9 Ideas for Building Great Websites With Less
We all know how laborious web work can be. It’s not a task for the faint hearted and generally requires a year or more of study to really grasp. As our era has progressed we’ve seen brilliant ideas and innovations ushering the online community towards open source and sharing.
The construction of a website has truly evolved into a multi-layered process. You must consider the webpage graphics, coding front-end styles and layout, server hosting, and possibly back-end programming to boot. Developers have been toying with these systems for years and finally we’ve reached a point of interest, but it will be extremely exhausting if you are going to handle all these works completely by yourselves.
(Image source: Shutterstock)
Below I’ve shared some helpful resources for planning great website designs efficiently. These come in many forms throughout the entire creative process. Although this isn’t an exhaustive list I hope to touch upon resources helpful to experts and beginners alike.
1. Leave it to the experts
From icon designers to programmers around the world we’ve all got differing skill sets of varying magnitude. We don’t frequently envision ourselves as super heroes looking to build skills beyond the point of mastery. However to become a creative artist and programmer is a true gift.
For those of us focusing into a specific niche, external help should be warmly welcomed. It can expedite the process of building a website tenfold and offers a unique experience to work within a team setting. Some of the best PSD to HTML services include psd2html and xhtmlchop.com, Google "PSD to HTML services" to get more, or check out a list of 100+ services here.
The physical process of sitting down to code a Photoshop document into HTML/CSS can be annoying. Especially if you’ve been coding for many years as the repetition becomes dull and almost antiquated. Many of these services promise 24 hour delivery and will even offer discounts for sub-page designs.
If you’re interested in coding but fall behind with design skills I’d recommend browsing some of the digital artist networks. These include Dribbble and DesignMoo where graphic designers can post and share their latest works. Generally you’ll also find a portfolio display page for each artist including contact information such as e-mail, Twitter, or IM chat.
2. Outsourcing Solutions
There are great examples of freelancers offering their services to support project studios. But with today’s current level of communication there are many instances where freelancers will be working hand-in-hand to complete project work. Even possibly from two distinct locations around the globe!
With the release of so many freelance communities it’s never been easier for designers and developers to meet up and work together. A great community Programmer Meet Designer allows for both web developers and designers to message and share ideas for projects. This is a relatively unknown network and still works as a small ring of professionals.
Alternatively you may be looking for work as a freelancer and finding jobs difficult. This is where the many job boards from around the Internet show their use. Such companies as Fresh Web Jobs and Krop are only a few examples of the many freelance opportunities. Each is updated daily and offer full descriptions along with contact info.
3. Utilize Open Source
WordPress, a blogging platform developed by Matt Mullenweg and has grown historically over the past few years, is possibly the epitome of open-source success projects. It seems impressive looking at so many smaller packages being sifted through the web, but WordPress powers millions of websites and hosts thousands of developers working on their backend. The whole package is free to download and very simple to install. The official company website wordpress.org offers links and tutorials for developers interested in building WP themes and plugins. We’ve also sponsored an introductory tutorial on WP plugins for beginning programmers. Similarly there’s an official gallery boasting an impressive amount of free plugins for all WordPress users to enjoy.
For those of you who are looking for open source e-commerce scripts, check out this post.
4. Designing Own Icons – Not required
Moving towards the graphics and animation side of design we still see an open and sharing community. Web designers enjoy not only sharing their artwork into the world but helping others to promote their ideas.
Graphics are some of the most complicated aspects of a website. This holds especially true since top-notch graphic designers are tough to come by. Many of the free icon sets such as FamFamFam, Wefunction, Fugue, and more, disclose their downloads as free to use upon retribution links or crediting their work. This seems like a simple trade-off for unlimited uses!
Another fantastic service Icon Finder behaves as a search engine for the most popular icon sets. Often if you’re browsing through Google search results there are hundreds of web design blogs showcasing the best free icons. These have also been shared into such engines as Icon Finder to make building websites even quicker.
5. Better deal in Hosting & File Sharing
We can all use some extra money these days. Even as web designers it’s important to seek out those companies which offer deals and support the freelance generation.
Web hosting is just one of the many expenses to be considered. Often times you can find coupons on related websites which save money on purchases of domain names and server space. hostingcoupons.org is one of my favorite websites. Updated daily, you can check the home page for bargains on domains up to $1.99/piece and many options for server environments.
File sharing has become an important part of the web designer’s lifestyle. There are paid and free services available, and if you know somebody in the business it’s not difficult gaining a membership account. For the rest consider browsing our file sharing alternatives which provides completely free support for all users.
6. Free Performance checking
Website applications are the latest trend busting through the digital seams. From mobile to in-browser apps it appears almost anything can be completed on a computer these days. For webmasters it’s important to know of the many free opportunities for mechanical testing and website maintenance.
If you’re like most of us then website uptime is of grave concern. Having your website go down for even a few minutes can become catastrophic to your traffic numbers, not to mention deeply confusing to your visitors. Pingdom is a free tool all webmasters should use to check response codes from their web server. This is a sure-fire way to keep tabs on your backend and monitor performance from behind the scenes.
Another great service, Google Webmasters allows for developers to claim ownership of their site. This can be done with a sitemap, meta tag, or other alternatives provided by Google. If you use a Google account it’s possible to store RSS data and even track keywords for individual websites. The app is 100% free and allows you to store unlimited website connections!
7. Code Editors Can Be Cheap (or Free)
Whether we like to admit it most web designers tend to dabble in some form of web development. It’s only for those truly gifted in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator who do not venture into HTML and CSS design.
For programmers frontend and backend alike it can be difficult finding a comfortable work environment. Adobe offers Dreamweaver which supports code highlighting in many languages, but unfortunately will cost quite a bit of money. We’ve reviewed the top 10 free source code editors and have offered direct download links to each page.
If you’re just getting started into coding I highly recommend spending some time researching into these. Your development environment is crucial and will have effects on how you write code. Many of these editors are Windows-specific, and although you may find a few Mac friendly options I recommend Panic’s Coda – a way cheaper code editors (compared to Adobe Dreamweaver) for serious web development.
8. Pick up Some Starter Kits
Now that you’ve got a solid idea about the services and programs available try downloading a few starter kits to get you going. As web designers it’s important to focus our conscious attention towards creativity and spurring new ideas for layout platforms.
Over the past few years designers have slowly released free packages of icons, templates, form elements, GUI components, and many similar works. Please do peruse our list of web designer starter kits to see if anything catches your eye.
Photoshop layout work isn’t always the easiest to complete. Often we find ourselves doubting and re-engaging to correct color schemes and placement. The old adage “practice makes perfect” seems to hold very true in this scenario, along with many others. And these basic starter kits should get you off on the right foot!
9. Always Keep Up with Study Time
As time moves on we all tend to lose interest in activities. If you’re truly passionate about web design you should keep yourself motivated and studying new topics. Consider opening your mind to a development language or practicing a new piece of software.
The tools online today are more advanced than ever before in helping budding young web designers pick up the prize. The Web Design Library was originally launched under Template Monster along with Jetimpex Inc, and has continued into a catalogue of very popular tutorials. The website is updated daily with new links and showcase items for inspiration.
The site also interlinks between many partner venues including Template Ninajas. This results in daily deals which you can’t find anywhere else – sometimes even demos or freebies! Website templates are a great place to get started when you’re unfamiliar with constructing a webpage layout or just need some new ideas.
I would also highly recommend the Tuts+ Network created by Envato. They host thousands of tutorials ranging from Photoshop, Illustrator, HTML5, ActionScript, vector shapes, and even photography. Some of their code requires a membership to download but all tutorials are free to follow and offer step-by-step instructions to ease the learning cycle.
Along with the written articles most of the comments will also offer great advice. The whole network is run by web designers and read by web designers, so you can be certain of high-quality feedback.
These methods should get you started on a thunderous path towards web design enlightenment. The best tricks of the trade have been passed down for years through the Internet community. And likewise as the amount of web designers have increased more open standards have been created.
Consider some of the ideas presented above and spend some time browsing through interesting articles or tutorials. Even familiarizing yourself with fresh material can jog your brain and get you thinking into an elevated design mindset. If you’ve got similar ideas feel free to share them in the comments section below.
Author: Jake Rocheleau
Jake is a user experience designer for both web and mobile platforms. Having over 4 years of freelance projects under his belt, he frequently writes articles on topics of modern design trends and social media. You can check out some of his work on Dribbble or follow his tweets @jakerocheleau.