The most important aspect of any website is the design. The design of a website will directly determine whether a person sticks around or not. One of the biggest barriers to entry for potential web designers is a lack of understanding what tools are available. The purpose of this list is to create awareness of what tools that designers have at their disposal. It doesn’t matter if you are an amateur or professional designer, these tools are just useful and simple.
The whole Adobe suite of products are extremely useful when you become a professional designer, but I’d recommend starting with tools that are available on the web first.
One of the first things I do when coming up with an idea or concept is to wireframe it. Wireframing means to outline a design. Generally a wireframe is completed before the artwork is designed. There are a couple of websites I know of that are great for wireframing.
Mockingbird – Mockingbird is one of the better wireframe websites I have seen. You can drag and drop text, drop-down boxes, hyperlinks, etc. to the screen. You can also create multiple pages and collaborate on the wireframe through the service.
Mockflow – MockFlow is a wireframe tool that allows people to collaborate. The best part is that the service works offline since it is available in the form of desktop software.
Notable – Notable lets you take screenshots of any websites you like and add notes to them. A good example in a video demo I saw was how The Wall Street Journal had a call-to-action right away on the homepage at the top right — it tells users that there are 2 weeks available for free for new users online or in print form.
Inkscape – Inkscape is an open source vector graphics editor that has similar capabilities of Adobe Illustrator, Xara X, and CorelDraw. Inkscape uses the W3C standard scalable vector graphics (SVG) file format.
GIMP – GIMP is a GNU Image Manipulation Program that is used for tasks such as image composition and photo retouching. It is available in multiple languages and is available on UNIX, Windows, and Mac OS X.
Paint.NET – Paint.NET is a Windows-only image editor that supports layers, has an active online community, and includes special effects. One of the best features is unlimited photo manipulation history in case you are prone to making mistakes while editing images.
Society6 – Society6 is a website where users can share art work and sell collectables.
TAXI – TAXI is a creative network website where creative people are encouraged to connect with each other.
Creattica – Creattica is a repository of creative design and inspirational images. To get started, Creattica asks users to create an account and submit their work.
DesignBump – I think it is fair to say that DesignBump is like the Digg of design blog posts and articles. Users can create accounts and submit links that are relevant to web and graphic design.
DeviantArt – DeviantArt is one of the most popular hubs for artists to share their work.
DaFont – When designing graphics or logos, the font can be the most important part of it. DaFont is a hub for fonts that are available for download on the PC or Mac that are unique.
ColourLovers – COLOURlovers is a community where people can share patterns, colors, and palettes.
Dezignus.com – Designuz is a community of people that are interested in design and encourages people to share design freebies.
IconFinder – IconFinder is a search engine that helps you find icons available for download.
Mint.com – Intuit’s Mint.com is useful for managing your money across multiple bank accounts and credit cards. This is especially useful once you start monetizing your artwork and designs. For example, I monitor my personal account and business account from money made on the web separately using Mint.
Freshbooks.com – If you’re a design freelancer, Freshbooks.com is a great tool to use for tracking your time spent on clients. There is also a built-in invoice tool. If you work with 3 clients or less, then the service is free. Anything above that increases as the number of clients you manage increases.
PulseApp – Pulse is a service where you can manage cash flow online and allows you to manage and evaluate your income.