The top curated WordPress plugins, themes,
hosts, and services for 2019.
Premium WordPress Web Hosting
In the universe, not everything is created equal, and that definitely applies to web hosting providers. Below is a carefully curated and vetted shortlist of the absolute best WordPress web hosting providers for WordPress-based websites. In addition to being the top-tier when it comes to blazing fast website delivery, every host listed here provides amenities such as daily automated backups, 24/7 customer service, free SSL, free CDN, built-in caching, the latest PHP version, and multiple site environments. Not only do I host my own sites on these providers, but I would be happy recommending these to even my mom.
When it comes to lightning fast WordPress websites, I have never seen anything that competes with Kinsta's hosting service. Their hosting platform is built utilizing Google Cloud Services, which delivers any WordPress site hosted on Kinsta to any computer anywhere in the world within seconds. For the level of service they provide and all of the premium amenities, Kinsta is one of the best choices you can make for WordPress web hosting.
If you are looking for a premium WordPress host that delivers speedy sites but also offers a more affordable option, WP Engine is a great choice. By paying annually, WP Engine gives you 2 to 4 months of service for free. This makes WP Engine a great choice to balance out the cost, especially if you have multiple WordPress websites. As a premium host, they also offer excellent amenities that make them a top choice.
There are thousands of WordPress Themes available, but not every theme is created equal. Over the past 10 years, I have worked with over a hundred different WordPress themes. Here are my current shortlisted favorites that hit every mark that you need to have a responsive and great website that works across today's mobile, tablet, and desktop devices. These are great for both developers and non-developers to use.
Avada is the first theme I go to when building websites for both clients and for myself. It is a jack-of-all-trades type of premium theme that allows you to do virtually anything with it. With both a backend and a frontend editor, Avada is also a great choice for both developers who want more control for customizations, and for non-developers who want to edit the content live on the frontend. Avada is backed by a great development team and there are regular updates.
Divi, similar to Avada, is also a jack-of-all-trades type of premium WordPress Theme. Created by ElegantThemes, Divi comes with a full frontend builder plugin that they have custom developed. Compared to Avada, which only just released their frontend builder, Divi claims to have one of the most user intuitive frontend drag-and-drop builders which make it easy to edit your WordPress site without code knowledge.
Email Service Provider
Most web hosts have already moved away from providing email services, and those who currently offer it for free, you probably should stay away from. It is important to have a dedicated and reliable email service provider, because web hosts that provide it for free often have your email on a shared server. That means your website shares the same server and IP address as usually hundreds of other websites. If just one of those websites start spamming the world or not complying with anti-spam rules, the entire IP address gets blacklisted, which includes your emails. The email service provider I recommend is time harden, trusted, and provides the most reliable email service out there.
Google's G Suite product is the king when it comes to reliable email service providers. Not only do you get Google's state-of-the-art anti-spam filters helping you cut down on incoming spam, their email services also help protect you from being blacklisted. (This is assuming you aren't sending actual spam.) There is no other email service provider I would rather recommend than G Suite. The best part is that starting at $5/month/user, it is incredibly affordable too.
Chances are your website needs to collect data. That might be in the form of a contact form, a registration form, a checkout page, or anything else that collects input from the user. That's where forms come in. Forms are a great way to collect data, and here are the best form plugins and services available. These form providers made the cut because of the robust features they provide with a modern style.
NinjaForms is a plugin for WordPress that allows you to create as many forms and collect as many entries as you want inside your WordPress website. The data you collected is stored in your WordPress database on your web host. A copy can also be emailed to any addresses you set. What makes NinjaForms great is the wealth of features you can use to expand your forms, including collecting payments and adding conditional requirements. It's more affordable than a cloud-serviced based form system like Wufoo or Typeform, but it also puts the burden of security on you.
Donations and Donor Management Plugins
Non-profit organizations and charities often come to me asking for recommendations on collecting donations online. There are a wealth of WordPress plugins available that can allow you to collect money online, but they do not all have the same features that you might be looking for, such as a donor management system, automated receipts, and recurring donations. Here is the plugin I have vetted and recommend for charities.
GiveWP is a plugin for WordPress that allows one-time and recurring donations to be accepted on your website through customizable donation forms. GiveWP also allows you to manage your donors, view donation reports, and integrate with many third-party gateways and services. Where GiveWP really stands out from your traditional forms is its ability to collect the recurring donations, as well as to create detailed donor history reports, and generate tax-deductible receipts.