You can do a lot with WordPress without spending a dime. I mean it. You can really accomplish a lot, and even launch a full-fledged business site. But sometimes, sometimes you have to shell out the dough.
Whether it’s to add a top-of-the-line feature or learn a new skill, sometimes the premium resources out there are well-worth mining. Yes, you’ll need to open the pocketbook to use them, but the end result can make for stylish, functional websites that take a fraction of the time to build.
Be sure to check out my post on free WordPress resources while you’re at it. There was a lot of good stuff there, as well.
Now, onto the list!
Whether site development is new to you or you just want to build up your skill set, I can’t recommend online education enough. But it has to come from the right source and you need to be willing to put in the elbow grease to work through the course materials and apply them to your projects.
If you’re willing to do that, Treehouse is a good investment. This site offers a way to expand your technological education at home, by using a track method that allows you to learn at your own pace while still receiving guidance from expert instructors. You can watch course videos, perform coding within Treehouse’s browser-based code editor, and share your work with the community.
While sticking to a Track is recommended, you can pick and choose which courses to take. This is especially helpful if you only need to tack on a few skills. And when you do well, you can show off your progress on your personalized Treehouse homepage with badges.
Treehouse costs $25 per month for the basic plan and $49 per month for the pro plan.
In my previous post about free WordPress resources for speeding up site development, I made mention of Aesop Story Engine, a plugin designed to allow for the creation of storytelling sites via drag-and-drop. This plugin is free but Aesop also offers premium themes that work perfectly in sync with it. You can use the plugin with any theme but Aesop’s themes integrate seamlessly. That’s why I wanted to highlight Fable here.
Fable is a magazine-style theme that supports large cover images and of course all the options from Aesop Story Engine. This theme allows for customization across the board, including accent colors, logo, and footer text. You can integrate it with WP Live Search and it also supports a front page grid with many of your latest posts or you can enable a super large post on the homepage to attract attention for your latest content. The sticking point may very well be the $120 price tag, but if you want to build a story-oriented site with no guesswork, this will definitely cut back development time considerably.
Site speed plays a crucial role in user experience of your website. If it loads too slowly, visitors are much more likely to bounce, or leave before taking in any of your content. But manually adjusting settings and tweaking your site to load faster can be time consuming. That’s why using a tool like WP Rocket is such a great idea. Once activated, this plugin speeds up your site with minimal fiddling.
If you’re looking for some WordPress specific training that will all-around enhance your development efforts, might I recommend WP 101? This site will teach you the basics of WordPress all the way to advanced tutorials through straightforward videos and access to a members-only forum.
The videos are readily accessible and can be viewed on any device. They’re professionally scripted, so are quick to watch and process information from and are continually updated to stay current with the latest version of WordPress. While it will take time to learn WordPress from these videos, the end result will be an increased skill set and competence, which makes for faster site development. WP 101 costs $19 per month if paying monthly, $39 per year if paying annually, or a one-time payment of $79 for lifetime access.
While there are several page builder plugins out there right now Visual Composer is sort of the gold standard. By adding drag-and-drop page building elements to the frontend and backend of your site, you stand to save a ton of time on site development. You can create different layouts for every page and customize to your heart’s content without having to touch a single line of code.
Of course, you can tweak the code if you want, but having a tool like this in your arsenal means you can make attractive sites in a hurry if need be. It comes jam-packed with features like total control over your site’s responsiveness, over 40 predefined page elements, over 40 layout templates, custom post type support, design options, an advanced grid builder, WooCommerce support, SEO friendliness, parallax backgrounds, video backgrounds, image filters, multilingual support, lifetime updates, and support. The biggest drawback is the code it produces can be quite sloppy. There are trade-offs here, of course, but if quick development is your aim, this’ll do the trick.
A regular license for Visual Composer costs $34.
Having a backup solution in place is a must when developing a site, whether your own or for a client. It’s essential for a number of reasons. For starters, you want to protect all of your hard work! But it’s also important to maintain an air of professionalism. And site downtime due to hacking, update issues, or some such definitely doesn’t fall in line with that objective. Nor will having to redo any step of a site’s development due to lost data save you any amount of time.
VaultPress is one of many backup solutions for WordPress. This one is made by Automatic so it has that official thing going for it. It works by creating a backup of your site each day and in realtime. It also performs security scans, works with WordPress hooks, and makes it easy to restore from a backup should the need arise. It also lets you review and fix suspicious code and gives you access to Safekeepers, a group of WordPress experts that can help you with your backups. The Backup Bundle with VaultPress Lite and Akismet Plus is $99 per year while VaultPress and Akismet Plus is $299 per year.
UberMenu is another premium resource that can help to speed up WordPress site development. This plugin adds mega menu capability to your site, that works in line with the WordPress 3 Menu System and allows for total customization to match your current theme and aesthetic. Menus created with this plugin are fully responsive, work on any device, and are touch enabled. You can also create advanced submenu layouts within a column grid system to accommodate the menu complexity you need.
Some of its features include multiple CSS3 transitions and triggers, 25 Google Fonts, and the ability to create multiple menus. You can also create tabbed submenus; integrate advanced content like images, descriptions, a searchbar, and shortcodes; generate items automatically; create advanced submenu layouts, and make whatever customizations you’d like. This plugin can also be integrated with ShiftNav, Menu Swapper, Menu Management Enhancer, and WP Menu Cache.
UberMenu will set you back $19.
If you have a blog you need to be email marketing. End of story. Even if you’re just sending out a newsletter once a week to let people know your blog has been updated, you still need to do it because it reminds people your site exists and they should be a part of it. There are many email marketing programs that can be integrated into WordPress but my favorite is Aweber. It’s highly customizable and has a really great track record amongst bloggers for click-through rates.
Some of its features include autoresponders, reliable delivery, sign up form templates, RSS to email, a drag-and-drop editor, multiple app integrations, subscriber segmentation, tracking, a stats app, and more. Aweber will cost you $19 per month for up to 500 subscribers and unlimited emails. Pricing increases based on number of subscribers.
If you need help getting more people to sign up for your newsletter or to purchase a product you offer on your WordPress site, OptinMonster is an excellent choice for giving your conversions a boost. With this plugin, you can build option forms designed to convert. It includes a drag-and-drop builder for creating custom forms for your unique situation and you can select from several different types of forms like lightbox popups or slide-ins.
Also included are exit intent prompts, A/B split testing, page targeting, and analytics, so you’re certain to have the whole picture when making adjustments to your marketing campaign. And of course, OptinMonster seamlessly integrates into WordPress for quick setup and management. Subscription plans range in price from $49 per year to $199 per year.
Nelio A/B Testing is another tool that won’t necessarily speed up site development but will enhance the functionality and effectiveness of the site you create. Basically, it adds A/B testing capability to your site that can be managed from within the WordPress dashboard. So in that regard, it is sort of a time saver because you can avoid app switching.
Some of the features this plugin offers include testing for any kind of site that can be applied to pages, posts, headlines, widgets, different themes, menus, and products. Once set up, the testing process is automated and you can automatically opt to switch the tested element over to the winning choice with just a click. Test results are displayed clearly and are easy to understand but you can dive as deep into the data as you want. You can set up more than one experiment at a time and even use heatmaps.
Nelio A/B Testing costs $24 per month for up to 5000 tested page views on one site, $74 per month for up to 35,000 tested page views on up to five sites, and $214 per month for up to 200,000 tested page views on up to 10 sites.
If the site you need to create requires a lot of content, building custom post types is a good idea. It saves you a ton of time in setting up each page or post by having a standard template at the ready. Though you can enable such a feature on your own, it’s a lot easier to use a plugin like Easy Content Types.
This plugin offers a familiar and easy-to-use interface for setting and implementing custom post types, meta boxes, and taxonomies. What would normally take a good long while on your own takes just seconds with this plugin. All you do is select the options you want enabled, give the post type a name, then click “Add Post Type.” The same goes for creating custom taxonomies and meta boxes. Other features include automatic creation of theme template files for post types, advanced permalink support, meta box placement control, drag-and-drop field ordering, access control, and more.
For a single site license you can expect to pay $30, for 2-5 site licenses $57, and for unlimited sites $93.
While it’s relatively easy to add a contact form to your WordPress site in general, adding one with numerous features and customizations can be time-consuming should you attempt to make those modifications yourself. The value of a good plugin can’t be overstated here. Gravity Forms is an excellent choice since it allows you to select the fields you want, configure the related options, and embed the resulting forms on your site.
You can create multi-page forms, modify the form settings, limit entries, create advanced fields, and even schedule forms to appear on your site for a set period of time. It also comes with pricing fields and post fields, which is ideal for accepting and publishing user-generated content.
Gravity Forms costs $39 per year for a personal license to use on one site, $99 per year for a business license for use on three sites, and $199 per year for a developer license for use on unlimited sites.
WordPress comes with the ability to embed videos into your posts and pages but they aren’t going to have very much going for them by way of style. It would take a lot of manual coding to customize the look of your videos. That’s why the Video Gallery WordPress Plugin is a good choice to add to your toolkit. This plugin includes numerous features and can shave considerable time off your development schedule.
Some features include multiple galleries, subtitle support, a “play from” option, backup database, importing and exporting, shortcode support, YouTube and Vimeo APIs, predefined skins, mobile compatibility, and a multitude of stream choices. Plus, it has an extensive admin panel that makes customization a snap. A regular license for this plugin is $18.
Whatever theme you choose might include lightbox and gallery features. But if it doesn’t, you’d have to spend a fair amount of time manually adding in the style details to achieve the look you want. That’s why Lightbox Evolution is such a good investment.
This plugin makes it easy to display your content in a lightbox style that pops up over your site’s primary content. It can be used with images, HTML content, videos, and maps and is perfect for showing visitors something new without having them leave a given page. It’s ideal for displaying media, of course, and a good choice for portfolio sites. Lightbox Evolution costs $21.
SumoMe is a useful set of tools that integrate into WordPress and add conversion and analytics features. Again, manually finding tools that accomplish everything this plugin does, integrating them, adding applicable code snippets, and viewing external analytics would be tedious at best. Instead, SumoMe offers a way to manage your conversions, and even test for them, from within the dashboard.
A few of its included tools and features are scroll-triggered boxes, welcome mat CTAs, integrated Google Analytics, content analytics, a social image sharing tool, a smart bar to encourage email signups for the top of your site, a content highlighter, a contact form, and more. The Free plan gives you access to all the apps, Starter plan includes all the apps, plus support for $10 per month, and the Pro plan includes all the apps, support, A/B testing, and more for $100 per month.
Adding pricing tables to a website is a fairly common requirement, especially when you’re creating service-oriented sites for yourself or your clients. Hand-coding a pricing table isn’t all that difficult but it can take up your precious time. Instead, you can use CSS3 Responsive Web Pricing Tables Grids for WordPress, which is actually a pack of pricing tables you can use on any site.
These CSS3-backed tables come in two different styles and include 20 different color options and a highly configurable admin panel. You can change how the columns and rows appear when in different screen sizes, toggle on or off expandable rows, create active columns, hover effects, tooltips, and more. This plugin costs $18 for a single site license.
While the ability to add widgets to your site’s sidebar is always nice, it is a tad limiting. After all, you’re often stuck featuring the same widgets on every page and post. And if not, you need a separate template for each page that differs. But if you use the Custom Widget Areas for WordPress plugin, you can change up what widgets appear where in no time at all.
This plugin allows you to create an unlimited number of sidebars with an unlimited number of widgets within a completely familiar interface. You can add these custom widget areas to any part of your theme, including within specific pages and posts through the use of shortcodes. There are a lot of other customization options included as well for its $18 per site license price tag.
WPtouch offers a straightforward way to make your site mobile accessible without having to jump through a bunch of hoops. Whether you don’t currently use a responsive theme or want to have control over how your content will look on all devices, WPtouch makes that possible You can make a dedicated mobile version of your WordPress site in a matter of minutes.
This plugin comes with five mobile themes, a custom color picker, and a custom CSS module. It also comes with full documentation and tutorials as well as access to the WPtouch Pro Knowledgebase and professional support. There’s even an included web app mode that allows iOS users to add your website to their device’s homescreen and then enjoy it in fullscreen mode. Several packages are available. If you just have one site, you can expect to pay $69 for a single site license and for a 5-pack, you will pay $119.
Lynda is a all-encompassing education website that just so happens to have plenty of tech, web development, and WordPress courses. You can easily pick up new skills and apply them to the websites you build. And over time, you’ll save time and all around do your job better because of it.
A membership on this site offers unlimited access to all courses, which includes 3,893 videos taught by real experts. Courses are taught in a number of different ways as well, so you’re certain to find something that plays to your strengths. You can create custom playlists of the courses you want to take, share your progress with friends, and access them across all of your devices with ease.
Pricing ranges from $24.99 to $34.99 per month for month-to-month plans and $19.99 to $29.99 per month for annual plans.
Where would a list of premium WordPress resources be if it didn’t include our tools? I know I’m totally biased, but WPMU DEV is pretty awesome and does make it possible to develop new sites quickly and easily without sacrificing on features. For starters, there’s our Upfront theme, which provides a responsive design that can be quickly put together using a drag-and-drop interface. It’s mobile ready, too.
We also offer tons of plugins for whipping your site into quick shape. Add on our excellent support and you’re certain to meet your development goals faster and with greater accuracy than if you went it alone. As you likely already know, you can get individual plugins for $19 per month or get them all as a part of a subscription for $24.50 per month.
There are no doubt more premium resources out there but these are just a few that have passed the bar of excellence. Hopefully, you’ll find them useful as you approach the development of your next website.
What premium tools do you use to build websites? What have you found to be the most helpful in both improving quality and saving time? Feel free to share your suggestions below.