Saturday, July 7, 2007

DIY Budget Web Design

I mention being a former web designer in my profile. That's not entirely true. I've been a freelancer off and on for years, I'm just not actively seeking web design jobs right now. But designing websites is one of those types of businesses that can be started from home fairly inexpensively and easily, and can produce a decent income for creative types.

The main program you'll need is a good HTML editor, although you should also have a graphics program, and a flash authoring program too. The following is the software I've been satisfied with for features, ease of use, and price.

I've used TopStyle for creating web pages for years. You can edit XHTML and CSS, update old HTML, and validate your code with W3C. The preview pane lets you see how things look while you're coding, and the harmonious color picker helps choose workable palettes quickly. For creating standards-compliant, cross-browser compatible sites this program is great, and pretty cheap at about $80.

Another choice is CoffeeCup HTML Editor. It includes several wizards which can be helpful for new users or when you're in a hurry, and also has a built-in FTP. It's also cheaper than TopStyle, at about $50.

CoffeeCup offers a whole range of products for web design in addition to the HTML Editor; including various Flash programs, Stylesheet Maker, and add-ins. All them have a free trial version so you can see if you like them before committing to buy.

For graphics I use Paint Shop Pro. Aside from costing less than Adobe Photoshop, I prefer the interface. And as far as features go, they really are comparable. They're even compatible, to an extent, as you can open Photoshop (.psd) files in PSP and save images in .psd format. You can find versions 9 and X on eBay and Amazon for as low as about $30.

On a side note, I've also written a number of tutorials for Paint Shop Pro - a link list can be found here.

Though not essential, if you really want to get people interested in hiring you to build a website for them, knowing some Flash is very useful. I found Swish Max to be easy to use for full sites and animations, and reasonably priced too at $99.

As for the other aspects of a home business, has links to several resources, including state-by-state information for starting a business and business calculators.

Doing web design is a good business to start in your spare time. With a little artistic flair and some patience, it can end up generating a nice income from home.