January 24, 2021

Best tools for web designers in 2021

There are so many tools available in this crowded market of users looking to develop and create different content types online. Everything from productivity to design, there's pretty much a tool for it.

In this post, I'll break down a few key categories and some awesome recommendations of tools I use daily or with all my clients. None of the links I will have listed in this post will be an affiliate link, just my personal recommendations!

Productivity

Starting this list with productivity tools. As a web designer, you are probably looking for new ways to save time. I know I'm constantly on the lookout and testing anything that tells me I can get some time back. Here are the tools I've been using to do that!

Dubsado

Dubsado focus on being a CRM for creatives which fits perfectly with this post.

I use Dubsado to manage my clients, invoices, appointments, scheduling, packages, projects, and more. I could probably do a post on this, and it would be enough.

Why I like it

I use automation capabilities to perform some of the tasks I need to repeat with every project, such as welcome email, onboarding, next steps, portal activation, project details, and invoice reminders.

I can also easily see how much I've made, how many invoices are still open, and any tasks that I need to complete with the projects I've set up.

What can be improved

Dubsado is easy to get started but not so easy to get the full value with the automation and other advanced features.

You can create tasks in a project but that's about it.

You get a client portal with each client/project but can't add your own content to it with important information.

All in all

It's still a great solution for most freelance web designers to keep track of your projects, clients, and payments.

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GoDaddy Pro

GoDaddy Pro is a program at GoDaddy that explicitly focuses on website designers and developers. They make it easy to manage your clients, websites, and tasks.

Why I like it

Client management is fantastic if you have clients that use GoDaddy for their domains, hosting, and other products. You can easily log into your client's account to manage their products without having to ask for their username or password.

Now, if I have to update a domain's DNS or modify hosting settings, I don't have to bug my client. I can hop in and do it myself.

Their program also comes with an extremely robust site management tool. I've added a full revenue stream by using Pro Sites to create automated maintenance services.

What can be improved

What would make this program fantastic would be the ability to invoice my clients directly in this system so I can manage my client's sites and bill them at the same time without using another system.

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Cursive

Cursive makes creating how-to steps a breeze for clients. All you have to do is install the extension, click record and it will capture all of the steps you perform in your browser.

Once you're done, click stop record and it will create a step by step doc with screenshots. You can also edit each step to elaborate or change if it didn't capture it the way you wanted. When your done, the steps will look something like this:

I use this to create steps on how clients can manage various things with their websites. I've found this can be easier than sending them a bunch of videos to watch.

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Calendly

If you don't go the Dubsado route mentioned previously, Calendly is a fantastic tool to schedule meetings with clients. The last thing you want to do is go back and forth with your client to figure out what day and time work best for a meeting.

Calendly will sync to your calendar so you will be able to send your client a scheduler that lets them pick the best time and day based on their schedule. No more back and forth.

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Design Tools

There are so many design tools out in the market today, and it really is to each their own. Here are some of the tools that I use to help make my client's vision a reality.

Elementor Pro

This is my go-to WordPress builder plugin. While you still need an eye for design to make a website effective and elegant, Elementor makes it easy for almost anyone to build a website these days.

Elementor is a WYSIWYG editor meaning what you see is what you get. You edit the website live and can see every change you make.

Why I like it

I can control every aspect of my website using Elementor. Using the Elementor builder, I can create custom navigation menus, footer, archives, single posts, custom post types, etc.

There is also a ton of 3rd party addons and solutions to help solve most of the unique needs you might run into with your website.

On top of this, my clients love it. Going in and making their own edits when they need to (if they want that much control) is a huge plus for them.

What can be improved

I find myself having to give a little extra effort to ensure the site is running at optimal performance. However, Elementor has focused a good amount of their updates around this, so I don't see this being an issue much longer.

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Figma

Figma is a browser-based UI and UX design application that allows teams, designers, and organizations to collaborate on projects.

Why I like it

I use Figma to create my mockups and prototypes of my client's sites. Designing a website on Figma first and then developing it live on a website might seem like it would take the project longer than just building it in WordPress from the get-go. With the Figma first method, I get buy-in from the client on the overall design first through Figma, and any changes they ask for can be accomplished quicker than if I had to make overhaul changes in a live development of a site.

What can be improved

I can't find anything pressing that I would change. It does exactly what I need it to do and then some!

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Resources

Icons8

Icons8 is the website I use for most of my icon needs. They have a vast library of different types and styles of icons and you have the ability to recolor, resize, and export in various sizes.

They offer smaller sizes for free and ask that you pay for their subscription for larger exports. Although they may have started off with icons, they also offer music, photos, and vectors.

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Envato Elements

Envato Elements is an unlimited creative subscription offering all types of digital assets: videos, photos, music, graphic, illustrations, presentations, WordPress plugins and themes, Fonts, and so much more.

While most of these benefits come from being a paid subscriber, free users can still take advantage of Elementor Template kits. After installing Envato Elements plugin on any of your WordPress sites, you'll get access to these templates.

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Pexels

Pexels is a royalty-free stock photo website where I get 98% of all my photos. Most times, my clients don't have many photos for their website and a site without photos isn't going to wow anyone.

Luckily, the photos on Pexels are fantastic quality. So much so that my clients are usually impressed! If you find yourself in need of photos, this is the website.

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Miscellaneous

Magic Mockup

Magic Mockups helps you create quick mockups on a screen. I use this to help show visuals to a client or as a featured image for a portfolio item if I don't feel like creating one in Photoshop or Illustrator.

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Screenshot Machine

Screenshot machine takes full page screenshots on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. It's perfect to look at the high-level view of a website you're working on, see how it looks, and even share with your clients.

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Summary

That's it for now. I'll be adding more as I come across new and helpful tools. Have a tool that needs a mention? Let us know in the comments below.

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