A lot of SEO “experts” will send you on your way with tools which amount to a red herring: meta data, keyword density, word-counts, etc. A plugin like Yoast SEO is good at what it sets out to do, but if you take the “green light” SEO score too seriously, it can make good content and ideas demonstrably worse through stilted, robotic language.
What people really need are tools which assist them in making sites quicker and easier to use for people, not robots. To this end, we’ve curated a list of just that. These are tools which we use regularly in our day job or have used in the past when the need arose.
Disclaimer: some of these tools may not play friendly with certain varieties of HTTPS and services such as Cloudflare, so you may need to disable/suspend them when using these tools.
“What is this website built on?”
These tools, along with detecting a theme, are used primarily at the beginning of a new website project. A good approach to web design and development is to identify websites you like and use elements that you think work well for it. Knowing exactly what you like is built on is even more helpful. That’s where a CMS detection tool is useful. If something you like is built on WordPress and you happen to also have a WP site, there’s a good chance you can use that plugin or theme for your own ends.
A general guideline for these tools: if one doesn’t work, the others may have better luck. WordPress Themes can also be discovered if you know how to look at the website source and view the stylesheet.
Theme / Plugin Detection
“Is my site secure?”
Implementing HTTPS on your site isn’t as simple as typing “https://” in your browser. Any resources that your site is pulling in needs to be called in securely as well. There are plugins out there for WordPress which replaces ‘http://’ with ‘//’ meaning it will automatically adopt a secure setting when asked to. Even so, sometimes things can slip through the cracks and leave your site only partially secured, which may as well be not at all.
Sometimes the issue can be with your server / server provider not updating their encryption technology. We’ve seen high profile examples of this recently with the Heartbleed and Logjam bugs where browsers like Chrome and Firefox simply dropped support for older methods of encryption, leaving many sites in the dust.
S0 if you’re struggling to get that padlock to appear on your site, check out these tools. If the issue is determined to be with your server provider, you should contact them to receive the proper support and updates.
Securing Insecure Content
Check for Outdated Technology
“Is my site up?”
Sometimes the issue seems black and white. “My site won’t load.” “I can’t send email.” Rarely is it so cut and dry as it appears and can be quite frustrating to troubleshoot. A good starting place would be to determine if you are the only one experiencing this issue and where exactly your domains taking you. If something is down for just you, it may be helpful to know your IP address in the event of a firewall block. Your server admin will thank you if you did your research ahead of time.
Site Status Checker
IP Address Tool
“Is my site easy to use?”
Beyond the typical statistical analysis to determine ease of use and engagement on a page, you can also figure out if a site follows modern standards of a useable website with the following tools. Google Webmaster Tools is a great resource that does not fit in a single-use category.
Broken Link Detection
Our worst nightmare is when we hear “I’ve got a custom WordPress theme built from scratch.” A lot depends on how well your developer really knows WordPress- and how well they document your theme. With so many advanced themes and frameworks available- where you can easily make a child theme- and let a theme developer deal with all the changes in WordPress- going the custom theme route seems kind of silly.
But- if you are in a groundbreaking industry, and have a specialized use, and a large support staff, you may want to go the custom theme route. The New York Times can do this, the Podunk Picayune probably can not.
Using starter theme in your development is a great way to create a WordPress theme with all the up-to-date WordPress best practices.
Underscores: A starter theme maintained by WordPress parent company Automattic.
Sage: A starter theme based on HTML5 Boilerplate, gulp, Bower, and Bootstrap.
Bones: An HTML5, mobile-first starter theme for rapid WordPress development.
Quark: A simple starter theme built on HTML5 and CSS3.
JointsWP: A starter theme built with Foundation 5.
Naked WordPress: For designers who don’t know WordPress.
HTML5 Blank WordPress Theme: A WordPress HTML5 boilerplate starter theme.
Not a complete list- but, a good place to start
There are the “stock themes” with the year written out, like Twenty Fifteen that come with every install. And for some, that’s just fine.
There are also a ton of themes by others, some free and lots of premium ones- that all run the risks of not being 100% compliant.
That’s why the Automattic offerings are nice- guaranteed to have all the functionality and support, and free. All are responsive.
The new ones:
- Cerauno is a polished, user-friendly magazine theme with plenty of customizable features. Add secondary content in up to five widget areas, brand your content with a Site Logo or Custom Header, and add Featured Images to grab your readers’ attention.
- Canard: a flexible and versatile theme perfect for magazines, news sites, and blogs. It lets you highlight specific articles on the homepage and balances readability with a powerful use of photography — all in a layout that works on any device.
- Argent is a clean and modern portfolio theme, geared towards creative professionals like designers, artists, and photographers. With its simple homepage template featuring portfolio projects, Argent aims to draw viewers right at what matters most: your wonderful work.
And we didn’t include screen shots- because you really should go check them out on the demo pages.
Most of these are to feed the ever growing WordPress.com but, with a proper child theme and a little customization, you’ll be rocking a very solid theme at the ultimate best price- FREE.