10 Free Must-Have Design, Video, Email, Accessibility Tools and Plug-Ins

The best  web development and Internet tools are easy to use, save us time, provide valuable information in terms we understand and free. Here are some favorites:

1. Web Developer Extension for Chrome is a must-have.

2. Google Page Speed Insights

3. WP Accessibility . WP Accessibility provides fixes for common accessibility issues in your WordPress site. Learn more about the importance of WP Accessibility from its developer.

4. WP Post Styling. This plugin provides a custom field on your WordPress interface where you can add custom styles to be applied only on that page or post. Useful for being able to publish articles with a unique look.

5. Http Status Code Checker. Here are more free webmaster tools.

6. Cre8asiteforms Web Page Size Lookup

7. Create your own Favicon with the Cre8asiteforums Favicon Tool

8. Mobile emulator tool by Keynote MITE. This robust, free tool provides access to hundreds (free), thousands (enterprise) mobile devices for performance testing.

9. The free Color Contrast Comparison is a strong favorite for checking color contrasts during web design.

10. This one is three bonus recommendations.

PakWired’s 3 UX Design Tips Startups Can Implement Today

I like to use the same concept throughout my designs: display what you need to display, don’t leave out anything important, focus attention on places you want your users to be drawn to, without spamming them with ads and “buy” buttons.

3 of Deborah’s Favorite Obscure {but valuable!} Free Video Resources

For those of us in the video industry, finding resources can be addicting. I love tools. I love ebooks. I shouldn’t tell you this, but basically if it has the word “Video” in it, I’m pulling out the credit card. In my quest, I always welcome freebies, as well. Today I’m going to share three resources, two of which do not have nearly the buzz they deserve, when compared to the value of their resources.


Smarter Outreach: 3 Tools to See Who’s Behind Each Email

Today’s social networking world is overwhelming: You meet people online, talk to them, lose them for a month or two, then find them again. There should be better ways to keep up than trying to remember everything!

Pump it Up! Learn How to Increase Website Conversions with Free Ebook

All new and existing subscribers to the Cre8asiteforums monthly newsletter receive a free copy of How to Pump Up Your Website For Increased Conversions written by Kim Krause Berg, Founder and Administrator for Cre8asiteforums.

It is the second of two free ebooks written by Kim for Internet Marketing Ninjas. The first ebook combines organic SEO techniques with usability practices to improve user experience and strengthen search engine queries. This new ebook goes deeper into the core of your website by going beneath the surface and finding additional ways of pumping up traffic, sales, subscriptions and followers.

Book cover

How to Pump Up Your Web Site for Increased Conversions

HOW TO PUMP UP YOUR WEB SITE FOR INCREASED CONVERSIONS is available for free download by signing up for the newsletter.

Despite the popularity of Steve Krug’s famous book on web site design, “Don’t Make Me Think,” the sad truth is that most web sites have not solved this basic problem. In fact, web pages not only ask us to think, they force us to wait to get to the information in the first place.

What do we think about? We think about what the web page is about. We consider if the page meets our expectations regarding its content. For example, does it answer a question or provide the information we want? We think about where to find more information by reviewing navigation and text links. In the first few seconds, we also verify that we are in the right place and we look for signals like a familiar logo, product pictures and pictures of people. Thinking means understanding what we see and read.

Why Subscribe?

In addition to getting a monthly mini-digest of the most popular discussions, we also include discount codes for conferences and link to stand-out blog posts we discover during the month.

Making Improvements

Newsletters are tricky and we hate to waste your time.  The October issue will be different, based on our recent findings regarding newsletter usage. Analytics are just part of the story though.  We want to hear from you with your ideas, feedback and suggestions for making improvements and creating a better newsletter experience.
Free ebook downloadGet the free download to THE SECRET TO NATURAL WEBSITE CONVERSIONS

Send your feedback to Kim.

Get the free download to How To Pump Up Your Web Site for Increased Conversions

Is a Hand Coded HTML Web Site Ancient History?

Back in the day, the worst thing anyone could say to me was “Did you use Frontpage to make that website?” I could not stand any WYSIWYG software. Any website builder with integrity did.

Building with blocksWell, not really. Some loved it. Besides, you could still handcode HTML with it but Frontpage included many shortcuts. I was a fan of Hotdog, which was how I made all my websites. It came out before Frontpage and other software like it. With Hotdog, I had the benefit of two window panes, one for handcoding and the other to see how it rendered. If I made a mistake, the puppy would yelp.

The true sign of a handcoding pro was the ability to use Notepad. When Dreamweaver came out, everyone seemed to accept it, including stubborn handcoders. I use it still, handcoding to my heart’s delight. For as many years as I’ve used Dreamweaver, I never learned how to use all the shortcuts it has. It was easier for me to code from scratch. I even miss tables.

WordPress and Content Management Systems

Blogging and PHP changed the web design landscape. And then CSS shot the arrow through the heart of those of us who lived and breathed cellpadding and HTML lines of code with redundant directions. WordPress software, and the various themes that erupted onto the scene, made putting up a website something anyone could do. To customize themes, though, still meant knowing CSS and HTML.

The owner of a small local business went shopping around for a web designer and every local company she spoke with uses pre-paid themes that they simply customize based on client needs. Larger companies with an IT staff can design and build their own custom website. They have the programmers, user interface engineers and graphic artists, as well as content writers and search engine marketers who contribute to the end product. Many companies build their own shopping carts and software applications from the ground up or purchase software to customize and adapt to their requirements. These options are not affordable or feasible to many local small businesses or startups.

Opinions vary on the best way to make a website. A discussion inside the forums, called Html Vs Cms? in the Rookie Rooom shows the range of feelings.

What a bear to maintain, especially, if they don’t know HTML. There may be a handful of good reasons to still do this, but it’s not something I’d recommend for 99.9999% of sites. And if you want to sell the site at some point, the value of it won’t be as high simply because you’ll have fewer potential buyers (they want easy).

It was noted that a handcoded HTML site is more expensive and possibly impractical these days. Yet, handcoders are still out there.

I still do a few static HTML sites every year – they tend to be one or two page one-off sites. Stand-alone domains for an e-book, or an upcoming conference or seminar, or something like that. It seems silly to install wordpress, create or edit a complex compatible template, and then fill in the content when I can just take a design or create one and wrap it around the content and get it all working.

Experience makes a difference. Entire web design businesses exist that have never built a website from scratch. As one member concluded,

There are no longer designers. Just installers.

Which one are you?

Share your opinions.

Image courtesy of “Arrange Bricks” by renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s a Fat Footer and Is It Important?

The appearance of wider footers stuffed with a variety of links, forms, and social icons has led to discussions on their usage, purpose and possible hazards.

Back in 2008, the Thesis theme for WordPress introduced “Fat” footers and since then they have become popular for all websites.  The beauty of these larger footers was the use of columns used to display content in an organized layout.  Today, some themes come with footer widgets that can be used together or separately using the blocked column idea.

Fat baby feetThe footer began as a a place to put a copyright date and policy links.  Then, it was where text links were placed that repeated global navigation in the header.  Before CSS, some navigation was image based or image maps were used.  Since search engines couldn’t “see” images, the links were invisible too.  Special needs users also need text to move around web pages.  Text links in the footer and a sitemap with just text links was a popular solution, but not very user friendly.

The use of links for SEO as additional ways to insert keywords mucked up the user experience for fat footers by using different terms in the anchor text that led to the same page.  For example, “Contact”, “Contact Us”, and “Send us Feedback” would all lead to the same Contact page.

In August 2012, Jakob Nielsen wrote this in SEO and Usability 

As another example, fat footers can greatly increase usability for people who arrive at the end of a page without finding what they want. Fat footers also strengthen structural SEO by guiding link juice to the site’s best pages about each key topic. (snip)

Sadly, some people can’t let a good thing alone, and we’ve started seeing obese footers that stuff every link known to humankind into the page bottoms. The theory? It’s good for SEO to feed the search engines an abundance of keyword-rich links. The reality? It’s bad for users when you offer a link collection so big that it’s impossible to scan quickly.

Since that time, fat footers have been become more useful and sometimes even creative.

We already know from user behavior studies that we tend to get used to web page elements being placed in common areas.  So we know, for instance, to look for policies and terms in a footer. Today we often find several columns displaying the top level categories of the site with a few chosen sub-page links. The idea is to supply just enough to show the overall site architecture and lead visitors to the most popular and needed pages within the site.

The fat footer is also where we can locate a newsletter sign-up form, feeds, social links, payment information, and Trustmarks for security. These various tasks and information are less likely to be important higher up on pages or the header, but when site visitors want this information, they appreciate knowing where they can be confident they will find it.

Even with a purpose and its generous role in site support, many people dislike fat footers or abuse them. There’s certainly enough confusion about fat footers to inspire debate and that’s what’s happening now inside the forums.

Share your thoughts and experience, and ask questions too in Usability Considerations For A Site Footer

Joe Dolson Shares Website Accessibility Recommendations and WordPress Goodies

If you haven’t watched our most recent Cre8tive View, please go now and you’ll  be rewarded with new information on accessibility and WordPress plug-ins.

Joe Dolson has been a Moderator and Technical Administrator at Cre8asiteforums for many years.  His skills in WordPress plug-in development and website accessibility compliance design have made him famous.  His WP-Twitter plug-in has been installed over a million times. He has many more.

We are thrilled to share our dear friend and accessibility mentor with you.