It would be customary to leave the best until last but we couldn’t risk you missing out on this one. A fairly new application, Station groups all of your online applications into one simple to use program that you can install on both a Mac or a PC. Station is a blissful companion if you find yourself working from 20+ tabs at once. It allows you to integrate things like your email account, social media, accounting tools, marketing (Hubspot / Mailchimp), analytics/search console so you browse them all from one application. We challenge you to find an application it doesn’t integrate with! It will also allow you to streamline all of your notifications and generally neaten up your workflow, meaning you’re more productive and less stressed! The best thing about Station is that it is FREE! There is a limit to how many applications you can integrate but you can easily increase this by inviting your friends to try out the platform.
You’ll probably want to be familiar with most Creative Cloud applications, but we’d advise making Illustrator your priority. Use it on a basic level to do some simple image editing and learn how to design your own flat icons or buttons. Illustrator comes in handy when your project involves a logo design and is perfect for creating bespoke visuals to be used throughout a web design project to develop an organisation’s brand. Go one further with it and create your own digital resources, as Illustrator is the application of choice for creating infographics and other visually engaging educational materials. Becoming competent in Adobe Illustrator means you can expand your services and offer graphic design services alongside your digital offerings.
Adobe Photoshop / GIMP
Similar to the above, Adobe Photoshop instead allows direct manipulation of images above and beyond what you can achieve with Illustrator. You’ll need to regularly edit images that clients send for their website design projects and so it makes sense to get to grips with what you can accomplish with Photoshop. If you’re on a tighter budget you may want to consider GIMP instead. GIMP is an open source, free application similar to Photoshop. Perhaps not as polished, but we’re sure you can accomplish anything that you can with Photoshop with GIMP instead.
This one is for the Mac users (sorry PC people!). If you work from an Apple laptop you’ll have a little known application built in called Automator. Automator is fantastic as it allows you to automate (surprise…) tasks that are normally time consuming and monotonous. We like to set up processes that do things like resize and compress images just by dragging the original files into a folder or crawl websites to locate email addresses and contact details. We love it so much that we wrote a whole blog post about it – check it out here!
At the beginning you can probably get away without having access to a decent code editor by using a text editor that comes packaged with your computer. Soon enough though you’ll be needing to dive headfirst into theme and plugin files to achieve what you need within each web design project. In these instances we’d recommend you check out Brackets, our favourite code editor. It does everything you’d expect, like highlighting your code, a range of themes and error checking, in a neat little application! Much more appealing and easier to use that editing files directly through your cPanel file manager or basic text editor.
MAMP is a fantastic tool that no website developer or designer should ever be without. When you start developing websites as a hobby you normally buy some cheap hosting somewhere and do all of your work online. With MAMP you are able to create a server on your computer locally, so that you can create and work on as many sites as you like without having to spend a penny. If you manage any live websites MAMP comes in really useful. Before making any big changes or integrating any significant new functionality you can test these amendments on your local version of the website and determine whether to expect any plugin conflicts or styling issues. Most importantly MAMP allows you to get started on projects without an internet connection and it is a simple process of porting your files to the hosting environment upon project completion.
Finally, not the most exciting application but it gets the job done! Depending on your hosting (and you’ll be working with lots of different providers over your career), the only way you’ll be able to quickly edit your back end website files is through ftp. This is where Cyberduck comes in! Cyberduck is the best client we have tried so far and has never let us down during those boring manual WordPress installs and migrations.
We hope you’ve found this post useful and that at least one of the above applications will aid any future web design projects. As always, if you have any questions or need any advice, please get in touch!
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent many years working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.