Concept DesignObviously, the first place to start is with a paper and pencil. If you’re putting a site together for a client, ask as many questions about their design aesthetic as you can think of. If the site is for you or your business, make sure you cover all the functionality you need. Jot down the structure of the website as a chart or on separate pages. Plan everything out before you go to the computer.
Cost of Concept Design: $0
Graphic LayoutNot only is it nice to see what the site will look like before you do all the hard work, but a good digital mockup of your site will be easy to slice up for the images you’ll put in the code. Many designers use PhotoShop, but if your site doesn’t need to do back-flips and speak Martian, you can easily get away with using a more basic image editor.
PhotoPad Image Editor allows you to work with digital pictures, resize, and edit as you need for your website, then save in a web-friendly format. You can also add text and get a good feel for the layout you’ll be building into the site.
Cost of Graphic Layout: $0
To the Trenches: the Text EditorThis is where I geek out, so there’s no way I want a program that is going to do the coding for me! And the sooner you can wean yourself off the idea that web design can happen like any WYSIWYG word processor, the better. Plain and simple, you will have to know HTML and CSS to build a website. Once you’re comfortable with these two peas in a pod, any text editor will do. You want a fancy one, you say? Sure! Get one that color codes your tags for easy readability. Go big, but be sure to go free. There are several free, quality text editors out there that are more than qualified for this job.
Cost of Text Editor: $0
Test, Test, TestTesting is a matter of opening your .html files in a browser and making sure they don’t look funny. And last time I checked, browser downloads are free.
Cost of Browsers for Testing: $0
FTP to Your Web HostYour website is ready for the big time, finally! But how to get it off your local machine, and out into the World Wide Web? FTP, of course. You’ll do yourself a favor to find one that is easy to use, reliable, and can guide you through the initial setup with your web host.
Classic FTP is all of these. It has an intuitive interface that doesn’t get in the way of the functionality, and it stores your connection settings so that making updates to your site later on is absolutely painless.
Cost of FTP Software: about $45
There you have it. Web design without DreamWeaver, for a highly reasonable price. Try it. You’ll probably like saving money and getting just as much accomplished in the meantime.