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Best web development tools

Student working on computer
Best web development tools

Traditionally, when we think of web development, we picture some coder typing furiously on a keyboard into the wee hours of the night while slurping coffee, sitting in a dark basement next to the flashing LEDs and whirring hard drives of a stack of servers.

While that may have been true in the last millennium, these days that is hardly the case. Web development in 2018 is generally done with lots of planning and collaboration between teams, and it has come out of the basement and into the light of day.

To facilitate all this activity, there are plenty of web development tools to do the heavy lifting of planning, optimizing and coding a website. Let’s go through the best choices to get your site up and running, and growing traffic in a jiffy.


1. Sketch

A toolkit for digital designs

Creates simple animations
Clickable prototypes
Cloud collaboration
Mac only

Great websites are more than just code, as they embody great design elements, including logos and images. Sketch endeavors to handle the design elements, and bills itself as a “design toolkit.” It has features including the ability to add simple animations and creation of clickable prototypes. It also lets the user create a master symbol, that can then be used anywhere in the document, and be resized as needed- such as for an icon or an avatar. Furthermore, text and images can be manipulated into dynamic designs.

There is also a cloud component, that is termed Libraries, that allows collaboration as symbols can be shared, and worked on together. Finally, custom fonts can be designed to give the website a truly custom look, in the FontRapid tool that can be then exported into an OpenType font file.  

A limiting factor is that Sketch only supports a single OS - the Mac OS El Capitan (10.11.2) and higher, leaving Windows and Linux users out in the cold. The pricing is based on a single user license, which is $99 (£76) for a year of updates, and then can be renewed annually for $69 (£53); there are education and bulk discounts available. A 30-day free trial is available. 

InVision Cloud

2. InVision Cloud

The digital product design platform

Free tier
Family of useful tools
Prototype a website

With the list of top technology companies that use InVision Cloud including the likes of Amazon, SoundCloud, Evernote and Netflix, it clearly validates the method of using a digital product design platform.

This approach includes a number of traditional design elements and processes, and takes them into the virtual age, with tools including an Element Library, a photography board, navigation flows, a web prototype for desktop sites, and the requisite in design, inspiration board. Their Prototype tool will be of interest to web developers as it can make a prototype website with clickable elements for desktop or mobile use.  

While it offers multiple tools, the other plus is that there is also a free tier, that can handle a single prototype. For more ambitious needs, the Professional plan can take on unlimited prototypes for a $25 (£19) monthly charge. 

Sublime Text 3

3. Sublime Text 3

The code editor to make advanced website design easier

Out for Windows, Mac and Linux
Advanced commands
Free evaluation
No mobile platform support

Sublime Text 3 is a popular code editor that is a useful tool for web design, and is available as a small download for Windows, Mac and Linux. Useful features include the GoTo Anything command for finding a piece of code, the Multiple Selections command that can make changes to recurring sections of code, and Split Editing that can maximize the display of code across a widescreen monitor, or even multiple monitors. 

Sublime Text is free to download and evaluate, and then is available to purchase for $80 (£61). This is the price for the individual license which is not time limited, and then allows the user to install this on all the systems where you are the primary user.   

Foundation 6

4. Foundation 6

A family of front-end frameworks

Frameworks to make design a snap
Customizable building blocks
Opaque pricing
Steep learning curve

As a general principle, it is often easier to design something once the basics have been laid down. Foundation 6 takes this approach, offering “a family of responsive front-end frameworks,” that can be applied for website design and emails, and each are customizable to get just the right look. From the list of sites that use it, there are some serious heavyweights including Disney, HP and Adobe.  

They offer a series of HTML templates, each optimized for a specific application, such as a blog, or a real estate website. Then, this can be built upon, with ‘Building Blocks’ that get added to the website, including a full screen hero page, a subscription form, a star rating block, and rounded social buttons - the choices are quite expansive and really include just about anything you would see on a web page. A series of webinars, called Foundation Classes is offered to teach new users how to use all of it.

Pricing is opaque, but there is a free demo. Users also indicate that there is a steep learning curve for novice users. 

Chrome DevTools

5. Chrome DevTools

The popular browser also facilitates web development

You already have it
Free cost
Optimized for only one browser

Chrome continues to be a popular choice for web surfers, and it includes Developer Tools right in the browser, and they are ready for your web development needs. The tools included are for debugging JavaScript, applying styles to HTML elements, messages to indicate how a page is running, and optimization for website speed.  

There is no charge to use these tools, and there is support available via an active DevTools community