8 Must-have Tools for Web Designers

[ig_row][ig_column span=”span12″][ig_text]Being a web designer isn’t an easy task. We know. We understand. Figuring out which color combination works, which fonts to choose from, and how to collaborate with your co-workers can be painful at times. That’s whywe have gathered some of the best web apps and software that can assist you through this demanding challenge. Below are the “Amazing 8” design tools that any designer should know and utilize.

Adobe Kuler (Free)

Image credit: Adobe Kuler

Adobe Kuler is no stranger if you are into color combination or having any difficulties with it. Kuler is a website application that allows you to try out, create and save various color schemes, then extract them as an Adobe Swatch Exchange file and to use with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. There is also a community for you to share your color schemes, as well as seeing suggestions from others.

And the amazement doesn’t stop there. Adobe Kuler also has an iOS app which is just as spectacular. With this iOS app, you can extract color from your surroundings in a blink of an eye. Just point your camera anywhere and Kuler can capture the dominant color without any ruckus like snapping photos or going into the phone’s photo library. Talk about a handy app!

The most useful way to use Kuler is through the Creative Suite applications. Just go to Window -> Extensions -> Kuler, and you can get a list complementary colors based on one single color of your choice. This will be extra convenient when you are stuck on a color and don’t know what works well with it.

Pictaculous (Free)

Image credit: Pictaculous

A product by MailChimp, Pictaculous takes an image of your choice and generates a selection of color palettes based on it. With one single act of uploading, Pictaculous creates a primary palette made out of five colors directly extracted from the image. The website can pull color scheme suggestions from Kuler and Colour Lovers as well. The palettes can be downloaded as Adobe Swatch files just like Kuler.

One great strength of Pictaculous is that you can snap a photo of any inspiring image, mail it to the website and then receive color suggestions within minutes, including hex code. This might not be as handy as Kuler, but if you need more than just one color palette suggestion or you don’t like having to have an app permanently on your phone, then Pictaculous is the right call.

Pictaculous is most effective when you have to design a Web page based on an image. You can take time to use eyedropper tools, and coordinate and match colors, but it will take a while. Instead, Pictaculous can do all that work for you, and you will have a color palette done in seconds; and it’s also free.

Typecast ($13.25/month)

Image credit: Typecast

Typography is particularly important in designing a website, however, it can become quite a hassle when switching between static mock-up to coding and to actual browser canvas. Typecast gives you just the help you need. Typecast is a great tool where you can choose fonts from various providers, style them and compare them side-by-side with alternative designs.

Aside from allowing you to have multiple canvas layouts for comparison, Typecast also provides you with Style guides ready for you to export. Style guides basically display how your headings, subheadings, blockquotes,… etc., will appear on the live site. Plus, Typecast is based on real CSS & HTML under the hood, meaning you can export valid markup once you are happy with your font styling. Just one click, and you’re ready to go.

Some have said that Typecast can revolutionize the way we do web typography, while others still have doubts about its flaws. However, if you are doing web typography and don’t have many fonts ready at hand, then you should give Typecast a go.

Lost Type (Free)

Image Credit: Lost Type

Lost Type is a pay-what-you-want font foundry (yep, you heard it right). Every penny you donate will go directly to the designers, and you can donate $0 for a free font if you like, or you can donate a hefty amount if you feel generous.

Lost Type is not only a “technically free” font website, but it has a nice amount of gorgeous typefaces, logo-ready as well. Designers are contributing to the site everyday, and Lost Type also runs a blog instructing how some typefaces work for each design situation. Any designer can stumble upon Lost Type, have a great time and then come out with a few fonts that can hype up their designs.

LayerVault (30-day trial, $29/month)

Image credit: Ohheynoway.com

Have you had any troubles collaborating with your teammates and got lost in the different versions of a design your co-workers created? Well, LayerVault is just the right tool for you. LayerVault lets you “store, track, review, and deliver your design work” with timeline-styled version tracking, unlimited file storage on their Cloud tool, real-time updates, and a team/project activity newsfeed.

With a recent integration with GitHub, Dropbox, Campfire and Basecamp, LayerVault is now open not only to designers, but to developers, project managers, and other members of the workflow process as well. LayerVault can work its magic outside services, but still keep it software optimized especially for designers.

Tips on how to use LayerVault? You should specify clearly the role of your team members in LayerVault. Only Designers are allowed to create/edit files, while the others, labeled as Observers, can view and comment. This will help you manage your workflow while still receiving feedbacks from non-design members.

Invision (30-day trial, $25/month)

Image credit: Invision

Invision is a design mock-up prototyping tool that brings your design to life so that your team members can interact with it and give feedback. It allows you to create a pseudo-website by connecting various wireframes together using “hotspots”, a box you draw around content that you’d like to use as a link. The moment you have uploaded all your wireframes and your hotspot map, your website will come to life.

Similar to LayerVault, Invision also lives in the Cloud, which means that they allow collaborators to comment on your work anywhere, anytime, just by clicking on your mock-up website. Invision visualizes your ideas, lets you comment straightforwardly, assists you through testing and prototyping, plus allowing you to use its service for free for 30 days with full functionality. What is there not to like?

Invision is best used for wireframing and for presenting design mockup.

Twitter Bootstrap ($29/month)

Image credit: Boostrap

If you are a seasoned website designer, then you might well be familiar with Bootstrap. Bootstrap is a front-end framework that comes with numerous features bundled together, and a sleek, sexy design – and it’s responsive on various interfaces. Too good to be true, right?

The most appealing thing about Bootstrap is its commonly used UI elements that are already defined in the framework: buttons and toolbars, alertsetc. Bootstrap also compatible with LESS and Sass, the two most popular CSS preprocessors. Bootstrap is customizable to fit your needs, and it will save you a lot of time coding your website with ready-made pieces of code, plus some JavaScript goodies.

On the other hand, there are some complaints about Bootstrap being too “Twitter-ish” and not creative enough, with thousands of similar sites. That’s the thing about Bootstrap, it provides you with easy to use features, but sometimes, it is too easy to stick with default features that you will not bother to modify your site anymore. So would you still choose Bootstrap?

Zurb Foundation ($99.99/month)

Image credit: Foundation

Another front-end framework getting the love in the developers’ world is Zurb’s Foundation. Zurb describes Foundation as ‘an easy to use, powerful, and flexible framework for building prototypes and production code on any kind of device’.

Foundation and Bootstrap are definitely very similar, however, there are still some big differences. Foundation provides you with less pre-designed UI elements, with the intention that not every website should look the same. Also, Foundation encourages you to design mobile first, while Bootstrap does it the other way around. In general, Bootstrap is easier to use and more ready, while Foundation will make you plan your CSS more carefully, but give you more freedom to tweak your project the way you like it.

Among the eight tools above, what have you used and how do you feel about them? What other tools do you think are a must-have for a fellow web designer? Comment below and let us know.[/ig_text][/ig_column][/ig_row]

One thought on “8 Must-have Tools for Web Designers”

  1. Hey There,

    Awesome flippin list of tools to try out. Pretty stoked to take a look at typecast.


    Christopher Pontine

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