A long itemised love letter to the internet related things I like, recommend or enjoying using (at the time of writing).
Non-Disclaimer: Zero affiliate links or paid promotions.
Get Firefox – My favourite web browser and one you should trust to take your privacy slightly more than Google Chrome. Regardless of any philosophical or principled reasons why you should use FireFox, tests show that it uses less memory and is equally, if not faster than other browsers.
Linux Foundation – It’s remarkable how little the general public knows about Linux despite the fact an estimated 96.3% of the top 1 million servers in the world run some form of the software! There was a thought provoking campaign which ran a few years ago which ran the tagline “a world without Linux would mean a world without the internet”. Say no more!
Mozilla – Mozilla is comprised of two arms: the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation and the Mozilla Corporation. The easiest way to think of Mozilla as the guardian of several open source software projects including but not limited to the popular Firefox.
Ubuntu – Regarded as one of the most user friendly entry points to Linux, Ubuntu is one of the most widely used flavours and first I had certainly heard of. The server this website sits on runs Ubuntu and so far I haven’t experienced any major issues yet *touch wood*.
DNS Checker – One of those brilliantly useful websites you always use but never bookmark, so you have to Google every time. A very simple idea which is very well done and a must-use for anyone doing a site migration or fiddling with DNS entries!
CloudFlare – How can you not love a company whose mission statement is to “help build a better internet”? Cloudflare make Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) accessible for everyone by offering a free version which is stacked with powerful features. I recommend this CDN for the majority of websites I work on.
Digital Ocean – These guys are the perfect antidote to the large number of overpriced “WordPress Specialist” hosting companies which seem to keep popping up. You can quickly spin up a VPS for $5 per month and have a faster Time To First Byte (TTFB) than the majority of established hosting companies out there. Plus their support documentation is great.
SendGrid – Not strictly a hosting company but their API can be used to easily replace the old-school “PHPMailer” function which is pretty unreliable. Setting this up is a very quick way of resolving any deliverability issues with contact forms and there’s even a free tier available for low volume sites.
Positive Internet – I worked with Positive in my previous role and I have to say that their level of support and willingness to help really blew me away. As you would expect their knowledge of hosting and server technologies is second to none, and I’d have no hesitation working with them again in the future.
None of these are exclusive to Firefox as far as I know, so you should be good to try them on other browsers. I use Chrome from time to time too, particularly if there’s a very specific SEO plugin I need to use.
uBlock Origin – Not to be confused with “uBlock” which is a infamous version later acquired by AdBlock, uBlock origin is currently one of the best adblockers available today. I like the way it tells you how many external resources load per domain which I find useful for quickly gauging third party dependencies for site speed.
Decentraleyes – This extension loads “offline” versions of some of the most popular third party resources on the web and when possible uses these rather than those hosted by third parties. The idea is that by loading resources locally, you can in theory increase your privacy as you’re not making identifiable requests. I think the idea is probably cooler than the practical reality!
Privacy Badger – Often recommended as a “one-two punch” with uBlock, Privacy Badger was created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to specifically block trackers. uBlock does both, however it is primarily designed to stop ads and therefore Privacy Badger compliments it by covering anything it might have possibly missed (in theory).
Reddit Enhancement Suite – I no longer know where RES begins and where Reddit ends any more as both keep changing and I’m too scared to uninstall it… The most obvious feature which enhances the Reddit experience is the infinite scrolling aka lazy loading pages which makes it even easier to waste time :-/
Wappalyzer – With this extension every website you visit becomes a lesson. It sits in the top of your browser bar and automatically identifies the CMS or Framework used on the site, as well as any additional underlying technologies used. There’s also a really easy option to opt out of sending any browsing data back to the creators which is a nice piece of transparency.
SEO Tools + Stuff
There’s loads out there these days, so here are just a handful I particularly enjoy using.
GT Metrix – GT Metrix is currently the easiest tool Site Speed insights, and even a free account allows you to record loading speed over time. It has a very intuitive interface and the recommendations are always clear with links to detailed explanations. It can become less useful when you get into the super nitty-gritty which is where PageSpeed Insights come into play but for identifying quick “wins” and tracking over time it’s perfect.
Screaming Frog – There’s not much really to say about this besides it’s one of the most powerful tools in any SEO-ers arsenal. It’s the defacto web crawler and as the old saying goes <cliche>, the license is the easiest 100 and something pounds anyone spends each year </cliche>.
Search London – This London based meetup turned 8 years old in February this year (2019), and is one of the largest SEO meetups in the UK. It’s a good place to catch-up and coming speakers, as well as meet other SEO professionals in a friendly and relaxed setting. I’ve included it here, as I really need to start attending more often 🙂
SERP Woo – I’ve monitored this tool closely since it launched a few years ago and I feel it deserves a shout out as it’s a genuine innovation to the traditional keyword tracking industry. By tracking all 99 search results for any keyword you have access to to the entire SERP and can keep an eye on all fluctuations over time…just think of the possibilities.
Sitebulb – Did somebody say “actionable insights?” This is the type of tool that nobody knew they needed until it launched. It crawls a website and produces a generic yet highly detailed site audit which highlights issues and potential problems across numerous on-page and technical categories. Possibly my new fave.
They say you should never talk about Reddit in real life but I do. When appropriate.
r/ SEO – This is the largest SEO subreddit in terms of subscribers and will likely hit 100,000 subscribers by 2020. Features quite a lot of questions about Moz, DA, and ranking factors which we have a collective responsibility not to sass/snark at too much; everyone needs to start somewhere!
r/ Big SEO – I think this was formed as a reaction to r/seo being too popular or low quality. It’s easily the most active SEO subreddit out there. There’s also a Slack channel which some of the moderators run if you want even more SEO chit-chat.
r/ Technical SEO – This is the least n00b friendly SEO subreddit, and has less than 4,000 subscribers at the time of writing this. Decent high-level technical SEO discussion and content posted there, although discussion isn’t always free-flowing perhaps as you only want to be post if you’re 100% correct.
Web Design & Development
There’s so many innovative and cool one-purpose sites out there which I have bookmarked and forgotten about over the years. Here are some I specifically used during the creation of this website.
Coolors.co – As the name suggests this “cool” a colour generation scheme which takes care of finding matching and complimentary colours. There are quite a few colour wheel and colour picking sites out there but I found this one has the best interface. It allows you to “lock” colours in you want or add existing ones you use, and then bash spacebar until you like what you see.
Favicon.io – Again, there’s quite a few of these sites out there which help create Favicons. I liked this one as it gives you an option to create a simple text based favicon rather than scaling an image down and you can trust it to generate your favicons as per the latest trends and cross-device standards.
TinyPNG – My go to image optimiser although there’s probably better compression formats out there. This is a great example of memorable branding and a good domain name. Oh and they also do JPEGs and other formats with an API available for shrinking images en masse.
W3C Markup Validator – This is purely listed as a bit of fun as unfortunately it doesn’t have too much relevance in the “real” world so to speak. As a fairly inexperienced coder I found it useful to check I wasn’t making any serious errors, however if you run any major or cutting edge website on there such as Amazon and Google, you’ll likely see quite a few “errors” which invalidates the validator for me.
WordPress Codex – This is the ultimate resource of WordPress, and I’ve lost count of how many times I referenced something in here when building this theme. Only criticism from me is that it sometimes will lack working code examples e.g you will be able to find a function and its args but not necessarily a preformatted version to start with…which is where other websites come into play for beginners like me.
I don’t know if I’m going to keep this section or not as I’m probably going to cannibalise several potential WordPress round ups on my blogs as well as individual Plugin reviews 🙁
Advanced Custom Fields – This is easily one of the most powerful plugins out there for WordPress and it allows you to extend the capabilities of your site far beyond a basic blog. Another reason I love ACF is that I think the pricing model is really great in how it supports the developer ($100 Australian dollars) whilst not holding the customer hostage to recurring payments like a lot of other “premium” plugins.
Classic Editor – I didn’t want to have to install this at first but using Gutenburg just seems to slow everything down for me whether that’s building a page template or writing a simple blog post. No doubt a native WordPress block builder is the future, however I don’t personally think they got it right with the current iteration.
Query Monitor – This is sort of like the spiritual successor or cousin to the formerly brilliant P3 Plugin (Plugin Performance Profiler) which was acquired by GoDaddy. It integrates seamlessly into the admin dashbar and allows you to keep an eye on the number of database queries and server requests on each page. Essentially for debugging a slow performing website when everything on the frontend seems fine.