People ask me all the time for recommendations in various areas. Tools. Books. Hosts. Etc. I don’t make money anywhere else on this site, but in this case, every link here is an affiliate link. That said, I only promote things I use personally and would recommend to anyone. So go buy!
WP Engine, of course. Besides being a founder, I’m a customer. This is not a hair club for men commercial, but there’s a reason why my sites are all hosted there. Fast, and secure, and great customer service. The downside is that it is SFTP only which makes dev-centric tasks like accessing the command line via SSH and SSH tunneling for my MySQL tool a no-go. But with the staging area, “snapshot” tool and more… I still recommend them over any other WordPress-specific host.
WordPress Theme Framework
Genesis theme framework powers this site and most of my other sites. It has been around a long time and is part of the Copyblogger family. The theme is great out of the box, but the ease in creating child themes is amazing. I highly recommend the work that Brian, Nathan and the rest of the StudioPress perform in bringing Genesis to the WordPress world. As a bonus, these guys are great community members and constantly helping people on Twitter, their forums and (if Brian is involved) at Starbucks.
WordPress Premium Plugin – Gravity Forms
Gravity Forms is by far the best form building plugin around. I think pretty much every WordPress developer agrees on that. The forms are drag and drop and easy to create, the built in options for data handling are robust (you can store data, email data, send data to something else to do something weird) and the extensibility is second to none. Carl and the crew do an excellent job of supporting the product and being responsive to their customers. Gravity Forms, if I could choose one plugin to use in my life, would be it.
Book – Professional WordPress Development (Brad Williams)
I wrote a book on WordPress, yes. So why am I recommending Brad’s book? My book is exhaustive and it covers all areas of WordPress. Professional WordPress is geared specifically toward developers. Not designers. Not users. Just developers. It’s very good and provides excellent code samples and documentation on hooks, filters, the internal APIs, etc. I want you to buy my book (click that link in the menu up there), but even I rely on Brad’s book.