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In the course of our online design career, and particularly with WordPress, we’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to tools that make running your business a joy rather than an exercise in tearing your hair out. We’re constantly discovering and testing, and conferring with the experts to determine which plug-ins, shopping carts, membership programs, etc. are the best options for our clients.

Here’s a list of just a few of the tools we love:

  • Thesis Theme for WordPress – An one-stop theme solution for most online business owners.  It’s flexible, easy to manage and getting better all the time.
  • Digital Access Pass – Without a doubt the most comprehensive, flexible membership program for WordPress you’ll find for the price.
  • Sucuri – Hands down the most affordable, fastest and easiest to use malware monitoring and ‘repair’ service out there.
  • Riva Slider – My favorite image slider for WordPress.  It’s incredibly flexible and looks amazing.
  • Gravity Forms – If you need more than just a basic contact form (like maybe you want to create forms to gather client information), this is your best bet.
  • Aweber – A robust email marketing solution with solid analytics capabilities.  What does that mean?  You can see how effective your campaigns are!  And it’s used by a lot of the pros.
  • Mailchimp – A simpler, fun-to-use email campaign solution with attitude.  I don’t recommend if you’re building a business and require serious analytics of your mailing lists, but for many people, Mailchimp works just fine.
  • AudioAcrobat – There are lots of choices out there for hosting your audio and video files, podcasts and more.  Audio Acrobat gives you a place to keep them all in one place.  And they’re adding new features all the time.
  • Surveymonkey – Does what it says – surveys!
  • Basecamp – I couldn’t run my business without Basecamp.  It’s like having an extra brain!  Allows me to keep track of tasks and to-do lists, and my clients to keep track of everything in one  place.
  • – A free online photo editor that does almost all the things Photoshop can (except without the skill requirement – or the cost).  I use this to do some effects for online photos and love its simplicity.  After the demise of Picnik, this was my go-to for referring to clients who didn’t want to spend the money or time on more complex photo editors.