Web Development On the Cheap: Free Tools and Shopping Carts
In our last article we looked at several ways a web developer could create and develop websites on a shoestring budget. In this article we are going to look at some of the free resources that are available for developers, as well as PrestaShop, a free full-featured shopping cart CMS.
Free Web Development Resources
Web development tools don't have to be expensive. In fact, there are many free tools that you can either download, install and use, or just navigate to a web page and use immediately. We'll look at a few such tools now...
Adobe BrowserLab, a Free Web Browser Emulator
Adobe BrowserLab is an online tool that enables developers to preview their web pages using different browsers and operating systems. Adobe has integrated it with Dreamweaver CS5 so that it can be launched from within Dreamweaver itself. It is very useful if you would like to see how a particular page appears in two different browsers, side-by-side. As we mentioned, it's free, and it is available as a Firebug add-on as well. You can see it in use in the image below:
Favicon Generator: Make a Favicon For Your Website
Most developers already know what a favicon is, but if you don't--it's one of those little icons that are displayed in a browser's URL bar--sort of a miniature version of your site's logo if you will. If a site doesn't have one, then you won't see one displayed next to the URL bar. Creating a favicon used to be a pain, but with the use of the free Favicon Generator it's simple task. You can see by the screen capture below that it's a simple process to select and upload an image, and the site does the rest!
Google Webmaster Tools: A Free Developer's Toolbox
If you haven't started using Google's Webmaster Tools, you need to stop thinking about Google as just a search engine, register a Google account if you don't already have one, and check out Webmaster Tools. Once you have registered, you will need to verify that you are the owner (or administrator) of the website that you wish to work with. That's done by copying some code that Google will provide you with into a text file, and uploading that text file to the root directory of your website. Once you have done that and Google verifies it, you will have access to information such as:
- keywords and phrases that have been used to find your site
- crawl errors
- inbound links to your site
You can also submit a Google sitemap for your site that will allow Google's bots to find all the important content within your site. There are just too many reasons to have a Google Webmaster Tools account, and like all the other tools mentioned here, it's free.
PrestaShop, a Free Shopping Cart CMS
You may remember that we looked at PrestaShop in a previous article. If not, to recap, PrestaShop is a very full-featured shopping cart content management system (CMS) for an e-commerce website that includes the following features:
- create and add catagories and subcategories of products
- add products--complete with feature listings, pictures, related items and more detailed information
- create customer groups
- create newsletters
- allow customers to select items and add them to their shopping cart, which is updated dynamically, on the fly
- create a customer referral program or "loyalty system" for returning customers
- create special offers, promotions, and coupons
- create customizable order status reports and emails
- accept payments from an unlimited number of payment systems including Paypal, Moneybookers, Hipay and Google Checkout
- view statistics from your site's customers
- provide instant translations for your complete site
- accept unlimited currencies
The PrestaShop package includes features that you would expect to pay serious money for, but alas, it's an open source script that is free to download and use. As we discussed in the article about PrestaShop, installing and setting it up is easy, and the only difficult aspect is actually entering in the product data, and that is simplified if you already have your product list in spreadsheet format--you can just import it and begin working with your new store. I haven't found a script that even comes close to the functionality that PrestaShop provides, and that includes those e-commerce/shopping cart extensions I have seen that are available for WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal. You can download it for free and give it a try!
We have looked at some of the free web development tools that are available for the developer who is working with a shoestring budget, and have shown you that it is not only possible to cheaply create a professional website, most of the software you need is open source anyway!