My Recommended Tools and Services for Web Developers

These are my recommended tools, services, and resources for web developers. These are all products and services that I use regularly unless otherwise noted.

My Recommended Web Hosting

Through my clients, I have experience with tons of web hosting services. Some are great, while many are awful.

I use SiteGround for all of my personal blogs, as well client sites with moderate traffic. Their servers are fast, and their reliability is superb. And they offer free SSL certs which are relatively easy to set up.

Web Hosting

For higher-end WordPress hosting, I recommend WP Engine. My favorite feature is the one-click staging site creation. It copies your live site to a staging URL where you can mess with it, then push it live when you’re done.

My Recommended Domain Name Hosting

Your domain name is one of the most valuable components of your web presence. It’s best to register it yourself at a domain name hosting company – don’t let your web developer “take care” of this!

I recommend NameCheap for quality affordable domain name hosting (about half the cost of Go Daddy):

I’ve also heard great things about Porkbun (yes, that is their name, but they are legit) domains. Worth checking out.

Time Tracking and Invoicing Software

As a freelance contractor, it’s important to track time accurately and to be able to easily generate invoices. I use Harvest for my time tracking, invoicing, and online payments. It’s saved me tons of time. It automatically generates PDF invoices and offers my clients the ability to pay using Stripe ACH. Get a $10 credit if you use the link below:

Harvest time tracking

Staying Organized

I use Evernote every day for logging my daily activities, keeping track of my clients, jotting down blog ideas, and for personal notes. It works on all of my devices and saves me tons of time!

Evernote

Desktop Email Client

I guess I’m a little old school – I still use a desktop email client. When Windows Live Mail went away, I switched to eM Client. It’s compatible with all of the major email services including Gmail, Microsoft Live Mail, and most standard providers. It has the right balance of features and simplicity for me. Read my full review here, or click the link below to go to their site.

Note: This is a professional review site that receives compensation when you purchase through the affiliate links at no extra cost to you. I personally test or research each product before endorsing it. This site is independently owned and the opinions expressed here are my own.


Checking Browser Compliance

If you’re coding for the web, caniuse.com is invaluable! It tells you which features work on which browsers and what versions. Especially useful if you have to be compatible with older IE browsers (if you’re working on such a project, my condolences).

Clearing Your Website’s Featured Image in Facebook Feeds

Facebook caches the featured images of websites that you post. That’s great, but it’s a problem if you ever want to change the image that Facebook shows of your site in its feed. To refresh the image cache, use the Facebook Sharing Debugger.

Checking DNS Propagation

If you’ve changed the DNS of a site and are wondering if it’s fully propagated, WhatsMyDNS.net is an awesome tool.

Another handy tool (this one on the command line) is tracert. It’s available on Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.

Color Palettes That Look Good

If you’re like me, and not a graphic designer, picking colors that look good together can be difficult. But, Adobe Color CC is a free site that helps you pick colors that go well together.

Another great resource is the Palx Automatic UI Color Palette Generator. Just enter a base color, and it will provide a whole palette of colors that go well with it!

Color Picker

If you need a color picker, just type “color picker” into Google and it will give you one right in the browser.

CSS Tools

These are some helpful online CSS tools and resources.

.htaccess Redirects

Common .htaccess Redirects by Scott Phillips is an invaluable cheat sheet if you ever need to do a redirect in your .htaccess file.

HTML Email

Lee Munroe has a super simple free HTML email template with call-to-action button that works well.

Image Bulk Sizing / Watermarks

Check out Fotosizer to do bulk image resizes. To add watermarks, check out Watermark-Images.com.

Image SVG to PNG Conversion

To convert svg images to png, check out convertio.co.

Image Editing

For the vast majority of my simple photo editing needs, I use Paint.NET, a free desktop Windows application. It’s great for general image re-sizing, adjusting brightness and contrast, and doing quick markups. It’s easy to use and just works.

Image Editing: Photoshop Alternatives

Of course, I use Adobe Photoshop for more intense tasks like removing parts of an image, but for a lighter-weight free alternative, check out Gimp, available for Mac and Windows.

If you’re really into creating drawings without Photoshop, check out Krita, which is also able to open some Photoshop files.

A free online alternative to Photoshop is Photopea. It’s awesome because it can open Photoshop files in most cases, saving you from having to subscribe to Adobe just to open a ps file.

On my iPad Pro, I use Adobe Comp CC for sketching and drawing along with the Apple Pencil. It’s a free download! You can make some pretty cool watercolor and oil paintings with it.

Javascript/jQuery

  • FlexSlider – (now owned by Woo Themes) is the best jQuery slider plugin. It is responsive and works on mobile.
  • Gauge.js – This is an amazing graphical gauge that is easy to set up in JavaScript. The needle even bounces when the page first loads.
  • GreenSock (GSAP) – Lightweight but powerful and easy-to-use JavaScript animations. Can be triggered on scroll. See this great tutorial to create a gently “bouncing” object.
  • TimeAgo – You know how when you update your status on a social networking site, it says how long ago you did it in real-time?  For example, “two minutes ago”, “three days ago”, or whatever. This neat plugin transforms a time in ISO 8601 format to “time ago” format. Use the “.toISOString()” method to convert date and time to ISO 8601.
  • TouchWipe – Need to detect a swipe on a mobile device? This is your solution. Works on iOS and Android. Remember to set the preventDefaultEvents parameter to false if you want to be able to pinch, zoom, and scroll in the swipe area.
  • Reveal – Easy-to-use code to implement a popup box on your website.
  • Slick (carousels) – “the last carousel you’ll ever need”. All styles of carousels! (Used in Cafe du Monde website).
  • SlickNav – JS for mobile dropdown menus (used in Cafe du Monde website).
  • YouMightNotNeedJQuery.com – Just like it says, you might be able to replace the 2MB jQuery download with a few lines of modern, browser-compliant JavaScript. Simply search for the JavaScript equivalent for most jQuery commands.
  • WaypointsTrigger events as the user scrolls down the page. Events trigger by default when the element hits the top of the browser window, but you can set a percentage amount to trigger at different points in the browser!

Learning Programming

Brian Will has some of the best videos on general programming, object oriented programming, jQuery, and many other programming topics. Check out his YouTube channel. His video on Object-Oriented Programming is one of the clearest explanations of the concept I’ve heard.

JavaScript.info is a great free site for learning JavaScript.

Local Web Development

For developing sites on my computers locally, I used to use ServerPress, but I switched to MAMP (Mac and Windows). It’s free, and really easy to set up sites on.

I’ve heard really good things about FlyWheel Local. Offers local SSL cert, deployment tools, and ability to test website email when offline. It will even give you a live URL where your local site can be previewed by others!

PHP

  • PHP Mobile Detect – Yes, I do responsive design, but sometimes you have to know what kind of device you’re on for various reasons.  This is the PHP plugin I use when I have server-side code that needs to know if it’s going on a mobile device.

Site Monitoring

I use the free Uptime Robot service for unlimited 24/7 site monitoring. Receive an email when your site is down!

For more detailed analysis, I use Pingdom, which gives you waterfall charts showing the load times of all of the elements of your site. Pingdom also offers site monitoring as a paid service.

Screencasting

Whether you want to make a quick video to show someone how to do something on a computer, or you’re making a full-on “how-to” blog post, this Chrome plugin is invaluable for creating videos of your computer screen. You can even have a picture-in-picture of yourself! Best of all, it’s free! Go to Screencastify.com.

Stock Photography

If you’re a blogger or if you generate almost any kind of web content, you need images, check out my favorite sources for free stock photography. Another great source is this article: Free Hi-Res Images for Your Website.

If you need temporary images for a site that you’re developing, look no further than PlaceBear.com and PlaceKitten.com: free images of kittens or bears with the dimensions you specify!

Website Privacy Policy Services

Websites are legally required to have a privacy policy, especially with GDPR (the European privacy law) in effect now. Big companies have lawyers for that, but for most sites, that’s just not economically feasible. Fortunately, there are alternatives to hiring a lawyer.

Iubenda is probably the leading website privacy policy service. They will update your policy in real time as the laws change. They have a subscription model so this is still mostly for bigger companies.

A cheaper alternative is TermsFeed. This service has a one-time fee with no monthly subscription. Cost is usually around $100 or less. They will still host your policies online and update them as the laws change.

Iubenda is still more detailed and comprehensive, but for bloggers and smaller sites, TermsFeed should be fine.

WordPress Themes

My “go to” WordPress theme builder is Divi. Divi looks good out of the box and is one of the easier theme builders to use, which is important for my clients who want to update their own sites. It has a huge install base and is constantly being updated so there’s no worry about the theme being abandoned. Read more about Divi here.

Divi WordPress Theme

If you want a builder theme with more customizability, I would recommend Oxygen Builder. Oxygen is great if you know CSS and need customized feeds. Read more about Oxygen here.

For a clean and simple blogging theme, I would recommend GeneratePress. Although the free version is very bare-bones, you can customize it using CSS pretty easily because it is so well coded. It’s lightweight and accessible.

For something in between a regular theme and a builder check out Kadence WP. I tried it out and it does look good, though the builder requires a bit of time to learn (as they all do). There are paid extensions but the free version is definitely usable.

Share Your Tools!

What are your favorite web developer tools? Please leave a comment below! – Brian

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