Web Design Tools, Services And Resources For Business Owners, Creative-Types, and Self-Marketers
Published on April 13, 2017 in Business Tools & Services.
If you're a business owner, self-marketer, or creative-type who wants complete autonomy—to be able to build, maintain, and control your website yourself, 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 projects and ventures. As I discover new resources, I'll continue to add them here, so be sure to bookmark this page, and check 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, we earn 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.
Navigation: Below, 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, SEO tools, graphics editors, web templates, stock graphics, icons, and web elements, and additional tools and services for you to look into.
Okay, let's dig into it!
Registering a business domain name
In order to get a domain name—a website address, or URL—for your business, you’ll need to register it with a special company called a domain name registrar. This is just a service that you register domains with. There are many places to register a website address 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.
Now, 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 a long time. 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 or online projects at once.
Here's a video tutorial I published not too long ago that walks you through the entire domain name registration process, step-by-step...
In this video I mention some show notes, which you can find right over here.
Setting up Website Hosting
There are many places to find affordable web hosting for your businesses and online projects. They key is to ensure you enroll in the right kind of hosting. 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.
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. The three hosts I recommend (below) are hosts I use myself to keep my various online businesses and projects running smoothly.
Think of my recommendations as small, medium, and large -- depending on your needs, one of these will be a perfect it.
- Web Hosting Hub: Specializing in cost-effective shared hosting, Web Hosting Hub is perfect for those new to online business and web design, or for small to medium-sized web projects. 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.
If you scroll down just a bit, I've embedded a video where I walk you through the process for signing up with Web Hosting Hub.
Or if you'd really like to go in-depth, check out my full-length Web Hosting Hub review.
- SiteGround: Another top hosting choice, 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 business's and online venture's hosting needs, and they're also officially endorsed by WordPress. This makes them a solid solution for your business needs.
In another post, I take you through the process for signing up with SiteGround, which you can check out right here.
- WP Engine: If you’re looking for worry-free, managed web hosting for your business or online project, where the technical side of your site is taken care of for you, then WP Engine is a perfect fit. They specialize in providing premium managed WordPress hosting. Their customer service is best in class, with one-on-one WordPress experts at your disposal 24/7, 365. That, my friend, is tough to beat!
If you think WP Engine might be a good fit for you, then check out my tutorial where I take you through their sign-up process, right over here.
Another top web host with a solid reputation is A2 Hosting. They're a great option.
Okay, here's the Web Hosting Hub video I mentioned above that takes you through their steps for signing up, which is super-easy...
If you're looking for this video's show notes, then get clickin' right here.
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, even if you're just running a small site. 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...
- ProtonMail:If you're concerned about online security and privacy...especially when it comes to your email...if you're worried about things like Big Tech tracking and data mining...then it doesn't get more secure than ProtonMail. In addition to secure, encrypted email, ProtonMail also provides a secure calendar, contacts, and a slick mobile app. In fact, Proton's what I'm using myself these days for both personal and business use...and I love it!
- Google G Suite: Google G Suite 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,
firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.
If you'd like a few other options, here are a handful of other dedicated email services to consider for your business or online project: 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, Creators, and Self-Marketers
- 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 code editors available for Macs, 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): CoffeeCup HTML 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.
Atom's simple, clean interface in action!
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 there is only one to rule them all, and that's...
- WordPress: Hands down the most popular, most widely used, most powerful web design platform currently available to all of humanity is WordPress. It has a massive online community, it's incredibly flexible and customizable, and it's suitable for any business website, project, or online venture 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!
- Elementor: Intuitively build pages and layouts with Elementor, a visual drag 'n drop website builder. Elementor is actually a WordPress plugin, allowing you to use it right along with all the power and functionality that comes with WordPress.
In my full-length online video course, Ready For Lift-Off: How To Build And Run Your Online Business Yourself! you'll learn how to get started with both WordPress and Elementor.
- Pinegrow: Pinegrow is an incredibly powerful drag 'n drop website builder that runs on your desktop computer. But even more interesting is this: Pinegrow lets you build layouts visually using the Bootstrap framework. This means that Pinegrow includes a library of pre-created Bootstrap layout elements that you can visually drag around to construct your web layouts. In a way, it's kinda like using Photoshop to build a visual layout. How awesome is that?! I go into a little more detail about this awesome responsive website builder towards the end of my post, Which Of The 6 Different Ways To Build A Website Is Best For You? Definitely check it out!
- HTML & CSS: HTML is the foundation for all web design, and I think it's important for you to learn even the basics. The good news is, HTML and CSS are both easy to learn, and you can pick them up quickly. I've written a bit about how easy HTML and CSS are, and why it's so important to learn them in Is HTML Easy To Learn? Here’s What You Need To Know and also here.
If you're ready to jump into learning HTML, CSS, and web design let's sit down together in my online video course, HTML5 & CSS3 Site Design. I'd love to show you how easy it all is!
What about other web design platforms and software? I've used, tried, and tested a ton of them out, putting them through their paces, and they simply don't stack up against the power, ease of use, and flexibility of WordPress and Elementor. If you'd like more info on this, check out my post, Which One, Dreamweaver Or WordPress?
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).
- Google Chrome (Mac, Windows) also known as "Bloaty The Resource Hog" around these parts. Notice how your system's running slow? It's cuz Chrome's a greedy, greedy little piggy!
- Microsoft Edge (Windows-only)
- Apple's Safari (Mac, Windows)
- Mozilla Firefox (Mac, Windows) My browser of choice.
- Opera (Mac, Windows)
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.
- Forklift A Mac-only FTP application, which has a ton of handy features, commands, and tools. It's my current FTP application of choice and I'm liking it so much that I'll likely do a tutorial or two on it in the near future.
- 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.
Below, I've inserted a video tutorial I put together recently that shows you how to connect to your Web Hosting Hub hosted website via FTP using Cyberduck. If you're hosting your website with SiteGround, I show you how to do this over in this tutorial. Or, if you're useing WP Engine to host your site, check out this tutorial.
In this video I mention some show notes, which you can find right over here.
One of the best ways to market and promote your business online is through search -- specifically, carefully structuring your website's pages, articles, and product listings to target search keywords and keyphrases. And while this can be done manually, having a few tools on hand makes the whole process a heck of a lot easier!
- KWFinder While there are many free SEO tools available, they can sometimes be flaky. The best (and only) paid SEO tool I use and recommend is KWFinder. This low-cost and intuitive tool helps you uncover long-tail keywords, including difficulty and search volume, with minimal complexity. Anytime I do keyword research, I head for KWFinder!
- TubeBuddy TubeBuddy is a browser plugin SEO tool designed specifically to help you optimize your YouTube content. Here, TubeBuddy will help you find relevant topics and searchable keywords...and it'll help ya craft the perfect tags and titles too. Best of all, TubeBuddy won't break the bank!
- VidIQ If you need a hand with your YouTube SEO, VidIQ is a top choice. Generate keyword ideas, optimize your video titles, and gain deep insights into what's working and what isn't with this easy to use browser plugin. Give VidIQ a try today!
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 so on. And some minor colour correction would be a huge help too. 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 setcha back a cool $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. If you're a small business owner, Illustrator could be overkill, but for self-marketers and creative types, it may be a good fit. For instance, 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 depth 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.
The visual aspects of web design are often handled by Photoshop.
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!
- Pikwizard.com Find over 100,000 completely free images for use in your projects. New images are added daily -- many that are exclusive to Pikwizard!
- 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.