Posts

We designers love free resources, so it is thankful that we love sharing tools we love almost as much as we like using them. There are entire blogs dedicated to covering new and interesting tools, as well as those whose only function is giving visitors free textures and code snippets to use.

Hongkiat.com offers much more than that, but they also do a monthly roundup of the latest and greatest resources out there to help you speed up your work without sacrificing customization. This month’s newest tools cover almost every aspect of development and design from estimating pricing rates for clients to responsive design and wireframing or prototyping.

rsz_estimatorscreenshot

 

The tool that helps estimate service pricing rates is of particular interest to myself, because it is an area that rarely gets much attention from the free tools we pass around. Usually designers leave the business aspects out of the free resource arena.

This tool, however, helps the freelance developers who normally have trouble making cost estimates easily create a PDF with all of the items of your service, their price rate, and the overall estimate. It’s only drawback is it only uses limited forms of currency, so developers with an international client base may have issues with it.

On the actual creation side of things, we often end up investing hours just creating dummy images so that we can design prototypes to present to clients. Lorem Pixel provides a wide range of image categories for you to use as informed placeholders. This isn’t a creative commons photo website, but a way to generate images that illustrate how your site will look when it is finished.

There are also tools that help with predicting the output of systems like Sass, which isn’t always intuitive in its output. SassMe helps visualize Sass color functions immediately, as well as letting you to tweak the colors, while providing the new function for you to easily add to your Sass/SCSS stylesheet.

There will always be a wealth of new tools or brilliant updates to old resources that will keep making our jobs, at the very least, faster. They don’t always make your work necessarily easier however.

Despite everything that has changed in SEO over the years, keywords have always maintained their importance. A good SEO campaign can only be made from a foundation of the right keywords to work from. No matter how great the rest of your strategy is, it will be weakened by the wrong keywords, because they simply don’t have the potential for return that others do.

Selecting the right keywords can be an arduous task though. You have to gather data, and then analyze the massive amounts of information so that projections on returns can be made. Gathering all that data isn’t quick, and that means it is expensive.

Startups with limited budgets or without access to paid SEO tools just don’t have the resources to do the type of expansive data gathering that quality keyword selection requires. Or so it used to be. There are several free tools out there which can often do huge amounts of keyword research for you.

A single one of these tools may not be able to do the heavy lifting that the expensive top of the line programs offer, but by implementing a few of the free tools into your workflow you can cover almost all of the ground one expensive program would.

It will always take time and effort to analyze data for projections on return for specific keywords, but it is worth the effort. With just the three free tools Marc Purtell suggests over at Search Engine Journal, you will find you can more efficiently make informed decisions about your keyword selection, and soon you’ll be on your way to a better SEO campaign.

 

They say a picture is wort a thousand words. Every designer knows how tired that cliche statement is, and just how true it is when you use the right pictures. But, sometimes designers don’t have access to a quality staff photographer or a subscription to Getty Images or a similar stock photo collection website. How is a designer supposed to find quality images to use?

Some designers will settle for using lower quality images they find elsewhere, or using a confusing stock photo with little connection to the content. Neither actually improves content or web designs. Thankfully, there are collections of great free stock photos designers and bloggers can use without using the little money they have.

Stephen Jeske collected ten websites which offer high-quality free stock images. I’ve used one of the sites, Stock.XCHNG, for months and you can always find photographers willing to share their images through it. It is well organized, and easy to use, but no one stock photo site will have pictures for your every need.

When using any sort of images you didn’t create yourself however, it is always essential to make sure you are following the licensing terms and attributing the creator of the image, if you can find out that information. Read the licensing terms for every image you plan to use, and if you are unsure of any details, ask the author of the image.

TypelateWeb designers can never have enough tools and kits for making their websites look great quickly. With the rise of typography, there are numerous kits coming out that help designers catch up to the huge advances in a robust area of design. In the past, designers were limited to a select few fonts, so extensive knowledge of typography wasn’t necessary. Now, there is a steep learning curve when it comes to using text to enhance your design.

Smashing Magazine just released a new free-range and open-source typographic starter kit to help designers do just that. The goal of the framework, called Typeplate is to assist designers without forcing them into any sort of mold. Pattern libraries quickly make a design look good, but they tend to have generic results, and normal web frameworks force you to code “their way.”

Instead, this “starter kit” helps give your project a jump start, but making no assumptions about how you write code. Typelate lets you set base styles with conventional typographic features, created with solid markup and extra flexible styling. It isn’t meant to be a framework you add a little information to and expect a finished product. Instead, it is meant to be extended and customized while allowing designers to make the process of instituting typography onto their page a little faster.

Source: Flickr

Browser plug-ins can be a huge help or a major hassle, depending on what is installed. Many of us still have nightmares about asking to use a friend’s computer, only finding Internet Explorer, and opening the program to see toolbars and add-ons clogging up half of the window space.

With time (and better browsers) however, many browser extensions have risen that actually help improve productivity. Google Chrome, for example, has tons of great free extensions in the Chrome Web Store, and Awwwards.com has cherry-picked some of the best for designers and developers.

One extension seems almost magical for us designers who have seen a fantastic font online, and then spent hours looking through collections of typefaces trying to find the closest match. WhatFont quickly inspects fonts on webpages just by hovering over them, no fuss or hassle.

Resolution Test, on the other hand, is an extension that allows developers to test web pages in different screen resolutions, simulating testing on various devices.

Some plug-ins aren’t meant to replace tools like the two listed above, but instead are intended to add to other tools. Firebug Lite for Google Chrome isn’t intended to replace Firebug or Chrome Developer Tools. It works together with them to provide rich visual representations developers are used to seeing in Firebug.

Awwwards have twelve more tools many designers and developers will find useful. Everyone loves free tools and resources, and these plug-ins can help streamline your work process without taking up hardly any space on your computer.

Design isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of programmers who can attest to that. It is absolutely required for people to believe your site looks credible, but design is intimidating and confusing.

For programmer Anna Powell-Smith, design was scary because the rules are complicated and often contradictory, as well as completely unwritten. It also requires a sense of taste “possessed only by a black-clad elite.”

Being intimidated by design doesn’t change that your site needs to look attractive if you want other people to see it and take it seriously. That is why there are plenty of tools to try to make design doable for those that don’t get design. Of course, having a professional designer work on the site will probably have better outcomes, but these resources will at least help you spruce up what you have.

Powell-Smith collected eight of these resources to make a sight look great with just programming knowledge at 24 Ways. No design instinct required.

Every designer or developer wants to find ways to make their life easier. That’s why we are always on the lookout for new great tools. This is why Cats Who Code writer Jean-Baptiste Jung compiled a list of all of his favorite tools for front-end development.

Almost every tool he lists is free, more than anything they will make your job easier and quicker to accomplish. One of my favorites made the list, as Colllor helps any designer out with color associations and creating beautiful color palettes becomes really easy.

I won’t waste your time walking you through each one, but I advise checking out at least some of the tools. Unless you like your work being difficult, that is.

Creating a responsive website design from the ground up can be exhausting and costly. Thankfully, for those of us without the time or money to completely build a brand new site, there are lots of frameworks or boilerplates you can use.

Chris Spooner from Line25 compiled a bunch of these free frameworks, from the most popular, Bootstrap which was made by the guys at Twitter, to some more obscure but helpful frameworks. They also all have the complicated grids and layouts prepared so you can almost completely customize them.

Responsive design has never been so easy.

Google is offering up to two months of free advertising, or up to a $250 total value, for signing up for AdWords Express before December 16th. Most likely, you’ve received emails, possibly many, informing you of the promotion but it might be worth looking into for small business owners.

Find out more from Peter Kafka’s article at All Things D.