When I first conceived the idea for this post, lying in my bathtub early one dreary Scottish morning, I picked the magic number five. It had a nice ring to it somehow, concise and to the point. It just wasn’t enough though and as I started to mentally tally up all of the wonderful tools we use, I got rather carried away. Like some crazy megalomaniac, I was soon counting up into the dozens before eventually shaking some sense into myself and settling on the wholesome number of 10. It was tough but I got there.
So simply put, there are a lot of great tools out there for web companies to use. Here are some of them. Feel free to suggest others. I won’t mind. Honestly. Maybe.
There’s no doubting that software like Photoshop and Illustrator are pretty much an industry standard for web design (we also use InDesign a lot; Dreamweaver, not so much) and whilst Adobe’s Creative Suite is an excellent package, it’s price point is enough to make a grown man break down and weep. Thus Creative Cloud was born, a subscription based service that for the low monthly price of $49.99/£39 (ex VAT) gives you full access to the entire CS6 package. Oh and you get free upgrades to the latest versions of Creative Suite too. What’s not to love?
One for all of you typography enthusiasts out there. Typecast connects to the likes of Typekit, Google Web Fonts and Fontdeck and has over 23,000 fonts for designers to play around with in their own little sandbox environment, letting them set up their own typographical palette quickly and easily, experimenting to their heart’s content. It also generates HTML and CSS just to help bring a smile to your grumpy developers’ faces.
Nothing gives me more reassurance than knowing if one of our servers, for whatever reason, fails to respond for more than 5 minutes in the middle of the night Bart will be bombarded with simultaneous text messages and emails forcing him to wake up and deal with it.
I know Google Analytics is everyone’s favourite web analytics tool but if you fancy a change, Gauges is an excellent alternative. Lightweight and simple, Gauges’ AirTraffic Live real time monitoring feature is second-to-none and, aside from anything else, a real hoot to watch on high traffic sites.
I must admit one of the reasons I love this tool is because they market one of their USPs as freeing users from ever having to use GoDaddy again. Audacious claims aside, DNSimple is a, not surprisingly, simple domain name registration and management service. It also comes with a nice little API that we plan on using a lot when we launch Kong (it’s coming, I promise).
And if you’re wondering why people don’t like GoDaddy, here’s a video of their CEO killing an elephant.
Skeptical at first, I’m a true Basecamp convert now and even though it’s not technically a tool just for web companies, I felt like my list wouldn’t be complete without this iconic piece of software on it. Yes, Basecamp really is that useful and the bigger the project, the better it gets, housing on-going discussion threads, schedule calendars, milestone lists, wireframes and designs, everything you need to collaborate successfully. I honestly couldn’t imagine us not using it now.
Am I the only one who finds is slightly bizarre how an online shopping site has moved into web services? And actually provides some of the most useful tools out there? S3 is an excellent, low cost storage facility whilst CloudFront snuggly add-ons to provide all of your global content delivery needs. Likewise, just when you thought online storage prices couldn’t get any cheaper, Amazon’s latest service, Glacier, provides a stupidly low cost and effective solution for handling things like file archives and backups. And those three services are just the tip of the iceberg of what Amazon offers.
Writing good content is tough but organising, managing and collating it is even tougher. Enter GatherContent, a great tool for collaborating on content with clients. By setting up page templates, defining content types and setting word limits, you can ensure you get the content you need and, perhaps more importantly, in the format you designed for.
Grids are so hot these days (and apparently have been since the early days of print) and whilst most of them tend to struggle with balancing design freedom with logical structure, Gridset seems to have found the key. No longer are you forced to work to a predefined number of columns of equal width as Gridset allows you define your own custom grids and make them as complex, fluid and flexible as you want. You can also define multiple breakpoints for use in responsive design. Win.
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of building email templates then you’ll know how frustrating the whole experience can be. Suffice to say we were rather delighted to see the recent beta launch of Mailrox, a tool that promises to make building HTML emails painless and bulletproof. We’ve just started using it and, if it turns out to be half as good as it promises, you’ll be sure to hear my cries of joy from across the farthest reaches of the Internet.
Image credit: AtomicShed