Most design and development work, either as a freelancer or as a full-time employee, requires your utmost focus and attention. Every second of our attention is critical, and it is important that we do not waste any time troubleshooting work, re-doing work, or doing repetitive non-productive tasks. It's a scenario that leads the wise to seek out content tools for web developers and designers.
This is especially true for those on the clock. Sometimes your employer, client, or manager would only have a specific budget for your time, and any overtime will leave you overworked and underpaid.
Not exactly a situation you would want to be in!
5 content tools for web developers & designers
There are times that you would wish that you would have multiple versions of yourself just to finish your tasks and beat the deadline. Well, cloning yourself like a ninja isn’t exactly definitive, and automating tasks is the closest that we can get.
These tools that I have been using over the years help me pull through excruciatingly tough days (or even weeks!) and I have found them reliable.
Be it automating some setup tasks, or making use of industry-standard templates, these tools can be helpful for you. Here are some of the tools I make use of, and how I use them:
What it is: This tool is a huge help when it comes to connecting with and in sending project proposals to clients. It contains a library of project proposal templates to choose from, and you can customize its contents according to any business need. The best part are the content placeholders/variables that change according to new and stored client details.
Fresh Proposals (FP) easily tops my list as this is the first tool I use as a freelancer. Fresh Proposals is primarily used for… well… crafting proposals.
On a typical day for a freelancer, job searching can happen on a freelancing platform, such as UpWork or Freelancer. Clients post jobs on a board, and then freelancers send job proposals to clients. These proposals usually contain a cover letter, a page detailing samples of work, a plan on how to complete the job, and more.
Writing these normally gets repetitive and tedious.
You can spend hours writing and modifying proposals. However, with Fresh Proposals, you can have an app that can change proposal details automatically and can generate a PDF or send that proposal email quickly from its dashboard.
Fresh Proposals’ benefit for freelancers is its expansive library of proposal templates. The massive proposal template library almost covers any kind of freelancing work, such as photography, marketing, Facebook Ads and marketing, and videography.
It even has templates for other kinds of documents.
Need to make a job offer letter? FP has it. Need a sign-off document for a video or any creative asset? FP’s got you covered. Need to create a nice-looking project quote for a construction project? There is a template for that, and it comes with a premade layout and pre-written text!
As a bonus, you can always build a new document from scratch in Fresh Proposals.
Let’s say you are responding to a request for quote (RFQ) from a government agency, and they have very unique requirements for structuring document submissions. You can easily create a new proposal or quotation template and use it in future requests and projects. It is the epitome of “build once, use everywhere” for proposals.
Fresh Proposals also has a proposal management feature where you can have the system send the proposal to your client using your domain’s email. Configure this email in your account settings and let FP do the rest.
Fresh Proposals can send the email (it also has customizable templates for these), change proposal status, and manage digital signing of proposals. It even lets you know if a client has viewed your proposal! It removes the guessing game from waiting for client responses and gives you an added peace of mind when sending one.
Fresh proposals can save you time in creating documents — it may be project proposals or any kind of document. If there’s nothing in the library that fits your needs, you can design one as needed and save it as a template. Set content placeholders, and then fill in client details when you’re generating the document. What will normally take 30 mins per client will take about 10 mins per client. Huge time saver and at the same time, lets you work with more clients than ever!
What it is: A super simple designing tool with support for complex designs. Many designers stay away from Canva as some do not like its simplicity when it comes to creating designs, but the sheer volume of integrated stock assets and elements make building design assets a breeze. For seasoned designers, I primarily use the toolkit of Canva to create design pegs and studies for clients. After which I download and open them in Photoshop and Illustrator for refinements.
For a time, I have ignored Canva for what it is: a tool so simple that I had believed that it diminishes my design reputation (if ever there was!) if I used it. But when a huge influx of design projects came in and content creation requirements have come up, I needed a tool that can work with me on any platform, anytime and anywhere.
This was when I rediscovered Canva, and I am glad that I have taken that leap of faith.
Canva is a design tool that makes every common task accessible to you. You can start with an empty canvas or with a predefined template. You can also browse their extensive library of templates for ideas and inspiration. From there you can add elements such as text, symbols, images, and shapes. They even have a tool to remove backgrounds from images!
All of these happen quickly and seamlessly, you would think that you’re using a web version of Photoshop.
Another strength of Canva is they also have print material templates, such as documents, posters, and brochures. I was able to build a print-ready brochure in minutes. And since I have been designing professionally, I am able to create unique and custom designs on my own. Now that’s flexibility!
One downside for Canva is its lack of layer control. In other professional software, you can see your layers, visually arrange, and customize them. In Canva, you can’t—there is no interface where you can control your layers. There is an order of display for your canvas in Canva, but if your design has you buried in more than five or six layers that cover the entire canvas it will be hard to manage them all.
Canva is a useful tool for making quick and professional designs on your desktop and on the go. Need to send a client a quick design idea? Go ahead. Need to send multiple design studies while on an errand? Tap away. It’s a multi-platform design tool that is genius in its simple controls, but powerful in its customization features. And if you really need to, you can create designs initially in Canva then import and refine them in a heavy-duty design tool, such as Photoshop.
3. What Font Is
What it is: Ever wondered what a font was on an amazing app? Or on a signboard? Take a photo, upload it, and find the font!
What Font Is is a simplified service where you can rediscover good fonts from any user interface, service, or signboards. What’s best is that it makes use of image recognition, which means you can identify fonts even from physical sources. Like a font from a sign from the subway? Take a photo, upload it, and click Find the Font.
This is a big godsend for certain designers who have trouble memorizing fonts they work with (like me!).
Also, it's very useful if a client sends in a design peg and just says “I like the font from this design, let’s use it!” (Which happens most of the time). Instead of spending minutes to hours scrolling through a library of fonts in fonts.com or typography.com, you can just use this service and start working on your projects.
It's a nifty tool for designers that work with clients that send design briefs and pegs that doesn’t specify what they want. This tool eliminates vagueness in your design requirements, giving you more time for actual designing and not in looking for “that font I saw in front of a store a while ago”.
What it is: A quick-and-easy way to build a static HTML site with responsive design. Hit it up with a Git repository and hook it up with a deploy pipeline, and you have an automated website building tool that is as easy as 1-2-3.
If there’s a tool that I most of the time get away with, it’s Mobirise. I cannot count the times I have depended on this wonderful piece of software.
A key feature of this tool is that it has a lot of website “building blocks” that you can mix and match from. Kind of like a website “lego”, you can pick what fits your needs and combine them into what you want to build.
Now, all you need is your creativity and imagination!
For seasoned developers, you will also love the idea that you can insert custom code into your site-- though at a price. The custom code plugin for Mobirise is pretty inexpensive as a stand-alone plugin, but it comes part of the entire Mobirise Kit, which I think is something you would rather buy if you’re planning to build websites using Mobirise as a freelance gig.
Mobirise is an easy to use tool to build websites, especially that websites typically have common “patterns” and code that you can totally reuse (unless you’re into bespoke designs, then you’ll have to build yours from scratch!). But, for those projects that you want to focus on the design rather than the implementation, Mobirise is there to help you bring that vision into reality.
What it is: A simple, no-nonsense loading screen or loader creator for applications made in React.
For start-ups, building an app or service from scratch has always been a dream, especially if your value proposition is unique, uses cutting-edge technology, and niche.
Building such an application takes a lot of time, resources, and man-hours.
But this is in contrast when start-ups are still… well… starting out (heh). You don’t need to custom code everything, especially if you are still validating your product in the market. Even Dropbox started out as a video to validate the product in the market.
Enter Loader Generator.
This lets you build a simple loading animation whenever the React-based application is loading, or whenever you need a loading screen to pop up. It uses Framer Motion and NPM for its dependencies for easy integration with your project. The generator site gives you code to copy and paste into your project, so you won’t need to write anything from scratch just for this loader. Time saver? Totally yes.
When you’re working on an app with minimal effort required, using existing builders and tools are very helpful in completing the build. There is no shame in using builders and generators as long as it gets the job done. And if you do validate your product and get that seed money, you’ll get the last laugh.
Final notes on content tools for web developers & designers
The bevy of tools and services I have outlined here have worked for me for years now. These have helped me work with multiple clients and projects to the point that I don’t even bother to think too much about it when I begin a new project.
You, too, can take advantage of these apps and services to help cut back time spent in doing routine and repetitive tasks.
Doing so lets you save much-needed time, especially when working with multiple clients and deadlines. And finally, these services offer a lot of their features for free, which means you can always try things out before shelling out cash for their services.