We can all use a little help with web design. Be it color pallets or coding, file sharing or font inspecting, you need good tools to improve your skills and keep up your A-game. There are hundreds of applications out there but here are five free tools that every designer should have...
PLTTS: For finding the perfect color paletteThe most professional looking websites use only a few colors that are typically of similar hues or shades. However, not everyone has an artist's eye. PLTTS is a handy new web tool that can help you find great color pallets paired together by visionary web designers. Browse through the most common pallets or search for your own. If you've already chosen a base color, you can insert that color into the form at the top right-hand side of the page and PLTTS will give suggestions for other hues and shades to complete the color scheme. Think of it as a simple tool for a successful aesthetic.
Firefox Dev Tools' new Font Inspector: For a better visual font experiencePeople either ignore or obsess over fonts, but no one can deny the impact it has on the user experience. Firefox has added a new tool called Font Inspector to its Development Tools window, the single home for most development tools built into Firefox. It essentially shows how typography is being used on a site. In one place the tool lists what fonts and font-based icons are featured on the site, including the font name, family, whether or not the font is local or provided through a service, and the @font-face code. (@font-face is a CSS rule that makes it possible for a font to appear correctly on a user's screen, even if the user doesn't have that font downloaded to his or her computer.) The tool's interface looks similar to a coding page with four panels where the text is displayed. That could change though. Currently, it is only available in Firefox Nightly Builds, meaning it is so new, it's pre-beta.
Diff Checker: For finding errors when replicating a fileDiff Checker is a free web tool that compares two bodies of text and highlights the differences so you can catch that one misplaced letter or extra white space you accidentally inserted when updating a version of a file. Diff Checker saves you the time you may have spent combing through each file manually looking for differences that can cause problems later, and it has a simple, two-column interface. You just upload or copy and paste the contents of two files and hit "Find Difference!" You'll see the differences highlighted side by side for easy comparison. You don't even need to sign up or register for an account.
Dropbox: For organization and sharingDropbox is not new, but you may not be using it to its full capacity. The free online storage cloud starts users off with 2GB of free space, and from there it can serve as a project management cloud where you not only store files, but organize, modify, change and share files in a secure online environment. Dropbox also works across multiple platforms and will sync files (like XAMPP or MAMP root directories) from one platform to another automatically, saving you time before moving to the next step.
Forums and Classes: For further educationYou may have years of web designing experience or you may have none. Whatever the case, you will likely have a question at some point. Forums like Web Developer Forum, DreamInCode and Devshed are great online discussion sites where you can ask questions or see how colleagues are troubleshooting their problems. They do have rules: Devshed requires you to register for an account and will limit you to a restricted user status for the first 30 days as a way to preserve quality and prevent obscene content. DreamInCode and Web Developer Forum let anyone post. If you don't find the answer to your question in a forum, there are tech schools that offer browser-based tutorials like Code Academy.
Whether you're working on a college web design project or you’re a professional web designer with 10 years of experience who wants to brush up on your skills, try one or all of these tools to improve the image of your web design.
By Elizabeth Dilts
Reporter at Reuters. I cover legal matters, mostly health law and government health care, but I also dabble in education, real estate, immigration and government spending. After three years living in and reporting from China, I'm back in the States, based in New York City. I’ve written this article on behalf of Westwood College, which prepares students for careers in today’s evolving job market. A Westwood degree in Web Design could help you start a career in web design and development.