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10 Tools to Help Design a Great Website

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If you have a business, having a website is paramount to your success. Customers and clients expect to be able to go online and find out information about your business, and if you don’t have one, consumers will often go elsewhere. Building your own site does not have to be a daunting task as there are many tools available to help you build a great website.

Platforms

A platform is the foundation for your website. Depending on how much you want to spend and how web savvy you are there are many different options. Here are five platforms below:

WordPress started as a blogging tool and content management system (CMS), but has turned into a full-scale website platform because of its many plugins and the flexibility it offers. It is a very popular platform with 15% of the top million websites using WordPress.

The platform is free, but there is typically a cost for add-ons (i.e. plugins and templates) and thousands of different themes allow you to change the look of the site without changing its content.  It’s easy to use and SEO friendly so sites built with WP are often highly favoured by search engines.

Drupal is also a free CMS system which, like WordPress, makes it easy to manage, organize and publish content. It is easily customizable with many free designs and plugins. Drupal was created initially to be a web design platform and users often state that it is more flexible and scalable than WordPress, but can take more work to build and maintain pages.

Volusion is great if you are looking to start a professional-looking web store. It has thousands of premium templates which allow the customer to zoom in on products, do product comparison, and can show all your product options.

It is PCI Certified, which means it has very high online security standards, which is key when customers will be purchasing items. Volusion charges a monthly fee, but this includes hosting costs, and shouldn’t overshadow the fact that if you are going to have a strictly e-commerce site, Volusion is the way to go.

Design Software

Adobe Dreamweaver is web page creation software, which is essentially a web code editor for HTML and CSS. Though Dreamweaver states that it’s easy to use, knowing the basics of HTML is helpful; otherwise you won’t be able to do much customization on the pages. Dreamweaver has lots of bells and whistles – tools to help layout your webpage and a lot of different templates and ways to manage your files.

Kompozer is the free, open source version of Dreamweaver.  Kompozer has fewer options than Dreamweaver (doesn’t support RSS or .svg or .tiff images, for example) but Kompozer is compatible with Linux, and claims that it’s easy to use, even for novices.

Visual Elements

You could hire a professional photographer to take pictures for your website, but there are many stock photo sites online. Here are two:

Stock Xchng (sxc.hu)  is a free gallery containing more than 350,000 photos from thousands of amateur photographers. There are many great pictures, but since the photographers are not professional, some of the pictures are lower quality.

Depositphotos has thousands of professional stock photography and videos in many different categories.  You have to pay to use these pictures, but they are royalty-free, so the picture can be used in many different places at no extra charge. Because these photos and videos are taken by professionals, they are of good quality and use of professional models.

Once you have chosen photos for your website, you may decide to edit or alter them. Here are a couple of popular software options:

Adobe Photoshop is one of the most popular (and most expensive) image editors. It allows you to do typical photo editing such as cropping and re-touching, but you can also add or remove elements, change the size, colour and shape.  Photoshop also allows you to draw your own images, but draws by pixel, which means that if you enlarge the picture too much, it can look choppy and won’t retain its clarity.

Gimp is a free, open source version of Photoshop. It provides a lot of different add-ons so that it functions almost as well as a purchased photo editor, including image retouching and creating designs. One negative of Gimp is that it only has 8 bit colour while Photoshop has 16 bit

E-Commerce

While your site may not solely be an e-commerce site, there may be a store element within your site. In this case, you will need an easy-to-use shopping cart within your site. Fortunately, platforms have recognized this and have created many different plugins for adding a shopping cart to your site.

For WordPress, some of the common ones are WP e-commerce and Quick Shop. When working with Drupal, Ubercart seems most often used, but Magento has a lot of different options.

The above tools are just a few which can be used to make a great website. What are some of your favourites?

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