It is also important to me to create sites my clients can easily operate themselves if they choose to, and that doesn’t tie them to me as a developer. If you’re working with me on an ongoing basis, I want it to be because you see the value in our collaboration and not because I’m the only one who knows how your site is built.
Divi Theme + Divi Accessibility
One of the parts that I used to dislike a lot about working in WordPress was that you had to commit to a theme and build on that framework, with very little room to customize the look and feel of a site. And that is precisely why, when I came across Divi back in the early ’10s, I was immediately smitten. Divi works as a page builder and lets me use one theme across all my clients’ sites and build just about anything my creative mind can come up with, between their modules, blocks and a bit of custom CSS, JS & PHP I have as much liberty as I would build a site from scratch, while taking advantage of the robustness of WordPress. The best of both worlds.
Divi, like just about any other platform, is not all puppies and butterflies. The team is very dedicated and they’ve made a point of consistently delivering improvements based on what the community wants, such as speed and integrations, but their accessibility is not where I would want it to be. Luckily, they have fostered an amazing community of people willing to help each other and make Divi even better. It is through that community that the plugin Divi Accessibility came about, and between that and some custom code, I can make my Divi sites conform to accessibility standards and give an enjoyable experience to everyone who visits.
If you ask people what their WordPress SEO plugin is, most of them will say it’s Yoast, it’s become such a big share of the market that we assume it to be the one or the only one. I don’t want to waste this space discussing why I left Yoast behind. A quick search will return plenty of people who wrote about that. I will explain why I moved away to the SEO Framework.
For me the key to SEO is simplicity, behaving naturally and putting people before crawlers, and the SEO Framework meets me in every single one of those points. There are no complex options for everything and the kitchen sink. It is faster and less burdensome on web resources than the major player in the space; it does one thing, and it does it well and my favorite thing about it: Its doesn’t spam me with millions of ads and notifications and banners that take resources to load, that increase my site’s carbon footprint and that compromise my digital wellbeing by demanding attention and interaction.
A fast website provides a pleasant experience for your visitors. It is also better for the environment by reducing your website’s carbon footprint, the size of your files and the amount of hits to the database. A good hosting provider, CloudFlare, a theme optimized for speed and reducing bloat in plugins, images and content, is already a great start to a fast website. WP Rocket brings the sites over that last bit of performance to go from ok to blazing fast. The price point might be steep for small businesses and bloggers, but in my case, an unlimited site license covers me and my clients in a very cost effective way.
Other Development Tools
Visual Studio Code: I use visual studio code for anything and everything code related. It’s free software that gives me everything I need and a handy set of addons and plugins to make the experience easier. This might not be the choice of seasoned developers and techy people, but it provided me a low entry barrier into the world of coding and is now integrated into my work flow.
Digital Ocean: In Digital Ocean I create little droplets, they are mini servers to run development projects on. Bots, tests and new platforms and frameworks I’m learning all go into Digital Ocean.
Integromat: It is a super handy tool for connecting APIs and creating automations that save time and effort and let me keep all my stuff (and my clients’ stuff) synced up and running on its own.