I joined Praxis for a group discussion last night on technology and building a personal website. Here are the apps, services, and pieces of advice I mentioned during our conversation.

My Four Pieces of Advice

  1. Hone your search skills. You don’t have to know how to do everything, just how to find it. Master the Google Advanced Search. Dig into the Stack Exchange communities for answers. If you want to take it even further and use search programmatically, dig in to regular expressions.
  2. Poke the Box. Do something, see what happens. Take notes. Do something else and see what happens. Take more notes. Repeat.
  3. Stay on top of what is possible. Read the “Site to read and learn from” below to keep abreast of what is possible so that you know where to turn when you encounter a unique problem in the future.
  4. When someone asks you a question and the answer is “no”, don’t just say no. Figure out the root problem and always offer a possible solution.

My Most-Used Applications

  • 1Password - The best password management out there. Stop using the same password all around the web and step up your security game.
  • Evernote - Taking notes, scanning paperwork, research. Very searchable and easy to organize. Available across all of your devices.
  • DayOne - Top journaling app for the Mac and iPhone. Simple and powerful. I journal every day, whether it is just a few photos or a full manifesto. Here are the ways people have found to use it.
  • Pocket - Save anything from the web, your email, or 1500+ apps and have access to it on any device later.
  • F.lux - I spend a lot of time in the evening on my computer. This makes sure I can sleep afterward but eliminating blue light from my screens after dark.
  • Coda - Coda is my text editor and FTP client of choice. Preview, Terminal, and MySQL connection built in.

Staying Focused While Working

  • Pomodoro Method - Focus for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Take a longer break every 4 rounds. I use this iPhone app and this Mac app to keep track of the rounds. Marinara Timer is a free online alternative.
  • WasteNoTime Safari and Chrome Extension - Increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites that you set. I have all social media and news sites blocked during working hours.
  • RescueTime - Get in the habit of tracking your time early on. Apps like RescueTime make it easy to see where you are spending your time so that you can manage it.
  • Buffer I use Buffer to share things I find interesting and things I write to social media during the work day so I don’t have to go on those sites.
  • Brain.fm - Brain.fm helps me regain focus when I lose it.
  • Keep your phone out of reach during the work day unless you need to take a call. It is too distracting. I keep mine plugged in on a table that is out of reach from my desk. I can still hear when it rings, but I’m not tempted to check Instagram when something is tough.
  • Turn off as many notifications as you can. They kill focus.
  • Use your apps in full screen mode if possible. If not, drag the window as large as it can go. Or use two apps side-by-side that fill the screen up. This keeps what is running in the background from distracting you.

Managing Email

  • Seth Godin’s Email Checklist
  • The Email Game Clear out your email quickly with a fun little game.
  • Unroll.me - Unsubscribe from junk with one click and see unimportant mailing list emails later.
  • Only check email a few times a day, not every time a message comes in.

Sites to Read and Learn From

  • Codecademy - The best place to gain beginner and intermediate coding skills. Even if you aren’t building a site from scratch, it is useful to learn the basics of HTML and CSS.
  • Hacker News - This is where I get my tech news every day.
  • Lynda - The best tutorials site on the web.
  • Smashing Magazine - Great blog on web design. (Powered by Wordpress.)

Backing Up Your Data

The value of backing up our data doesn’t set in until we’ve been burned. If you start a good habit now, you won’t have to know that pain.

  • Dropbox - If you only need to back up some files but not everything, Dropbox is the best option.
  • Backblaze - The best online backup service. Safe and secure.
  • Hard drive back ups - Get an external hard drive and copy your computer’s hard drive to it once a week. If you use a Mac, Time Machine makes that easy. If you use Windows, File History is the way to go.

Wordpress

Wordpress sites that illustrate good personal branding

These sites have good branding, nice imagery, good colors and typography, and good navigation. They also happen to be built on Wordpress.

Do you like a site and want to see if it is built on Wordpress? Install the Wappalyzer extension in Chrome to find out.

Design Checklist

  • Clean layout without animated gifs, autoplay videos, or distracting imagery.
  • Easy to read typography.
  • Imagery that adds to the page/post and attracts people on social media, but doesn’t distract them from your content once they are on your site.
  • Responsive layout
  • Easy to find, clear navigation that takes the user where they want to go.
  • About page with a nice photo of you, clear contact info, and current/past projects you want the world to see.

Getting Wordpress help

Domain Management

There are a ton of registrars out there, but Hover is the best. Hands down.

Even if you are using wordpress.com to host your site, it is a good idea to buy a domain and connect it to your Wordpress site.

Hosting options

All of these options have great uptime and customer service. The top three also have automated features that will do an initial Wordpress install for you.

  • WPengine - If you are only hosting a Wordpress site, WPengine’s platform and support are unparalleled.
  • A Small Orange
  • InMotion
  • Linode - If you are savvy enough to build your own servers but don’t want the physical hardware, Linode is the option you want.

Backups

If you are hosting a Wordpress.org site, you’ll need to take care of the backups on your own. Those of you hosting on Wordpress.com don’t have to worry about this.

  • Vaultpress - Vaultpress is great, but is a paid service.
  • BackUpWordPress If you don’t want to pay for Vaultpress, this is a free alternative.

Contact info

If you have any questions, email me, tweet at me, call me on Skype: cagrimmett, or leave a comment below.