Resources & Tools

This is a collection of tools and resources which make running your web design business much easier.

Over years of building our own business, we tried literally hundreds of different tools and have compressed that list down into the best of the best.

Where available, some of these links are affiliate links. But every single one of them is used in our business.

If you have questions about anything on this list, or find something else so epic that you think it should be listed here, give a shout out in our Facebook group.

Let's get into it.

Project Management & Client Requests

Teamwork Projects & Teamwork Desk

Teamwork is a project management tool that does pretty much everything you could want it to do. After testing and playing with over 15 different tools, this is the one we settled on for our web design project management system.

Some of the things we use it for:

  • Creating common task templates for use across projects
  • Assigning a project manager, designer and developer to each project, which automatically assigns all tasks to those people
  • Automatically setting due dates and timelines based on a start date
  • Notifying people when a task is ready for them to work on (task dependencies)
  • Notifying people when tasks are overdue
  • Tracking time to tasks & projects
  • Tracking time or tasks which are outside of scope, to be later charged to the client
  • Integration with Teamwork desk to gather client feedback and change requests
  • All feedback is converted into a task and tracked until completion
  • Seeing overall progress of open projects

Overall it is a great system. I'd be lying if I said it was perfect, but out of everything we tried (we spent 3 months looking) it fits our web design business the best with great pricing to boot.

CRM and Email Marketing Automation

Active Campaign

Moving to Active Campaign was one of the best business decisions I ever made. After comparing most well known solutions in this space, this is the one we settled on. And wow has it transformed our business.

The automation builder is second to none. We use the marketing automation portion to handle lead magnet delivery, website waitlist emails and capturing briefs from clients on autopilot before meeting with them. It ties in well with the kanban style CRM platform, which means you can fire off emails based on moving clients through your sales process.

One of my favourite examples is our "end of job" automation. We simply have to drag and drop a job into "complete", and it triggers a series of emails which:

  1. Asks the client how their experience was
  2. If they provide great feedback, it asks for persmission if we can use as a testimonial
  3. Ask for referrals
  4. Upsells to website care or maintenance
  5. Checks in a month later
  6. Archives the job

For a full review and more info, check out this post.

Lead Capture & Opt Ins

Thrive Leads or Bloom

Capturing leads is one of the most important things you can do for your business. Even if you don't have the time to create an ebook or lead magnet, you can capture leads a variety of ways:

  • Website waitlist
  • Packages & pricing information booklet
  • Booking in a brief consult/virtual meeting

The next most important thing is that it is easy to set up those opt ins/lead capture, otherwise you'll never do it.

These two tools make it ridiculously easy.

We personally use Thrive. It gives you more flexibility over what your popups and forms look like. It integrates with just about every major marketing platform.

Bloom is still an amazing option. We used to use it but like the flexibility of Thrive more. If you don't care as much about flexibility, it's easy to set up new forms in a snap. One downside is you need to purchase the Elegant Themes membership to get access to it, but that also includes one of our favourite social plugins, Monarch.

Hosting and Staging Sites

Cloudways

Cloudways is our favourite hosting for web designers, ever. With it you can quickly and easily set up new WordPress installs, and quickly migrate existing sites in. For us, this cuts down on the time wasted setting up live sites for clients to preview their websites.

We also usually set up our more technical clients ot those with special requirements on Cloudways. It is built on top of other infrastructure like Digital Ocean and AWS which makes it easily scalable.

Read more at this post.

Shopping Cart / Payment System

ThriveCart

Selling product & services online need not be difficult. But lots of systems out there seem to make it difficult. ThriveCart is a brilliant cart system that is perfect for selling things online. It makes it super easy to set up a great looking checkout page for just about anything with:

  • Multiple payment gateways (we use Stripe & PayPal)
  • Custom fields to collect any special information
  • Embedded testimonials to increase conversions
  • Subscriptions
  • Upsells & bumps (increase revenue with other products)
  • Receipt emails
  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Affiliates

And much more to come. The best part of Thrive is how actively it is being developed. The team are clearly dedicated to making this the best cart system on the planet. There's very active Facebook group full of users and people from Thrive. Their support is responsive, and everything they do gives me confidence in where this is headed.

Password Management

Lastpass

As a web designer, you manage a ton of client passwords. Asking for passwords via email and storing them in a spreadsheet is insecure and asking for trouble in the future.

LastPass provides a central place to store all your client passwords and give access to those passwords to members of your team. You can control who gets access to what passwords by creating shared folders and user 'groups'.

It saves us so much time and headache. It's also inexpensive.

I do have one problem with LastPass, and that is the Enterprise version interface. It makes some tasks a pain in the behind, but totally makes up for it with how powerful it is.

Follow Ups & Reminders

FollowUpThen

This is one I use personally, rather than as a company wide tool. It's very simple. When you send an email, you can bcc a special address like 5days@followupthen.com to remind you to do something or follow up with someone in that many days.

If you cc the same address, it will automatically follow up with the person you emailed. On the pro version ($5 a month), you unlock response detection. When enabled, if the person responds, it cancells the follow up.

I use it to:

  • Follow up with potential leads
  • Follow up on outstanding quotes
  • Remind me to check in with people about just about anything
  • Even to remind myself about things

Best WordPress plugins for client sites

Page Builder Beaver Builder

One of the best page builders out there. Very developer friendly. Very client friendly. A combination that most don't have.

Building a site with Beaver Builder, Beaver Themer and ACF is the best "stack" I know of right now. Check out the full review here.

Caching & Speed WP Rocket

The most noob-friendly caching and performance plugin there is.

We ditched W3 a while back for WP Rocket and never looked back. It gets installed on every client site, requires minimal configuration and makes our lives a lot simpler.

Custom FIelds Advanced Custom Fields

ACF makes it very easy to add custom fields to WordPress post types. It looks and feels like native WordPress, which is one of my favourite parts because it looks seamless to your clients.

Combined with Beaver Themer, it is one of the most powerful tools you can add to a WordPress website.

The only part we don't like is that there's no affiliate program, so you know this referral is 100% because it's just a good product.

Image Optimisation Imagify + Imsanity

Imagifyis a sweet little image compression tool for WordPress. One of the better ones out there.

Imsanity lets you create limits to what size images your clients can upload. No more 14mb images and distressed clients on the phone asking why their website takes 45 seconds to load."

Website Feedback Project Huddle

Technically this isn't a plugin for client sites, but it's amazing.

Project Huddle is a self hosted WordPress plugin that allows you to upload wireframe, designs or embed entire websites so that your clients can provide feedback on them. All they have to do is click and type to provide valuable feedback, that is 1000 times better than dot points in emails or crappy screenshots.

Unbelievable price for what it does. Loads of docs available on their site so your team can work out how to use it with almost no input from you.

Data Import WP All Import

This tool has so many uses. The most common for us is moving content between sites. For example, when you develop a new site while someone is blogging on an old site. You could use WP All Export & Import to bring in the new posts, or anything that has changed on the old site like events, shop products etc

You can also set up up to regularly check a feed to bring in new data e.g. a real estate feed to bring in any new houses. Or a product feed.... etc

More Tools

Check back for reviews on the following tools which we use in our business.

Google Apps / G-Suite - Everything you could want in an email & file system.

TextExpander - To create shortcuts for phrases and text blocks that you repeatedly type.

ServerPress - The easiest way to setup a local development environment for WordPress.

aktura-logo-white-transparent

Content Snare is part of Aktura Technology, a web app and SaaS development company. Web designers work with us to expand their capabilities. If clients ever approach you to build something that you can’t quite handle in-house, drop us a line.