Hosting and domain name providers, online services, software, hardware and apps I personally use and love
In the course of working in web development since 1997, I've spent time on hold with just about every hosting company imaginable. I've learned that GoDaddy's cheap intro offers don't make up for the nightmare of their complicated hosting control panel and horrid support. I've learned that Network Solution's high prices are not normal. And I've learned that you get what you pay for online - cheapest is seldom best. I am often asked for suggestions for service providers so I started this page. I only recommend things that I personally have used for a long time and continue to use on an ongoing basis.
Weebly While the name might be a bit silly, Weebly is a very solid, feature-rich hosted content management system website platform. It offers a simple drag-and-drop editor is very easy for novices to use and the html code module will let you inject custom code when wanted. The realtime, built-in CSS editor is nothing short of delightful to work with and with unlimited pages AND storage for $4 a month it's pretty hard to beat! It even includes a mobile-friendly version of your site at no extra cost. Online stores can be added for $30/mo. at very competitive transaction fees. I personally use and highly recommend Weebly (this site is build on it). Try it for free at www.weebly.com.
Blue Host If you're looking for shared server hosting I can't recommend Blue Host highly enough. I've been building sites with them for over ten years. Their rates are very competitive, their service offerings are terrific, their control panel is easy to use, and their support is fantastic. Check them out at BlueHost.com.
I DO NOT RECOMMEND GoDaddy, Network Solutions, WinHost, Deluxe for Business, aka Aplus.net because they are unnecessarily difficult to use and consistently put sales over support. You may get a "great deal" but the hassle you have to endure to actually use your products will quickly outweigh any savings.
For standalone domain name services I highly recommend FatCow. For one low monthly fee you get domain name services and one email account. Their system is easy to use and their support is great (I've only ever needed to use Chat to get fast, friendly assistance. Check them out at FatCow.com.
Email Marketing I have used Constant Contact for email marketing and online event registration and payment for over ten years. It's not the cheapest but hopefully you've realized that the cheapest is seldom the best. If you're looking for an easy way to produce beautiful, effective emails promos and newsletters, give Constant Contact a try.
Online Invoicing In 2010 after a particularly disastrous upgrade to QuickBooks I decided I'd had enough. I took the plunge, moved my accounting online and never looked back. Today, after these many years, I'm as big a fan as ever of the terrific online invoicing system Freshbooks. They offer a nice app, customizable templates, invoicing, time tracking, estimates and so many features that I haven't even started using them all yet. Personally I love having a full set of client contacts securely stored in the cloud - there have been many times that I've logged in just to get a phone number. Love, love love FreshBooks, give it a free trial if you're interested in the easiest way I've found to do online, recurring invoicing.
Online Forms While there are many choices, I have yet to find anything that can hold a candle to JotForm. From the drag and drop editing to the easy implementation and tracking, it's a winner in my book.
Online Payments In spite of what their marketing says, PayPal is old money to me. Stick with it if you love buckets of spam and phishing (gag). But for an elegant, low cost, transparent solution that simply works, get Stripe. 2.9% + .30 cents per transaction and it integrates seamlessly all over the place.
Online Meetings I discovered Join.Me in 2015 and have used it almost daily ever since, thereby increasing my speed of revisions while reducing driving (and my carbon footprint). I've found Join.Me to be super easy for my end users - which was my highest priority. There's nothing to download, no sign up required, the user simply clicks one email link, types in their name and hits a Knock button. I have used the audio feature but tend to call the user by phone separately. This helps keep the meeting going if the user accidentally closes the meeting window. Overall, A++. Get off the road, meet online. Clients LOVE IT.
I work with a variety of printers depending on the project. I love to support local small businesses whenever possible. That said, I do also highly recommend Moo for unique and recycled business cards, postcards, stickers and more. I have used them for my own printing and, while they are not the cheapest, the quality is top notch. If you use my referral code you'll save 15% off your first order too. Just go to Moo.com and enter ZQW3QW at checkout.
As much as I love my Mac, I can't say the same for all of Apple's software so I use Microsoft Office for all of my business admin needs. For design work you'll usually find me in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and a bit of Dreamweaver. I also use some great web-based image editors like Pixlr and Canva. I also use and love Camtasia for video screen captures, mobile screen capture and full video editing.
I love how apps can empower us to do a zillion amazing things and I've evaluated hundreds (maybe over a thousand!). My recommendations are based on ease of use, functionality, price and user interface design. Here are some current work-related favorites:
Mileage Tracking: Formerly a MileBug user I've switched with glee to MileIQ (over $500 mileage write off per year in taxes).
Project management: Asana and Things
Photography: TiltShiftGen, Kinotopic, ProCam, ChronoCam, and more.
Video: FiLMiC Pro
Audio: I haven't found anything that beats the build in VoiceMemos app.
Learning: Udemy, Swiftly
Instagram: Over, Splice, Glimpse, DeluxeFX and many others.
Computer: MacBook Pro 15" Laptop I've been a Mac shop since 1998. I currently work on a MacBook Pro 15" with an iPad Air and iPhone 6. In over 15 years with Apple I've had ONE virus (a worm actually), and just two equipment failures. In both cases Apple Support went above and beyond to help me with a speedy and zero-cost repair - even though in one case the machine was out of the AppleCare warranty. If you treat your machine gently and avoid pirated software Apple will love you back. I've averaged over five years of daily, hardcore use on every machine I've owned and my previous three laptops still work - in fact, I still use them almost daily. Macs cost more for a reason. They're worth it.
Input: Wacom Bamboo MTE-450 In almost 20 years of work I've never experienced any repetitive stress injuries and I credit this to the amazing, beloved Wacom stylus & tablets I've always used. My first one lasted almost ten years and the current one is going strong on at least 5 years of age. Great product.
Desk: Converted Treadmill In 2013 I converted my seated work station into a treadmill desk and it changed my life. I spend the majority of each day standing or walking. I've found that I can work much longer with none of the sludgy feeling and aches and pains I used to have after sitting all day. The treadmill was a gift from a friend, to it I added a piece of wood for a keyboard tray (held in place with an exercise band). I also built a large shelf over the treadmill that holds my laptop and a larger, second monitor. Even if I had purchased everything the total ccost would have been less than a nice desk chair. If you can do it, do it! You won't regret it.
Mobile: Apple iPhone 6 and iPad Air I fell in love with my iphone in 2009 and that same handset sits on my desk as my radio player as I work. I highly recommend iPhones and iPads if you're wondering which phone or table to get. The app marketplace is very mature with over a billion apps and I've found the hardware to be remarkably tough.
Images, video clips, fonts and other online assets
Mighty Deals I have become a big fan of Mighty Deals. Through them I've discovered all of the great classes at Udemy (at a huge discount) as well as tons of terrific small business resources. Just the other day I got a comprehensive small business marketing ebook for a mere $9 bucks. I highly recommend checking them out at www.mightydeals.com.
Please let me know your thoughts, experiences and recommendations too!
Note: I personally use and highly recommend Weebly, Blue Host, Constant Contact, Mighty Deals and Animoto. If you click on their links on this site I get a tiny commission. Thanks if you do!