My Tools

Since 1996 I have been constantly on the lookout for new and better tools for designing an online presence.  To read my exploration of tools, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

This is an evolving page as I find new tools and add tutorials.

NEW: Discover how to build your own funnels online – amazing free training here.


Photo Editing for Web

You must be able to create modifications to your photos, make a social media banner, create a photo with a caption on it for social media to boost number of views and shares, crop a photo to fit a blog or photo album, create an infographic, make a header for your website, maybe a cover for your e-book or report…

Just be sure to save the original in a separate folder so you can always retrieve it.

We cannot all afford Adobe Photoshop. But don’t let that stop you. Tools I suggest for my students include:

Adobe Photoshop Elements
A powerful yet stripped down and less expensive version of Photoshop – this used to ship free with scanners. Easy to find and your local business or department store. Create an image file the size you want based on where it will be used. Paste in images, add text, work in different layers to apply effects like emboss, drop shadow, transparency and more. Full rein for the creative type.

Paint
Yes this Windows utility still has a purpose. It can be a bit clunky but is much more feature-rich than the original version.

Picasa
A freely available Google product. Organize and edit your photos – adjust and crop photos easily. Create a collage then crop that image for headers. Even create simple movies of your photo slideshow.

Apps
You will find many apps available for your device – explore the Adobe apps, and simple apps like Scanner Pro, Captions and Dual Cam to create unique images.


Website Building

Domain and Hosting – GoDaddy.com

WordPress – for self-hosted websites
Note that if you use GoDaddy you do not need to download the software. Use the one click install in your Cpanel at GoDaddy
WordPress
is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time. The core software is built by hundreds of community volunteers, and when you’re ready for more there are thousands of plugins and themes available to transform your site into almost anything you can imagine. Over 60 million people have chosen WordPress to power the place on the web they call “home” — we’d love you to join the family.

Themify Builder
The Themify drag & drop Builder for WordPress helps you build any page layouts with a live, frontend preview. It works on any theme!

Themify WordPress themes
All Themify WordPress themes now include the ability to create designs for your website by dragging and dropping. Build beautiful, responsive layouts that work

WooThemes – Premium WordPress Themes & Plugins
WooThemes is a leading WordPress theme and plugin provider with tons of free and commercial products available to jumpstart your website. Solid themes, updated, customizable and responsive.

 


Email Marketing

When it comes to email software I look for several things:

  1. Can I upload and download lists from the software?
  2. Can I add custom fields for unique information I need to collect?
  3. Can I integrate it into my website and shopping cart?
  4. Can I create a series of automated emails (also called autoresponder or drip campaign)?
  5. Does it show me Spam rating, delivery statistics, open rate and click through rate?

I have used and still use the software below. With a CMS website like WordPress or Joomla, I use integrated software and then use ElasticEmail to improve delivery rates.

Aweber (works on any site)
AWeber Communications provides email marketing and autoresponder software to small businesses worldwide. The primary AWeber features include email newsletters, autoresponders, sign up forms and RSS-to-email. (source Wikipedia)

Mail Poet (for WordPress sites)
Just search for Mail Poet in the Add Plugins section of your WordPress Admin panel.

Acymailing (for Joomla sites)

Elastic Email
Whitelist your Acymailing or Mail Poet emails


Social Media

Hootsuite
Keep track of all of your social media streams, keywords, direct messages and mentions all from one dashboard.

Website Grader
How is your website doing? Measure your site rating in various ways.


 

When I started out, much of the work was done with prayer and elbow-grease. Hand coding or paying others to code. Using Corel Webmaster Suite back then, I learned to create static webpages with content laid out in tables. Later on – about the turn of the century – I moved up to Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop to build pages with CSS and html, pre-made templates and divs.

I have always felt that the Solopreneur should be as involved as possible in their website. Once I started using Adobe products, I would tell clients about Adobe Contribute: a simple and inexpensive piece of software that lets you edit your website fairly easily. It was tricky to add pages or any exciting elements (and I had to remember to download their site before I started editing the copy I had on my machine – ouch).

As customers began demanding more creative and interactive websites, I started looking at online software for Content Management (CMS) including Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. At the time, Joomla looked like the best option – and it is good – but the learning curve can be tough for clients.  Anything can be done with Joomla and its extensions. I could buy amazing templates through RocketTheme.com and I loved that my clients could add pages, photos and products. What I didn’t love was how hard it was to upgrade from version 1.x to 2.x – this put responsibility back in my court again. What else I didn’t like is how often Joomla is hacked.

As WordPress improved I kept an eye on it. I started implementing it on simple websites 3 years ago… with great success. No longer just for Blogging, WordPress has thousands of add-ons (called WordPress plugins) that can be easily installed. Many of them are excellent – some of them crashed my site requiring a full re-build.

I use WordPress exclusively now. It can still be hacked but keep a backup or snapshot and it can be restored easily. Visit your site every day and watch for suspicious email bounces.

 

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