I have chosen to build Pro Theme Design in the open. I like to use the right tool for the job - and feel WordPress is overkill for this type of site. So I've put together this page to show what we use and why.
FlightPHP is a PHP microframework. Essentially it's a simple system that allows us to add route (page paths) and create different views (templates). The Framework is easy to use and allows me to iterate quickly. We use it instead of WordPress because it removes the data layer, and it allows us to be more flexible with templating and routes.
Font Awesome is a massive, comprehensive, icon font library. We've used them librally around the site. They are a quick and easy way to make the site look more interesting - without adding a huge overhead.
There seems to be an obsession in the WordPress world of doing everything yourself. We feel this is more often than not a poor choice. You can probably find a plugin that does everything you want, however these will often not be as good as a third party service that is constantly developed and maintained.
Formspree is a flexible hosted contact forms service. It's free to sign up to and use with premium options if you want a bit more flexibility. We've found the free version to be plenty good enough.
I have written a short tutorial on using Formspree for contact forms on my personal site.
Mailchimp is a great service for newsletters. We love their flexibility and wealth of features.
Many people use WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads for selling things online, but these can be complex to setup and maintain. Using a third party service designed for selling products removes all maintanence, and security concerns. If you chose the right services then it also removes VATMOSS requirements (particularly important for people in the EU).
For website analytics, I'm not sure why you'd want to use anything other than Google Analytics. There are services that simplify the data, but GA is super powerful and does everything you could ever need.
Pro Theme Design is stored in a public Github repository. This repository includes everything. For example this is a flat site - there's no database. We store data in arrays, that reference flat text/ html files that store the actual content.
We'd be happy to receive pull requests and issues.
Since the Pro Theme Design site doesn't use a database we can't easily integrate a database powered search - so we're using Google Custom Search. Google indexes our site anyway so making use of their search engine saves a lot of time.
You can see how we integrate with Google Custom Search in the following files.