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We got a lot of positive feedback from fans of “Where’s The Jump” ever since we launched our re-designed site in February of 2020. So we just thought we’d share some of our behind-the-scenes secrets in case you’re creating a website of your own. We hope the tools we used can help you too, if you’re interested in creating a unique website of your own.
In the spirit of full transparency, we want you to know that we will get a commission if you click one of our links and then become a customer for any of the tool providers we recommend here. But to be crystal clear, we would not recommend any of these tools if we didn’t feel very strongly about our exceptionally positive experiences using them when we created the newly designed version of the “Where’s The Jump?” website. So our recommendations are 100% sincere, and we would be happy to recommend any of these tools with no commission whatsoever.
WordPress for a Stable (But Flexible) Foundation
“Where’s The Jump?” is a WordPress site. We highly recommend WordPress for one simple reason: the developer community.
Whatever you may like or dislike about WordPress (and there’s plenty to say in both categories) there’s one shining beacon of light that no other Content Management (CMS) system can beat WordPress on: the number of developers out there who have built themes, page builders, plugins, and other tools that will help you create exactly the site you want to create.
Whatever problems you may run into, chances are that someone has already solved that problem. You’re never really “going it alone” when you’re on WordPress.
Other CMS platforms might be easier to use than WordPress, but they’re walled gardens that keep you from being able to create a truly unique website. So if you want a site you can shape into something truly unique and special, you need the kind of flexibility WordPress offers.
To be clear, we’re not recommending the WordPress.com hosting site. (See below for our hosting recommendation.) We don’t use WordPress.com. We use the WordPress open source technology stack, but hosted on a MUCH better host than WordPress.com. If you go with WordPress.com, your options for implementing plugins and other tech will be limited… which defeats the whole purpose of having such a robust and flexible CMS.
WPEngine Hosting for AWESOME Support (And Lots of Other Reasons)
We highly, HIGHLY recommend WPEngine for WordPress hosting. They’re a great company we’ve come to trust and rely on.
Here are just a few of the reasons we’ve been extremely happy with WPEngine:
- Fantastic Support – THE #1 REASON we are huge fans of WPEngine is their customer support. When things go sideways (and let’s face it, every site has a major problem every once in a while) we’ve found that the WPEngine support is absolutely stellar! We usually use their chat feature, which has gotten us in touch with someone almost immediately. And we’ve never gotten a customer support response from an underpaid sweat shop laborer or a disgruntled grunt who just wants to end the chat as fast as possible. (You know the types of support people we’re talking about.) When your site goes down, those are the last people you want to be wasting your time on. Quite the opposite, all of the support people we’ve worked with at WPEngine have been extremely knowledgeable, technically skilled, able to solve problems creatively, empowered to make decisions, and they’ve spent as much time as they needed to help us get to a true solution to our technical problems. We simply cannot overemphasize how strongly we recommend WPEngine for their customer support.
- Easy to Use – Their User Portal is highly automated and easy to use. No need for you to be ultra-technical. And no need to wade through crappy cPanels from the 1990’s.
- Easy Development & Staging Environments – WPEngine makes it ridiculously easy to copy a website from the publicly visible Production environment to private Staging and/or Development environments with features like 1-Click Staging. From Staging or Development, we can make changes and then later easily copy back to the public Production environment. This was essential when we created the completely redesigned site in February, 2020. And it’s a feature we use all the time when making changes that have any risk of breaking the site… such as regular plugin updates.
- Easy Backups & Restores – WPEngine automatically backs up all environments on a daily basis, and makes it ultra-easy for us to create separate backups at any time. This has helped us make sure we never lose any of our hard work, even when we make breaking changes in Staging or Development.
- Fast Speed – They do a great job of helping to boost site speed, which is very important if you want Google to show your site in search results. (To test your current site’s speed try their Free Speed Test Tool to see if your site needs a boost or not.) Of course, the host can only do so much and you can still slow your site down with a bad theme, bag plugins, big images, and other mistakes. But if you do everything else right, you don’t want your site to get slowed down just because of your hosting provider. WPEngine’s CDN and well optimized servers help give us an edge on faster site performance.
- Strong Security – WordPress has a bad reputation for security breaches. But most of those breaches happen when site owners don’t keep their plugins updated and don’t use a host that does a good job of managing security on the servers. WPEngine is exceptionally good at both. They have a talented team of top-notch engineers managing server and network security so you don’t have to think about it. And they also make sure we know as soon as there are any known plugin vulnerabilities, so we can make quick plugin updates whenever needed.
- Big Scale – We plan to keep growing “Where’s The Jump?” to a much bigger site, and we know WPEngine can handle the kind of traffic load we plan to get, since they have many other large-scale sites already on their platform that do very well.
- Easy Site Migration – WPEngine offers a Migration Plugin that makes it fast and easy to migrate a website from any other hosting provider to WPEngine… without all the technical complexities. Although we used this plugin initially, the original version of “Where’s The Jump?” had some technical customizations that didn’t allow us to complete the migration successfully using the plugin. So we used WPEngine’s manual migration process, which turned out to be surprisingly easy and uneventful.
WPEngine can cost a little more than some of the lower-end hosting providers out there. (Their Startup plan currently costs $30/month or $22.50/month on the annual plan.) But you get what you pay for, and the modest difference in cost is more than worth it when you consider the importance of site security and if you care at all about page load speed for Google search rankings.
But the biggest factor that made the cost difference a “no brainer” for us is the customer support. Things DO go wrong when building a truly unique site like “Where’s The Jump?” and when they do, they can sometimes go very wrong… like a complete site outage. And when that happens, we’ve never felt like we were on our own. We always knew we had quick access to a very capable team at WPEngine to help us quickly get the site back up and running in top shape again.
Why We Separated the Theme from the Page Builder
In recent years, the world of WordPress has been shifting away from one-size-fits-all themes. The newer model that has emerged is one where you combine a theme with a page builder.
By separating the theme and the page builder, you get the best of both worlds: You can create beautifully designed pages with the page builder, but your beautiful pages don’t lock you into using just one specific theme. And if you get the right theme, you can get some amazing benefits, such as lightning fast page load speeds and single, central way to customize the look and feel across the entire site.
When we completely redesigned “Where’s The Jump?” we went with the GeneratePress theme and the Elementor page builder. We’ve been extremely happy with both.
GeneratePress Theme for Lightning-Fast Speed
GeneratePress is a blazingly fast theme that’s also a real pleasure to work with on site design.
If you care about your site showing up in Google’s search results so that you can drive lots of organic traffic, then you care about page load speed. And one of the most important factors influencing page load speed for WordPress sites is the theme you choose to use.
Of course, we made some design choices with “Where’s The Jump?” that slow that lightning fast page speed down, such as the video background on our home page.
But we would not have had the freedom to make such design choices if we had chosen a slower theme, because the speed cost would have been too expensive and created a bad experience for our visitors.
With GeneratePress, we had the luxury of choosing which trade-offs we wanted to make between speed vs. design.
Speed isn’t the only advantage of GeneratePress. It is a theme after all. And we found it refreshingly easy to use when making sitewide design decisions.
Everything you do to customize the design of a new site in GeneratePress can be done through Appearance > Customize in the WordPress admin interface. And as you make changes there, you can instantly see how those changes will look on any page on the website.
Compared with other WordPress themes we’ve used in the past, GeneratePress was truly a breath of fresh air.
After using GeneratePress with “Where’s The Jump?” we no longer see the need to choose a WordPress theme when building a new website. Instead, we’ll always choose GeneratePress, and then decide on a page builder that gives us control over the site’s look and feel.
Elementor for Beautiful Page Designs
Elementor is a page builder that works well with GeneratePress and makes it easy to create beautifully designed pages, regardless of what WordPress theme you’re using.
When we first launched our redesign in February, 2020, we got a lot of positive comments about the new look and feel. And the highlight of that new look and feel was the home page, complete with video background, clean lines, and precise placement of text and other visual elements.
All of that was accomplished using Elementor.
The beauty of Elementor is that you can create a uniquely beautiful design for any web page without lots of technical know-how. You simply drag and drop the elements you want to use into rows (called “sections” in Elementor-lingo) and columns.
Having said that, you do still need a good knowledge of CSS if you want ultra-precise control over your design. But if you don’t have strong CSS skills, you can still create wonderfully beautiful designs in Elementor. You just might not have quite as much pixel-perfect control over every element.
What’s right for you?
We were extremely happy with all of the above tools we used to redesign “Where’s The Jump?” and wanted to share our positive experiences with others who might also want to build a unique website.
But you may be wondering if our choices are the right choices for you and your website.
Short answer: Maybe, maybe not.
We highly recommend all of the tools we’ve talked about. But your circumstances might be different. If you’re ever wondering about how we solved any particular problem, or what the trade-offs were for us, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time. We’re always happy to chat with our site visitors and share any helpful info we can.