The sheer volume and diversity of online apps that designers can leverage to create a website these days is extraordinary.
Although learning to code and mastering desktop design applications are still very valuable skills, they’re no longer a prerequisite for designing great websites.
With the advent of a rapidly growing ecosystem of online apps, designers can now literally start from scratch and create an amazing, fully custom website almost 100% in the browser.
Here are some of my favorite online apps I recommend for web designers to bring into your repertoire – many of which offer a free option by the way.
A complete online website creator, Breezi serves as a great foundation to create, design, and manage all of the content for a site. Different than most website creator tools, it’s geared towards real designers, giving incomparable flexibility and control.
You first pick either a grid-based wireframe or pre-designed theme starting point for a new site, and then you can fully design the site you envisioned, with pixel-level control over every aspect of each page. All of the content is managed through “apps”, and this is the main way that Breezi is able to integrate with the other online services listed below (and many others).
Once the website is done, it can easily be published online. You can even sync your site files to an FTP account if you’d like a backup, or to host your site through a separate hosting account.
Sure, for really advanced image editing, Photoshop or your desktop application of choice is probably your best bet. But for quick and easy image manipulation and editing, while still having a ton of customization options, you should check out PicMonkey.
You don’t even need to sign-up for an account – just upload your image, and then dive into the editing tools. Using the sidebar controls, you can easily crop, resize and rotate an image, and then tweak the settings to get the exposure, colors, and sharpening just right. You can also apply lots of advanced filters and textures, touch up effects, text and graphic overlay options, borders and more.
When you’re done, you can save and export your spiffy new image to whatever format you need.
Need to create custom color palettes or patterns for your site? Then head over to COLOURlovers.com. It’s an awesome community site and set of tools, which lets you browse colors, palettes, patterns and trends for inspiration, and then use one or more of their tools to create your own.
Color is such an important component in sound web design, so this is a really helpful tool to get your color palette together for a website you’re working on. You get recommendations on related colors to use, and can use a few different color selection options to find just the right colors you’re looking for.
Once your palette is ready, you can save and export it if you’d like, and share it with the community to get feedback.
Do you need to pick a specific color that you’ve seen on another site? If so, the Chrome Eye Dropper extension is a quick and easy tool to use. And if you don’t use Chrome, there are similar extensions HYPERLINK “https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/colorzilla/” for Firefox and other browsers.
Just install the browser extension, and then you can use the eye dropper to select any color you see on a web page. The extension stores your selected colors, and you can copy the hex code to use for font colors, backgrounds, or other areas of your website.
Just as color selection plays a huge role in web design, so does typography. Typecast is a really nice tool that is great for experimenting with different web fonts. You can quickly test out different font combinations for your headings, sub-headings, body copy, links, and more.
You can also experiment with letter spacing and line height, font color treatments, and other styling options. Then once you have your type systems set, you can jump back over to your website to apply the text formatting and styles to the copy on your site.
Upload & Showcase Website Content
Depending on the site you’re crafting, you may need to showcase a multitude of different types of content. Here are some of my favorite online apps for uploading, storing, and embedding different types of media and content on a website:
- Dropbox: Great for file storage and sharing
- SoundCloud: Embeddable audio players & playlists
- Vimeo or YouTube: For storing and embedding your videos
- Screenr: Creating quick screencasts couldn’t be easier
- Wazala: E-commerce shopping cart embedded right in your site.
- Scribd: Upload & embed PDF documents or slideshows.
So there you have it. Now you can fully create, design and launch a new website online, using these tools and others. Of course this list is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there. Have a favorite online app you use when creating a website? Please share in the comments below!