As a freelance web developer, it’s important to make sure we are getting the most out of our tools and skills. Here are five tools for improving web development productivity anyone can use to get the most out of their day. Without proper organization we can spend hours reinventing the wheel or looking for an elusive email that was never actually sent. With these helpful tools you can spend more time writing code and less time chasing your tail!
Web Development Productivity: Five Tools of the Trade
Getting an IDE that Matches Your Coding Style
There are a lot of great IDEs available both free and paid. I’m an advocate and long time user of phpStorm from Jetbrains, but with a price tag of $100 and a renewal fee of $50 per year, it isn’t for everyone.
Another great choice is SublimeText. It’s free to evaluate, and they ask for $70 for prolonged use if you feel generous. Whatever you choose to use, make sure it supports all the languages and scripts you code in.
The right IDE can greatly increase web development productivity. Many can be configured to work alongside git repositories as well as traditional FTP uploads to live or development servers. Saving you the time of booting up your FTP client!
Using Frameworks to Streamline Design
A framework can greatly increase your speed in creating a page as well as minimize errors and misalignment across browsers. For years as developers we have collected lots of useful code snippets we use again and again, our own personal library. A framework uses the same idea but brings it into an opensource fold ensuring a large user base for testing, as well as a large community to help if you get stuck or confused.
There are lots of options when it comes to frameworks from simple grid systems to full solutions like HTML5Boilerplate or Bootstrap 3! Personally, I use Bootstrap due to its ease of use, excellent documentation, and large community. Bootstrap is quite large, however, don’t be afraid to try a different framework if you feel it suits the needs of that project. Whatever solution you choose you’re bound to see an increase in web development productivity.
Choosing a CRM to Streamline Customer Management
Almost any project could benefit from being managed by a CRM, from small splash pages and one-offs to large corporate sites that you manage monthly for the client. Once again, there are lots of options in both the free and paid sectors, though I lean towards paying. Basecamp is probably the most popular CRM for web development productivity, but there are other options, including Pivotal Tracker, and SugarCRM. Pivotal and Basecamp both have monthly fees, whereas SugarCRM is available in both open source and paid versions. For more in-depth coverage of CRM and virtual team software, a colleague of mine recently reached out to point out they had also written a great article on the best virtual team software! Check it out.
A good CRM will save you hundreds of hours a year, no longer will you have to search a stack of emails for some rare attachment the client swears they sent!
Keeping On Top of Trends with Learning Tools
Let’s face it, being in the tech industry is no walk in the park. Often just as you’re getting a handle on a new concept three more are coming down the pike to replace it. How do you stay on top of what’s next when you’re buried in client work?
My secret is to spend one day a week as an education day. No client work outside of emergencies are done, and I choose a topic I’ve heard vaguely of and try to get a proper handle on it. Smashing Magazine is where I often start my search, as I don’t know of any other blogs who update with such high quality so frequently.
Once I pick a topic I’ll spend an hour or so reading general blogs and simple tutorials on it, then to refine my understanding more I look up the topic on Lynda.com and in the iTunes U section for courses that will further flesh out the topic. Lynda and iTunes U are both great resources with thousands of classes put on by experts, most courses even include exercises to make sure you’re getting the most from them.
Local Meetups and Groups
Without a doubt, the most underrated way to learn in our industry. Meetups are a major boon for your business, not only will you learn from people working in the same environment as you, it can also lead to networking and future client opportunities. Often in these groups there will be experts in certain areas, like security, UX, and more. Pooling your resources with these individuals will bring you a wealth of knowledge without having to do all the head-scratching and back tracking that comes with self learning. If you live near a big city and you aren’t taking advantage of user groups and conferences, you should reconsider.
Maximizing web development productivity is a lot easier with these five tools. Keeping yourself organized and up to date with future trends ensures dealing with your clients will remain a pleasure, and with less downtime you will be free to take in more business!