Do you want to create a web design blog like DesignRope but don’t know where to start? I often get emailed or asked in the comments what WordPress themes or plugins I currently use to run this website. So, I decided to create a “blueprint” to give you a behind-the-scenes look at all WordPress themes, plugins, services, and tools that I use to power DesignRope.
I will try to keep this website blueprint updated the best I can. Keep in mind, I will only list what I use on this site but also include some recommendations on alternatives.
Be sure to save some money and visit our deals page that has coupons and promo codes for a lot of the services we use!
1. WordPress Design Blueprint
DesignRope is currently using a WordPress Theme built by MyThemeShop called SocialMe. I really love the blogger themes built by MyThemeShop since they are lightweight while still included essential SEO tools like rich snippets and schema markup. Their choice in themes are limited to mostly blogger or magazine style themes but if that is what you are looking for then I would highly recommend you take a look at what MyThemeShop has to offer.
I still use other websites like ThemeForest if I am looking for local business or specialty themes for myself or freelance clients as their selection isn’t the best if you’re looking for something niche related. Here are some recommendations If you are looking for quality WordPress themes and templates:
2. WordPress Hosting
I use to host DesignRope through WP Engine’s Managed WordPress Hosting before switching to Flywheel. If you are a current reader of DesignRope you’ve probably noticed the HUGE banner ad I have for them in the sidebar and probably already know that this site is hosted with Flywheels Managed WordPress Hosting. I have been hosting with Flywheel for about a year now and plan to continue hosting the site with them. I love using their blueprint and staging features for my web design freelance clients websites as well.
I highly recommend you check out the Flywheel hosting review Flywheel hosting review I wrote if you’re interested in learning more.
If you are looking for something a little cheaper to host your websites, SiteGround is a great alternative. Their speed and reliability are easily one of the best available for the price if you’re looking for more of an affordable WordPress hosting solution.
3. Affiliates and Monetization
The ads you see is what enables us to keep creating great content for you and pays the bills that keep DesignRope running. It takes a lot of resources to run a website like DesignRope and I have personally spent hundreds of hours designing, writing content, and adding new features for our readers. I use a variety of methods to monetize this site including Google Adsense and affiliate marketing. Without the relationship with our sponsors and our readers, we wouldn’t be able to have DesignRope running so THANK YOU! :)
Here are a few services I use to help manage our affiliate links:
4. Image Optimization
I use Flywheels CDN for $10/mo. which is powered by MaxCDN. You need a quality content delivery network if you want your website to load fast around the world. A great alternative I can recommend is KeyCDN. A small site hosted with
A great alternative I can recommend is KeyCDN. A small website hosted with KeyCDN should only cost around $5/mo.
Don’t forget to check out Check out our full in-depth review of KeyCDN. Also, get $10 in free KeyCDN credits using this link.
A great free plugin we use to compress all the images on this site is WP Smush It. They also have a paid version but at $49/mo it’s not viable to pay that much for this site since I don’t have a need for their other plugins which mainly specialize in WordPress multisite. WP Smush makes the images much smaller without loss in quality which is essential as it not only makes your website much faster but it also lowers your bandwidth needed from your hosting provider.
5. WordPress Plugins
DesignRope is currently using around 30 WordPress plugins. I wouldn’t recommend running more than that as it can really slow your website down (even 30 is a little high to be honest). I have been working on trying to get rid of ones we don’t use or ones that can easily be manually added using code to the theme files themselves.
Here is a blueprint of the free and premium WordPress plugins that we use:
Disqus Comments: Powers the comments you see on our posts and pages.
Q2W3 Fixed Widget: Used for our scrolling widget on our sidebar.
WP Review: This adds stars for our reviews and schema data in SERPs.
Yoast SEO: While it’s quite bloated compared to the old days. I still think its the best SEO plugin out there.
Table of Contents Plus: Automatically adds the table of contents on each page.
WP Smush It: Bulk compresses all our images.
AMP by Automattic: Add’s AMP support for our WordPress site.
Accelerated Mobile Pages: I love this plugin. Enables a ton of options for our AMP pages to make them easily customizable.
Paid Premium Plugins:
Here is a list of the PAID premium plugins we use and I highly recommend. Most of these also have a free version available.
Social Warfare: Our social sharing plugin you see on the sidebar of our posts.
WP Coupons: Creates our deals page and randomized coupon widget you see around the site.
Pretty Link Pro: Lets us keep track and create our nofollow affiliate links.
WP Subscribe Pro: Our newsletter subscribe widget.
Ninja Forms: Powers our contact and write for us forms
6. Marketing, Writing, and Others
MailChimp: Use this to manage our email list and send out our Monthly email newsletter from our WP Subscribe Pro plugin.
SerpBook: I have been using SerpBook for many years now. After trying several other alternatives I found it to be the more accurate rank tracker for the price.
Grammarly: I use Grammarly every day to autocorrect my spelling and grammar. The Chrome extension is free and works within the WordPress editor.
Canva: I love Canva! I use the premium version of canva to create most of the featured image design work you see on our website.
Creative Market: I use creative market for different fonts, images, themes, and more.