Six Ways to Start 2019 Off Right in WordPress

fireworks | wordpress projects

Happy New Year! 2019 is brand new, and it’s a time of promise and opportunity. Whether you do WordPress development for clients, manage one or more personal WordPress projects, or other, here are six ways you can make 2019 your best year in WordPress yet.

All recommendations listed below are our genuine, honest opinion as full-time WordPress developers and educators. Links to some products are affiliate links, which means we’ll earn a commission if you purchase the product after following the link.

1. With the Right Hosting.

If you think all WordPress hosts are made just about equal, think again. There are enormous quality differences between different, similarly priced WordPress hosts—and the easiest-to-find names generally provide the worst product.

Unfortunately, because the hosting review space has been so heavily distorted by money, it’s very difficult to get to the truth on WordPress hosting. We’ve written a detailed breakdown on this problem.

But the truth is out there, and we’re doing the best we can to make it available. We’ve written a detailed, unbiased analysis of thousands of real customer reviews from multiple reliable sources. These aren’t our random opinions on hosting: it’s the hosts that real customers like and dislike.

Here’s who you should definitely never, under any circumstances, go with as your WordPress host:

  • GoDaddy.
  • Bluehost, HostGator, HostMonster, A Small Orange, or any other brand owned by Endurance International Group (EIG).

Again, that’s not our opinion: we’re saying that because thousands and thousands of real customers have reported that, on average, they really dislike the hosting.

And here are some well-loved, solid hosting brands to consider:

For a huge amount more detail and analysis, read our full article on finding the best WordPress hosting for you:

Finding the Best WordPress Hosting of 2019: An Honest Guide

2. With the Right Page Builder.

Gutenberg is here. So is that the end of WordPress page builders?

In a word: No. If you’d like to know why not, I’ve recorded a thorough video presentation on why Gutenberg won’t be making page builders obsolete in the near future.

Now: Which page builder to choose? We’ve got you covered there, too. Our hands-down favorite is Beaver Builder, and we also like Elementor. WPBakery Builder (formally Visual Composer) and Divi are both bad software and we urge you to stay away from them.

These aren’t just arbitrary opinions. We’ve put together an extremely thorough and carefully documented comparison of WordPress’s major page builders. Read it now to learn which WordPress page builder you should be working with (and why it’s Beaver Builder.)

3. With the Right Themes.

The right theme makes WordPress development clean, crisp, and simple. The wrong theme makes it bloated, jumbled, and chaotic. Let’s start using the right themes.

For starters, the right theme is definitely not:

  1. Divi, or any theme from Elegant Themes.
  2. Any “all-in-one” theme from ThemeForest.
  3. Any theme that bundles with the WPBakery page builder.

These themes take a whole approach to what themes are that is massively wrong. If you’d like more detail, check out our articles on theme creep.

So what are the right themes? Some theme development shops I’ve had good experiences with in the past include:

To be honest, as page builders get better, I’ve found myself more and more often using free starter themes, which give you a completely bare-bones, neutral start to build from. Understrap is one starter theme I’ve had a good experience with, except that it handles menu dropdown elements really weirdly; for everything else I really like it. You might also look at _s (Underscores), the theme it’s based on. Here’s a list of some other options as well.

4. With the Right Plugins.

Your choice in plugins makes all the difference. Of course, there are as many WordPress plugins as there are needs a WordPress customer could have—but there are a few core pieces of functionality that just about everybody needs. Make sure you’re choosing the right tools for the job.

  • For site migrations, All-in-One WP Migration. The only tool that does the job cleanly and reliably. Free for smaller sites, and well worth any upgrade money you spend on it.
  • For forms, Gravity Forms. The dominant premium solution, and the most flexible and reliable WordPress form builder we’ve ever found. Contact Form 7 is a good free alternative for simple sites and simple forms.
  • For layout creation, Beaver Builder. The only plugin to truly revolutionize how I work with WordPress, Beaver Builder is the most stable and reliable WordPress page builder on the market.
  • For SEO management, Yoast. The clear leader for years, and free for most users.
  • For permalink redirects, Simple 301 Redirects. The best free solution for changing permalinks, and includes a time-saving bulk uploader tool that is also free. If you’re curious when and why you need to redirect permalinks, this is a crucial topic for SEO; read details here.
  • For custom fonts, Easy Google Fonts. Gives you clean and quick access to Google’s vast font library. Free and thoughtfully designed.

These are the right choices for some of WordPress’s most consistent feature needs. In my opinion, almost every WordPress site should be running these plugins.

5. With the Right Clients and Projects.

If you build websites for clients, having the right clients will make an enormous difference to your financial health and quality of life. We’ve written a detailed guide to navigating client and project warning signs that can give you a better sense what you’re getting into with each potential client you meet. Have a look through it.

6. With the Right WordPress Learning Resolutions.

New Year’s is all about setting goals for a brighter future. What are your WordPress resolutions for 2019? Here’s some learning goals we can suggest for you:

  1. Learn PHP. PHP is the backbone of WordPress as a software system. If you don’t currently know PHP, learning it will be like lots of lights going on—about WordPress, and about programming in general. Our course Up and Running has a fifteen-minute intro to PHP that can get you started, and there are lots of free learning resources online.
  2. Learn the fundamentals of WordPress development. WordPress development is a huge topic, but there is a clean and straightforward path through learning its key topics. That’s the path our flagship course Up and Running takes. If you’d like to transition your career into being a full-fledged WordPress developer, it’s the best resource available.
  3. Learn how to write secure code. Security is a core and critical topic in web development for you and your clients. If you’d like to finally understand XSS, CORS, and all the rest of it—and know for a fact that the code you write and the WordPress sites you develop are secure from threat—then WordPress Security with Confidence is the only resource you’ll ever need.
  4. Learn Gutenberg development. WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg are here, and now’s the time to learn to develop for them. We like Zac Gordon and Joe Casabona’s courses on the topic, and check out the official developer handbook too.

Let’s Get 2019 Started Right!

If you follow the six suggestions above, you’ll be well on your way to a wonderful 2019 in WordPress. Happy New Year!

Image credit: Chris Phutully


3 Responses

Comments

  • Don Kiely says:

    Thanks, Fred! Good ideas, and good things to consider.

    Could I ask your opinion of the Genesis theme? I wonder if you’d consider it one of the good ones. The article you linked to, 22 Most Popular WordPress Starter Themes For Your Next Project, speaks well of it.

    Cheers,
    Don

    • Fred Meyer Fred Meyer says:

      Hi Don,

      Thanks! I like the Genesis theme framework, but don’t typically use it myself on projects whose theme choices I control. It’s extremely event-driven (“hook”-y) under the hood, and I find that that sometimes makes it harder to make changes that I’d expect to be simple in most themes.

      Just my two cents – definitely good software, in my opinion, and worth using if you want to learn and follow the framework’s way of thinking about things.

      Fred

  • John Glynn says:

    Great list Fred, thank you for taking the time to send it out to us. The only thing that I found missing was WP Forms. I use this plugin with several websites. Many of the forms I’ve created with this plug-in are laden with conditionals and other complexities; it has never let me down. But please let me know if there’s something I’m not considering!

    Thank you again, great list.

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