The 9 Web Development Resources I Can’t Work Without in 2015
There are amazing free resources everywhere on the web and nowadays you can accomplish almost everything you need without spending a dime. That said, over the years I have found a number of tools and services I gladly paid for because they brought something to the table others didn’t.
In this article, I want to tell you about some of the software I think is worth spending your loot on. Instead of focusing on any specific group of tools, I want to go through a good variety of tools, which is why you’ll find everything from text editors to build tools.
Each tool has either made my life easier by allowing me to work faster, work better, or just create a friendlier environment for me to work in. Free tools are great, but sometimes spending some money is well worth it – it pays for itself and then some.
I’m starting with Sketch because it’s the most recent app to change up my workflow. I still have a Photoshop subscription, but I’m trying to phase it out as fast as possible.
Sketch is design software aimed specifically toward web design and it shows. I get the feeling that the creators actually tried creating a website with it before because I had a few moments while using the app that bought tear to my eyes.
The ease with which you can add elements, position them, round corners, mask images, create mobile views and all sorts of other yummy stuff is amazing! One of my favorite features is symbols, which work just like they do in Illustrator: Create a button from multiple layers, make it a symbol and then reuse it anywhere. You can then update it in any location and it will refresh across the board.
Sketch is only available for iOS at the moment, regretfully, and it will set you back $99, which is a sizable sum, but is still less than half of what you would pay for the most basic Photoshop subscription in a year. Best of all it’s a one-time purchase and it’s been a good investment for me!
If you need to measure the speed of a website GTMetrix will be a great friend. Just like the popular Pingdom it offers free website speed test and analysis, but for more robust testing you’ll want a pro account.
A website’s speed can vary over time which means that ideally we should run multiple tests using multiple variants over the course of a larger time span. GTMetrix allows you to schedule tests as frequently as hourly, which can give you a much better idea of a site’s performance.
Perhaps that 16 second loading time on your site was just a fluke? Or the 3 second loading time was a fluke – GTMetrix can give you the answer. It also offers a lot of tips on how to make your website faster in general, from CDN to reducing requests and more – custom tailored to your site.
The most basic GTMetrix account costs $14.95 a month, which is a bit more than I’d like, but considering how much time and money a proper speed test and analysis can save, I think it’s more than justified. You get 10 monitored URLs, 100 archived reports and 100 API credits.
My biggest beef with GTMetrix is that you can’t set up variable tests with aggregate results. There are a bunch of variables to tweak like testing location and browsers but you can’t set one to random, which would be helpful to get a better average. To set up all variations you need to use up more monitored URL credits and the next step up (20) will set you back almost $50 which is a bit steep.
I’ve been through a lot of project management solutions and I’ve had a hard time finding one that really works for me. The closest I’ve come for general projects is Basecamp, which I quite like, but development-related projects have different requirements.
So for development projects my absolute favorite has been Sprint.ly. Since I signed up they’ve even fixed the biggest issue, which was price, lowering it considerably.
Assigning users, creating custom workflows, putting tested issues back into the needs fixing area… Everything is effortless. I really love using this app when working with a large project or multiple people.
This one is pretty much WordPress-specific, but it’s one of my all-time favourites.
ACF has a free version, which is extremely capable already, but the four additional fields added by the pro version (gallery, repeater, options page, flexible content) are well worth the $99 price.
Best of all, ACF is developer-friendly from all points of view. Price-wise, it’s pay once and forget – once you’ve paid you get to use it in any and all projects you may have. The code is structured just like WordPress’ and is clean and well-commented throughout. You also get great developer documentation on the website.
Usersnap is for those of us who work with clients who have a bunch of demands and small modifications, which take precious time to go back and forth on.
It’s essentially a widget that allows your users (clients) to add their notes right onto your website, saving them in one central location for you to review.
Your clients don’t need to install anything, all they see is the page with the Usersnap overlay. They can add their notes and send it off to you. You get all the notes in all the right places – perfect for managing that 1px nudge that the client deems extremely important!
The downside of Usersnap is the price. If you can get by on one project at a time with a maximum of five users, the $19 a month cost is OK, but the next step up is $69/month, which is a considerable amount. Still, if you are working with super-finicky clients it may well be the cost.
Marketed as “steroids for web developers,” CodeKit used to be my absolute favorite app before I got into build tools like Gulp. CodeKit is essentially a user interface wrapped around a pretty powerful build tool.
It allows you to monitor files and automatically compile Sass, CoffeScript, optimize images, use Bower packages, check for code errors whenever a file is saved and a whole bunch of other stuff easily. No command line knowledge is required at all, which was all scary to me back in the day!
It has some advanced features like setting up a local server, live reloads and even hooks that are performed after various tasks. This allows you to do all sorts of custom things like remove and clean up files, or even tweet any time you update a specific file.
CodeKit costs $32 which was one of my best purchases back when I used it more often. If you’d love to use advanced development features but the terminal is still a bit new to you, go and get CodeKit now, it’s great! If you’re a Windows user I recommend looking at Prepros, which has roughly the same feature set for $29.
Github is always free for public projects, but did you know you can use all of its awesomeness for your super-secret projects as well? You’ll need a pro account, but Github will let you create and manage private repositories with granular control over access.
There are a number of plans you can choose from. If you have a company with a number of projects, I would recommend the organization accounts, which start at $25/month with room for 10 private repos. I find $25 to be a bit expensive, but it is well worth the investment if you manage multiple projects.
Being able to whip out a good prototype quickly is a wonderful ability to have, one which is greatly helped by a good admin template.
I’ve bought a bunch from ThemeForest and I’ve never been let down by the well-reviewed ones. They cost somewhere between $22-$28 but can be reused for any project quite easily.
On my end, figuring out what needs to go where and how it should function is far more complex than actually building it. Having a tool that allows me to map out parts of an application with relative accuracy in just a day or two cuts my workload by a lot more than the time I spend prototyping.
You can probably get by in the development world without Spotify, but why would you want to?
I tried Apple Music but switched back to Spotify – I just didn’t like it. The ability to listen to something on my iMac, then seamlessly continue listening while running, as well as locally stored content for plane rides and more make Spotify more a part of my life than many other development apps.
Check out some of the great downtempo electronica and chillout music – I find that it helps me concentrate (I especially love Tycho!). At just $5 a month and available for any platform you can think of, Spotify is a steal!
Do you agree with this list? I’m sure I’ve left out so much, let’s start a discussion and figure out what the best paid tools are that you are using!