I love transparency. It’s how I choose to live my personal life, but I feel as though it’s almost essential in business today. In a capitalist world driven by investors, big profits and making a quick buck, it’s more important than ever to do good work for good reasons, and stand behind it.
This page is my attempt to be transparent. Even more than that, it’s my way of open-sourcing my site. WP Smackdown exists to teach & inform, so it only makes sense to explain how I built this very site. I hope you can learn something from it.
September 2017 – We switched to SiteGround hosting. After over 4 years with WP Engine, I realized we were overpaying. SiteGround offers the same level of performance, and on-par support, for way less.
2013 – August 2017 – We used WP Engine’s managed WordPress hosting, and for the most part, were happy with its features, performance & security. Read our WP Engine review to learn more.
Site Speed & Optimization
December 2015 – We switched to KeyCDN, and haven’t looked back since. They provide an impressive amount of control & flexibility. Clearing cache is nearly instantaneous, and you can do so on individual files. They also offer a free SSL for hosting all your assets, which is crucial if you’re switching your site to https (which you should be ;-).
They have an incredibly low rate that fluctuates based on traffic, but unless you’re getting more than 50,000 visitors/mo., you’ll likely pay the yearly minimum of $49.
2013 – November 2015 – We used WP Engine’s built-in CDN, powered by StackPath. It got the job done, but is not nearly as flexible or fast as KeyCDN.
While SiteGround provides several layers of its own caching (which I do keep turned on), I’ve found WP Rocket provides an additional speed boost. Honestly, it’s so good, it’s one of the only premium plugins that I would recommend to every WordPress site.
We built wpsmackdown.com on top of the Hybrid Core framework from Justin Tadlock. It gives us full control over our markup, but adds a ton of common sense features that most themes don’t pay attention to. There are a few, small instances where we referenced the Underscores starter theme, and may have borrowed some code.
Version 3, launched in April 2017, now uses Underscores as the base, and borrows several useful components from Hybrid Core.
Either way, I highly recommend checking them both out.
- Jetpack is somewhat controversial in the developer world, but I have always stood by it. We use around 10 of Jetpack’s 30+ modules. It’s one of the essentials we install on every site.
- Yoast SEO
- prismjs.com for syntax highlighting; the Okaidia theme
- Thirsty Affiliates
- Advanced Custom Fields is used for…
You can find a list of my 10 essential free WordPress plugins here.
- Simple Comment Editing plugin gives users 5 minutes to edit their comment
- Basic Comment Quicktags to let users insert bold, italic & links to their comments
- Akismet to block spam
Backend, Admin & Writing
- The main layout was inspired a lot by webdesignerdepot.com
- Flexbox help (and everyday inspiration) from the one-and-only Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks. I love everything that guy puts out.
- Fonts – We’re a mix of Google’s Roboto fonts. We use standard Roboto for headlines, paragraphs and main content. Roboto Mono is used for
<code>, and a few other small places.
- Responsive tables started with CSS-Tricks responsive table roundup, which led me to eventually settle on David Bushell’s implementation
- Some stock photos obtained from Pexels
Media & Images
- The ShortPixel image optimization plugin compresses our images to reduce their file size, without losing any quality. Another essential plugin for any WordPress site that uses at least one image.
- Embed Responsively makes sure our videos look great on all devices