5 Web Design Tools You Should Be Using

webdesigntoolsWeb design is a popular service that continues to provide entrepreneurs with small business opportunities every day. The large number of web design companies (both large and small) worldwide, however, means competition can be fierce.

How can you set yourself apart as a top-quality web designer in a sea of other capable designers? There are quite a few opinions related to this topic but every expert agrees that having an arsenal of capable tools is one of the best ways to set you apart from the pack.  If you need some advice on improving your web design business, be sure to check out Running a Web Design Business.

Not only can good design tools help you become a better designer, but they also can greatly decrease the amount of time you spend on a particular project. Today’s customer wants high quality, unique products and they want them yesterday. Having a proper “toolkit” full of web design software ensures that you can meet customer demands and deadlines.

Please keep in mind that this list is not meant to be all-inclusive. There are literally hundreds of tools that every successful web designer should employ as needed; however, these five represent some of the most powerful and respected tools in the web design industry.

Adobe Photoshop

Globally hailed as the most powerful image editing software available, Photoshop continues to lead the pack with every new release. Sure – there are plenty of free alternatives such as GIMP, but if you want to make sure you are providing the best quality as quickly as possible, Photoshop is definitely the way to go.

Not only is it a fully featured image editing suite, it also is considered the standard in many web design circles. This is important for you as a web designer if you plan on working with customers who have an existing web presence. Many of their files may already be in .PSD format. The only way to render this format properly is with Adobe Photoshop.

Although the basic features of Photoshop are easy to figure out, to truly leverage the power of this software you should consider Mastering Adobe Photoshop.

Adobe Illustrator

While Photoshop is designed for image-editing, Illustrator allows you to create images. In defense of Photoshop, it can create basic images; however, its mediocre vector image manipulation will leave you wanting a more powerful solution.

Illustrator provides these features as well as a host of other useful tools to create custom images. Whether it be a new logo for a client you just picked up or simply freshening up graphics on an existing site, Illustrator leaves nothing to be desired in terms of image creation.

Like Photoshop, Illustrator is a very complex program. Adobe Illustrator: Mastering the Fundamentals is a great way to begin creating top-notch graphics quickly and easily.

Adobe Edge Reflow

Yup…another Adobe product. What else is there to say other than that they do an excellent job of providing the tools you need as a web designer to create awesome sites. Edge Reflow is the latest and greatest in web design and is hands-down the most important tool for successfully competing in 2013 and beyond.

Edge Reflow is a program that helps you implement Responsive Web Design. If you are not familiar with this term, take some time to learn more about Responsive Web Design.

Basically, it is a design format that automatically serves the correct website to any device. Whether a visitor browses to your site via a computer, tablet, smartphone, or some other device, a responsive web design makes sure that the content renders properly.

With as many as 90% of Americans using smartphones on a daily basis, responsive web design has never been more important. Until tools like Edge Reflow came onto the market, you would have to create separate sites for computer browsers, tablets, and smartphones. Typically, JavaScript would detect what webpage to serve the client.  This means more work for you!

Responsive web design means you can create sites that address the needs of all these potential visitors simultaneously. Edge Reflow makes the transition to responsive web design seamless. If you’re not familiar with using this program, this Adobe Edge Reflow course is a great way to get started.

Notepad++

Most web designers are familiar with Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expression Web, and a host of other WYSIWYG HTML editing programs. These are great programs and can save you a lot of time when you are coding redundant HTML and CSS tags.

However, most experienced designers know that there are times when these programs can be limiting. In times like these, you need a full-featured text editor such as Notepad++. Unlike the notepad application that comes with your Windows OS, Notepad++ offers features like automatically recognizing various languages (JavaScript, PHP, etc.) and highlighting them with different colors while recognizing functions, variables, and other common syntax elements.

Some may argue that you can do all these things in Dreamweaver. For the most part, they are right.

However, whenever you use a WYSIWYG HTML editor, you are relying on the knowledge of the Adobe developers to make your website does what you envision. For times when that does not happen, the complete control over HTML code afforded to you by Notepad++ is a definite bonus.

Browser Sandbox

As a web designer, you probably have at least three different browsers installed on your computer at any given time. This allows you to render your web design in these various browsers to ensure format compatibility across anticipated platforms.

Browser Sandbox is a tool that allows you to run different browsers including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera from one browser window. This step can save you hours of development time as you add or modify features.

There are many similar tools on the market as well but Browser Sandbox has been a reliable choice for years and continues to add new features.

As a successful web designer, you are always looking for that slight edge over the competition. While some of these programs (such as Photoshop) are well known, others are still catching on. Edge Reflow is a perfect example of recent software that once mastered, gives you a serious advantage in both time and quality that other web designers simply do not have.