In this third post I’m sharing the WordPress plugins we are using for our new web building service. Why we have chosen them and how we are handling licenses.
Plugin Licensing and Client freedoms
I talked about this subject recently in the podcast I do with Nathan Wrigley at WP Builds. This episode was called What do clients need to know about web software licenses? . Here I only want to share the approach we are taking with this productized service:
Although our aim is to build a scalable recurring income through our Care/Hosting Plan I did not want to lock customers in. I didn’t want us to be another Wix, Weebly or Squarespace offering only a rental option. Equally I knew that most clients are not well equipped to self manage. This has become increasingly so since moving from the Genesis Framework (a tool that primarily helped me build sites) to Beaver Builder (a tool that significantly empowers clients). We needed an easy way to help a client make the right choice.
Setting off on the right foot
We decide the best way was to offer the client both a “Self Hosting” option and a “Care Plan” option right from the start. Presently this is an email following a first enquiry, but when we have our free course it will be covered there.
First we give the fixed cost of the 2 day build and then the option of:
1. Self Hosting where they get the website files and take full responsibility for migrating, hosting and buying software licenses. There’s a warranty for 30 days after which we can only offer support via the Care Plan. They have to buy an add on product from us if they can not get their hosting company to migrate the site.
We provide an estimated price for the build plus hosting and software for the first and following years. We advise this is best only for those who have technical support or knowledge and time for it. The list of software is given only on request.
2. Care Plan where they don’t have to worry about multiple vendors and migration. They get updated via our unlimited licences and we fix update issues for them. This is the present landing page for this.
We discount them on the build too as they will not need a warranty. Further discounting is available to care plan adopters who book within a month. It makes the Care plan the cheaper option and discourages multiple enquiries from those who can’t commit.
The hope is that when it comes to reviewing their Care Plan subscriptions they will remember we are saving them money not costing them it.
Thirty plus plugins – Really?
This section is prompted by a question I saw on the Beaver Builder Facebook Group yesterday about how plugins were being used.
This is always a fun question that produces some surprise answers, but it is a silly one. With WordPress functionality can equally be added to themes and plugins are not equal in the server resource they use. There’s no ideal number. In fact, to reduce dependencies on themes, plugin is often the way to go. As Justin Busa (the lead developer at Beaver Builder) points out creating your own is easier than you think . Yep, even I managed it.
What I wanted to say before moving to the list is I was conscious of plugin load and quality when choosing these plugins. That said I also have to balance business priorities. For example I use a resource heavy security plugin to give client reports (it raises the value of the Care Plan). Ideally I would like to tighten security with manual tweaks and a couple light plugins.
And now the Blueprint Plugins:
I expect this section will get updated over time. I don’t claim any to be “the best”, but I hope putting their use in context it may help. In most cases, I have recently tried out the competition to see if I’m still happy with the choices.
( PS. this is an affiliate links minefield. The dream is that one day my content will pay for my software bill. I am a long way off, but many thanks to those who buy from them.)
Reason: They’re intuitive, developer friendly and have a track record for problem free updates (essential to a profitable care plan). For the best long-term integration we chose the Beaver Builder theme over many strong competitors. It also has the added benefit of being one less vendor should a client need to self manage.
Beaver Themer is not essential, but as it is both powerful and lightweight we are going to include it in all builds. The agency version is not needed as we are proud to credit Beaver Builder, but we do rename part of our install to make it easy to understand.
Reason: Even on simpler sites we typically need more than Beaver Builder Forms offers. After reviewing the options again we chose to stay with Gravity Forms. We’ve had over 5 year of faultless updates and it is by far the most popular with the most 3rd party addon for it. We also have training videos for Gravity Forms via Video User Manuals. To speed styling up we’re using Styler for Gravity Forms (this is by the team behind PowerPack).
Reason: It’s popular, established and adds a sitemaps. Unlike some it allows us to add metadata to archive pages and Custom Post Types (CTP). To speed up SEO and make it easier for clients we are using Beaver Builder Toolbox which offers basic front end editing for Yoast. Again we have training videos for Yoast SEO via Video User Manuals.
Reason: I’ve been using this for 5 years as a free alternative to Akismet. In all this time it has appeared to have caught all spam comments without blocking a single genuine commenters. I did not achieve this with Akismet.
Reason: I am less certain on this as I am inclined to do manual fixes to secure WordPress, but using this plugin allows for good client reporting via MainWP for our Care Plan. The company is dedicated to security and as I follow their blog on wider security issues it seems a good match. I’m currently considering using WPS Hide Login to keep away bots.
Reason: With a couple of clicks it has speeded up sites that I spend days optimising. Now I have my default configuration it is only a matter of activating at the end of a project.
Reason: One of the most effective free plugin. It also prevent clients uploading images with extremely large dimensions. It’s possible I could swap to Imagify which has free allowances that would be enough for many client, but it could over complicate things.
Reason: This was not an easy choice. BackupBuddy gets a lot of criticism for failing to backup. I experience this and added UpdraftPlus to send backups to Amazon S3. Then I had a problem with it not restoring! Now I am hosting almost all on Digital Ocean. BackupBuddy works fine and as it has always restored it has been my preferred way to migrate sites.
For extra protection WP Time Capsule is being added as it takes little server resources. Followed a tip from my podcast buddy Nathan Wrigley. I have unlimited SpiderOak account and like him save copies on it via Google Drive.
Reason: I bought lifetime licence! The free version would be fine. One nice premium feature is we can grant the client a temporary URL that allows them to show the site to their colleagues without a login. With our builds we only deal with one person. They must project lead their own side of it.
Reason: It creates nice clean user friendly fields for clients and is what the Beaver Builder team use and first integrated with Beaver Themer. I’m not 100% consistent, but I have a preference for plugins that do one job well. The free version would cover most sites we do, but with a one off lifetime payment moving to the Pro version was not a hard decision.
Reason: This is for convenience. It’s not difficult with something like GenerateWP to create the code manually, but with this the Trainer/Designer working with the client would be able to create them.
I cover these two plugins in the second post in the series and these are pre-configured and activated depending on the project.
Reason: I’ve had their life deal for many years (it is still available). Typically we avoid sliders for anything other that secondary content. This offers some options not found in Beaver Builder. Envira Gallery is particularly useful for it’s addons. It is lighter weight (particularly on mobiles) than the Beaver Builder gallery module.
Reason: In case an off canvas menus are requested. I bought this from their own site where they generously offer unlimited use without subscription. I hope not too generous to be able to continue support.
Reason: Recommended by the Beaver Builder team for tables.
Reason: Mainly for quickly loading pages when there is a video or Google map content. When providing hosting the saving on resources helps us to. There as a few other nifty modules which make it worth checking out.
Added for Conversion
Reason: It’s lightweight and simple.
Beaver Popups (freemium – probably)
This is still being developed by Doug Belchamber at WP Developers. Previously I have used Popup Maker with Beaver Builder shortcodes and a Popups module is available in PowerPack and UABB, but I feel Beaver Popups will better suit clients needing to manage this content with Beaver Builder. You can see a video of it here.
Reason: This is included ready for migration. We build the site on a development area with SSL on to see all is working OK. When we migrate via BackupBuddy it is to a http:// address initially. The plugin allows us to swap the http://’s in the database to https://.
Reason: Uncertain. This free plugin was made by Justin Busa of the Beaver Builder team. It is possible we may wish to save some customizer setting to reuse.
Reason: For sites with Post Types that have multiple fields where many do not need changing. WooCommerce allows the duplication of products for this reason.
Reason: Uncertain. We are building live with a client often present. The person taking the role of designer can with it make CSS changes easily, but we expect the developer to remove and convert in the cleaner code added to the Beaver Builder Themes stylesheet. I’m also trying out Microthemer version 5 which is presently in beta and is improved from when I reviewed it and others here.
Reason: These are included for those on our Care Plan and can be used as training while the build is going on.
Reason: These connect the site to MainWP which we use to manage client sites on the Care Plan. This is a post for a later date.
In the next posts I shall be looking at the pages and templates I’ve set up in the blueprint. I hope you will join me… and feel free to comment below.