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 I use and why.
FlightPHP is a PHP microframework. Essentially it's a simple system that allows us to add routes (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 me to be more flexible with templating and routes.
There seems to be an obsession in the WordPress world of doing everything with WordPress. I feel this can sometimes be a poor choice. You can probably find a plugin that does whateveer you want, however these may 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 also host Granule, our WordPress starter theme, on Github.
We'd be happy to receive pull requests and issues for any of our projects.
Doing your accounts is a neccessary part of running a small business. FreeAgent takes a lot of the pain out of it so that I can put in the minimum effort possible. Love it.
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.