There is certainly no need to be daunted by a financial barrier to entry when starting your own web design company. Don’t be put off by the price of Photoshop or the whole Creative Suite – there’s loads of free software for web designers that can help you keep costs down.
Online image editors
Photoshop is the application that is potentially the biggest financial outlay for a web designer. But there are a few online image editors out there. Pixlr is one of the best. FotoFlexer is also worth a try.
Open source alternatives to Creative Suite
There are free open sources versions of Creative Suite applications. GIMP has been around for a long time and boasts plugins, brushes and tools to extend the basic functionality of the software. Pixelmator is not free but is cheap compared to Photoshop.
Inkscape, which is popular with the Linux community, is a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator. This free vector graphics manipulator produces SVG files without unnecessary code to a reduced file size.
Text and code editors
Obviously there are the free text editors available with the operating systems such as Notepad which comes with Windows and TextEdit which comes with OS-X. I’ve been really impressed with Text Wrangler which has a multi-file search & replace feature that is really handy.
If you don’t want to download an app there’s net2ftp which gives you an FTP client in your browser. There’s even a skin designed for the iPhone.
If you want to deliver large files to a client there are a host of free services, I use YouSendIt. And to store files on the cloud to access from multiple devices you can use DropBox. For downloading torrents there’s µTorrent for Mac and BitTorrent.
There are lots of great free vector resources but, instead of searching through these resources, I find a Google image search for “free vector” does the trick. Likewise, it’s not always necessary to get a free vector logo from Brands of the World but just Google the logo you want with “vector” in the search query.
Google Fonts now has a catalog of around 300 excellent fonts that will work across most browsers with just a line of code in the head and a CSS declaration.
Compare and contrast the fonts with TypeTester.
If you like to use grids in your web design (or even if you don’t) then check out 960 Grid System where you can download grid templates in HTML & CSS, Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP, etc. All these grids are for websites that are 960 pixels wide.
Web developer tools
These are a standard fare for most web designers with many of us using these tools many times a day:
- Developer Tools for Chrome and Internet Explorer – these do about the same as Firebug and are bundled with their respective browsers. Handy for working out IE hacks.
- Web Developer add-on for Firefox and Chrome – ultra handy add-on that can disable styles, disable browser default styles (handy for cross-browser compatibility), show alt text for images, resize window, validate, etc. The list is endless.
Web design online “must-haves”
Cross browser checks
Use Pingdom‘s free service to be instantly informed of any downtime on your site so you can contact your host and sort it out asap!
I’m not sure if this really comes under the heading of “web designing” but with 2,000 subscribers for free, MailChimp is an awesome free email sending service.
Color Scheme Designer can help you choose complimentary colors for your website designs.
Freshbooks tracks your time and invoices your clients automatically, saving you time and getting you paid quicker. Mint tracks all your business finances and transactions and has a free mobile app. Square will accept credit card payment off you mobile phone.
The best things in life are free – but then again you tend to forget how amazing they are because you don’t have to pay for them! The best ones are, obviously, WordPress, Drupal and Joomla but there are loads of incredible free Content Management Systems that power most of the web.
Also going under the title of “Been around so long I almost forgot about them” are the free video storage services YouTube and Vimeo, etc. If it wasn’t for these services we’d spend ages uploading our video to servers or paying services like Amazon S3 to host them for us.
Give me your suggestions!
Is there any free software you use that I have missed out? Please give me your suggestions in the comments section below. And, if you enjoyed this article, please vote for it by Tweeting, Facebook Liking or Google +1’ing it!