Small Business Web Design Tools, Services And Resources

If you’re a small business owner who wants complete autonomy—to be able to build, maintain, and control your business website online, then you’re in the right spot! Here’s a helpful list of resources, tools, and recommendations to help you go further with your online business ventures. You’ll find where you can go to register your business’s domain name, set up your web hosting, some top email service providers, coding tools, web design platforms for you to build with, web browsers, ftp applications, graphics editors, web templates, stock graphics, icons, and web elements, and additional tools and services for you to look into. As I discover new resources, I’ll continue to add them here—so be sure to bookmark this page, and come back often!

In the article below, I’ve provided a lot of resources, links, and additional material to help get you and your business online. Some of the links are for free products and services, while other links are affiliate links. This means that if you choose to click on those links, and wind up buying the product, Ten Ton earns a little bit. But this doesn’t cost you any extra. In fact, through many of these links, we’re able to pass on special promotions to help you save you some money. Okay, let’s get started…

Registering a business domain name

In order to obtain a domain name for your business, you’ll need to register it with what’s called a domain name registrar. This is just a company that you can register domains with. There are many places to register a domain name with. You can even register a domain while simultaneously setting up your web hosting—but I don’t recommend that you do. Instead, register your domain with a proper domain name registrar.

  • NameCheap I’ve used all of the most popular domain registrars over the years, and by far the best is NameCheap. I’ve been using them for years. Their clean, easy to use interface and un-spammy registration process puts them way ahead of other registrars. Plus, their easy to use dashboard makes it easy to manage multiple domains, which is great if you think you’ll be running several online businesses at once.

Setting up Business Web Hosting

Like domain registration companies, there are many places to find affordable web hosting for your business. They key is to ensure you enroll in the right kind of hosting for your business. Because web hosting is so important, I’ve spent a lot of time and money researching and testing to find the best web hosting companies in the industry for small and medium-sized businesses. If you checked out my tutorial, The 3 Critical Web Hosting Features Every Small Business Needs, then you know that all the recommendations I’m making here nail our biggest hosting concerns. Remember to use my recommendations as a starting point. Take a look at a few that you think might work for your business venture, then take things from there.

  • Web Hosting Hub Specializing in shared hosting, Web Hosting Hub is perfect for those new to online business and web design, or for small to medium-sized businesses. Plans start at about $4/month with a generous 90-day money back guarantee. Extra hosting features and US-based 27/7 customer support put Web Hosting Hub ahead of many other hosting companies.
  • SiteGround Another top hosting choice for business, SiteGround offers a variety of hosting types, including shared, cloud, and managed WordPress hosting, all starting at $4/month. With world-class customer support, SiteGround is a great choice to handle your web hosting needs, and they’re also officially endorsed by WordPress—making them a solid solution for your business needs.
  • WP Engine If you’re looking for worry-free web hosting for your growing online business, where the technical side of your site is taken care of for you, then WP Engine is a perfect fit. They specialize in providing high quality managed WordPress hosting. Their customer service is best in class, with one-on-one WordPress experts at your disposal 24/7, 365.
  • Other Hosts To Explore If you’d like a few more industry leading web hosting companies to research further, then check these ones out: Liquid Web, KnownHost, Squidix, and WordPress’s own Pressable.

Dedicated Business Email Services

Most web hosting services, particularly lower-cost shared hosting, comes with free email. But using email that comes with web hosting isn’t a great idea for a variety of reasons. Ideally, using a dedicated, business-grade email service is vastly superior. And the cost is low, usually about $5/month per email account. Here’s a list of top email service recommendations for you to investigate further…

  • Google G Suite This is the ad-free, business-grade version of Google’s Gmail. It’s almost exactly the same as regular Gmail, but with the ability to create email addresses branded for your business’s domain name (for example, you@yourcompany.com or service@yourcompany.com). G Suite also includes access to Google Docs, Google Drive, and a host of other features. And, every Google G Suite account comes with extra storage space and 24/7, 365 enterprise-level customer support.
  • Microsoft Office 365 Office 365 is an enterprise-grade web-based service that’s now available for small businesses as well. Their service includes branded, domain-based email in a clean, user-friendly interface that’s easy to use and navigate. Each account includes 50gb of storage. And, Office 365 email comes bundled with industry-grade spam and malware protection, keeping your inbox clean and safe. Because Microsoft Office 365 is enterprise-grade, you know reliability and security are their top priorities.
  • Other Email Services To Explore Here are a handful of other dedicated email services to consider for your business: Zoho Mail, Atmail, and Amazon Workmail.

If you’d like to know more about handling your business email, be sure to check out my in-depth tutorial, Finding The Best Email Service For Your Business.

Code Editors For Business Owners

If you want to be able to fix minor problems, have complete control over your business and it’s website, or even get into things like building custom layouts and pages for your site, you’ll need some kind of code editor to help make the job easier. Having a code editor allows you to work directly with the background code that drives your website—that is, HTML, CSS, possibly Javascript and PHP, and so on. You can go with a plain text editor (be sure it’s a plain text editor, not a word processor), or you can use a dedicated code editor, like the ones I’ve listed below…

  • GitHub’s Atom (Windows, Mac) Atom is a powerful, free and open source code editor that has a strong community behind it. It’s simplified, easy to use interface makes working with code easy and straightforward. And, it works on both Mac and Windows computers.
  • Sublime Text (Windows, Mac) Sublime is the code editor that set the standard that all others must now meet. It’s clean, simple interface is highly customizable, and easy to use. Sublime is the choice for many web designers, and is perfect for small business DIYers, too. Sublime is also available for both Windows and Mac computers.
  • Panic Coda (Mac-only) Considered to be one of the best Mac-only code editors available, Coda has a clean, intuitive interface. It’s many built-in features to make handing web code easy, including code complete and code snippets. Coda also has handy FTP capabilities that make working directly on your website a breeze.
  • CoffeeCup HTML Editor (Windows-only) This editor makes coding sites easy, with great built-in features like code completion and built-in validation. CoffeeCup costs $29, and has a free trial.
  • There are many more code editors available, and finding one that fits your business needs is key if you really want to dig into this stuff. For more information, be sure to check out my tutorial, The Best Code Editors For Online Business Owners.

    Web design platforms

    As of this writing, there are precisely a bazillion and seven ways to build a website (yes, a bazillion and seven—I counted!) But one of the most powerful, flexible, and easy to use approaches is to use WordPress…

    • WordPress.org The most popular, most widely used CMS (Content Management System) presently available. It has a massive online community, it’s incredibly flexible and customizable, and it’s suitable for any business website you could possibly imagine. Best of all, it allows you to own and control your website completely—you aren’t beholden to another website or service to ensure your business remains online. Oh, and it’s free, too!

    Web Browsers

    While you’re building your small business website, you’ll want to preview your work in at least a few web browsers, so that you can get an idea of what your customers see when they visit you. Below is a list of the most common browsers. If you don’t already have them, go download and install ’em (they’re all free).

    FTP Applications

    Being able to connect to your website is very handy for troubleshooting, maintenance, and other business-related web tasks. To do this, you’ll need what’s called an FTP application, sometimes called an FTP client. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. I go into much more detail about FTP right here. Now, there are lots of great FTP applications available, and most of them are free. So you’ll probably want to try one or two out first before choosing one to stick with.

    • FireFTP A free Firefox plugin, which adds FTP capabilities directly within your browser. It’s simple, easy to use, and includes a variety of advanced features. This is my FTP utility of choice.
    • Cyberduck A free and very popular FTP application for both Mac and Windows. The interface is clean and simple, and it includes a handful of extra features to help keep your files organized. I use this one as my main back-up FTP application.
    • WS_FTP If you’re looking for a Windows-based, commercial-grade FTP application that comes with business-oriented users in mind, then WS_FTP might be just what you’re after. Like other FTP applications, WS_FTP handles common tasks like file transfers, drag and drop functionality, bookmarks, and more, but with enterprise-grade security and reliability.
    • Yummy FTP Pro A solid business-grade FTP application used by Mac-based designers and developers, Yummy FTP Pro is optimized for performance, security, and reliability, which is perfect for small businesses. In addition, the built-in code editor makes it easy to make adjustments to live site files directly within the easy to use interface.

    If you’d like a few more FTP recommendations, check out my two tutorials, Best FTP Applications For Windows Users, and Best FTP Applications For Mac Users.

    Graphics Editors

    If you’re going to be looking after your business’s website, then you’ll need some kind of graphics editor. At a minimum, you’ll need to do simple stuff like rotating, cropping, and minor colour correction would be a huge help, but you may want a little more horsepower than that for your web design ventures. Below, I’ve listed a few popular graphics editors to help you in your small business…

    • Adobe Photoshop With loads of horsepower and tons of features, Photoshop is, of course, the most popular image editor currently available for Windows and Mac computers. I’ve been using it for a long, long time, and it’s my go-to application for handling things like product photos, website graphics, icons, banners, and so on. Photoshop’ll set you back $20/month, or for $50/month you can get access to Adobe’s entire Creative Cloud suite.
    • Adobe Illustrator Think of Illustrator as Photoshop’s sidekick. As a small business owner, Illustrator could be overkill, but a lot of times I find myself using Illustrator to create logos, buttons, icons, layout mock-ups, and so on. Like Photoshop, I’ve been using it for a long, long time. It also comes in at $20/month or $50/month for the full CC suite.
    • Gimp A popular, free, and open source raster image editor for Windows and Mac. It doesn’t have Photoshop’s oomph or delpth of tools, but if you want to keep things light (and free) then Gimp might be the right choice for you.
    • Inkscape If Illustrator is Photoshop’s sidekick, then that makes Inkscape Gimp’s. Inkscape is a free and open source vector graphics editor which you could use to create things like website banners, headers, icons, buttons and so on.

    Web Templates

    Get your business up and running in no time by using pre-made, ready-to-use web templates. There are heaps to choose from, so let’s take a look…

    • Template Monster Browse through Template Monster’s impressive collection of WordPress themes.
    • Theme Forest WordPress themes, and themes for other web design platforms.
    • Thesis Theme A very popular and easy to customize WordPress theme by DIY Themes.
    • Studio Press Powering over 86,000 sites, Studio Press offers up industry standard premium themes.
    • My Theme Shop SEO-friendly and responsive themes for your WordPress site.
    • WPZoom Professional, easy to use themes with lifetime support.

    Stock Graphics, icons, fonts, photos, music & Scripts

    Every once in a while, you may need some stock photography, icons, fonts, or even music. The good news is, you don’t have to be a professional designer to have a professional looking site. Below you’ll find some great resources to bring your business to life with pro-quality graphics, stock photography, scripts, and more.

    • GraphicRiver.net Find loads of icons, fonts, web elements, and a whole lot more. A resource you’ll definitely want to bookmark!
    • PhotoDune.net High quality, royalty free stock photography.
    • IconDemon.com Stock icons and imagery that are perfect for your web projects.
    • CodeCanyon.net Find tons of scripts, polls, forms, WordPress plugins, CSS elements, and more.
    • MyFonts.com The right font can really bring a layout to life. Find some great fonts for your next web project at MyFonts.com.
    • AllStockMusic.com Finding the right jingle or intro music for your projects can be a real pain. But, you might find the perfect tune at AllStockMusic.com.
    • AudioJungle.net Another music resource, AudioJungle.net offers up thousands of intros, loops, sound effects and more.

    Additional Tools & Resources

    Push your business and web design skills even further with these additional tools, services, and resources. These extras will help you build better websites, diagnose issues, and assist you in testing your projects on various platforms and devices.

    • Google Analytics Free and easy to set up, Google Analytics gives you a massive amount of information about who’s visiting your site, what pages are most popular, what pages visitors exit from most often, browsers, screen resolutions, and a whole lot more.
    • Screenfly Stick a URL into Screenfly, a completely free service, and then choose a mobile, tablet, or other device from the menu, and you’ll get a preview of what your business website looks like on the selected device. This is huge for DIY business owners who want to build responsive layouts that function across multiple devices.
    • Web Developer Toolbar Get your hands on a huge set of web design-related tools with this free plugin for Firefox.
    • Firebug Another fantastic plugin for Firefox, Firebug is essential for diagnosing page structures and CSS. A must-have.
    • Browsershots.org A decent cross-browser, cross-platform testing tool for your small business.

    Alright, let’s leave things here. I hope you found this article to be of tremendous value. There’s lots here for you to go on, and lots of extra options for you to consider as you continue working on your business ventures.

    Good luck!

Hey, I’m Geoff. I love helping people just like you learn more about web design, gain new skills, and launch online projects. This stuff ain't rocket science, but it's often made more complex (and boring) than it needs to be. Web design and online business is supposed to be creative and fun! You can learn lots more (for free!) right here, check out my online courses over here, and find out more about me here.

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