Web Design: 4 Tools for web developers

Web Design tools

A wide range of web development tools are available to ITGS students, from free offerings to extremely expensive professional suites like Adobe Dreamweaver. In reality, ITGS students creating a web site for their internal assessment projects are unlikely to need expensive, high-end tools – and indeed, the cost and availability of appropriate software is something that students should consider in their feasibility assessment. My students and I have found the four free development tools below very useful in the creation of many web site projects. You might also be interested in other posts in this mini-series:  Web Design: 4 Sites with Tips for Web Designers and Web Design: 5 tutorials to learn HTML and CSS.

Visual Web Developer ExpressVisual Web Developer Express

Part of Microsoft’s Visual Studio platform, Visual Web Developer Express is available for free download. Though designed primarily for creating dynamic, database-backed web sites, static websites can also be easily created. Visual Web Developer offers all of the essential web development tools, including a good code editor and an effective WYSIWYG page preview. Visual Web Developer is a powerful tool for students creating web pages. The downside is that it is only available for Windows.

Mozilla Webmaker ThimbleMozilla Webmaker Thimble

Mozilla Webmaker Thimble is a very useful tool allowing users to enter HTML code directly into the left half of the web page and immediately see the results rendered in the right half. This ability to instantly see the effect of code really helps students understand the structure of HTML and understand the difference between content and markup. Although probably not useful as a development tool for actually building sites, Thimble is a very helpful teaching aid, and of course, is cross-platform.

Code Maven for JavaScriptCode Maven

Code Maven is similar to Mozilla Webmaker Thimble, except it allows users to practice JavaScript code rather than HTML. Students are guided through a series of increasingly difficult tasks, from instructions from an avatar. Like Thimble, Code Maven allows users to enter code in an editor on one half of the screen and preview the results on the other half.

Page SpeedPage Speed

Even with modern high-speed Internet connections, web page loading speed is extremely important, especially for businesses. Various surveys suggest that users are willing to wait only a few seconds for a page to load before leaving (and perhaps going to a competitor’s site). Page Speed analyses your web page and makes suggestions to speed up its loading, ranging from the simple (such as specifying image size tags, optimising images, and removing redundant CSS) to the more complex (such as altering web server caching and compression). It is well worth running Page Speed at least once on your web page. The site also has a handy report for mobile based browsers to ensure your pages perform well on those platforms – again, essential for any modern page.

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