While there are some careers that do not require much in the way of continuing job enrichment, any web designer can tell you that web design is not one of them. In fact, the field is an exciting area to work in precisely because it’s always changing, morphing, and growing. Yet, when you’re wrapped up in your career, it can be difficult to stay on top of changes. It’s unfortunate, because that means we could be missing out on a lot of resources that actually help to improve our workflow. Never fear, I’ve compiled a list of the top five resources that can help you get your job done effectively when you’re designing in WordPress. Before we jump into the resources, it’s important that you make certain that you have a firm handle on how design works in WordPress. If you’re a new designer, or simply a small business looking to put up your first website, spend some time perusing a WordPress guide. When you have a firm handle on the basics, check out these other resources.
Design and Work from Templates
A practice that can save you a lot of time when you’re designing is working from templates. Of course, you need your work to have a certain je ne sais quoi and stand out from the crowd. The best way to accomplish this is to create your own custom set of templates. Artisteer is a simple application that can help you build your own portfolio of WordPress templates. It’s meant to be simple enough for non-designers to master, so the interface is intuitive and quick to navigate through. When you don’t have to start from scratch for every project, you’ll find that you have a lot more time to dedicate to the creative side of your project.
One thing that is sure to lead to wasted time is running your projects through an endless number of applications. The more you can combine the various stages of design into one program, the smoother a project will go. A tool like Panic Coda can help streamline your design coding all in one place. With an integrated system like Panic Coda, you can keep your FTP client, your CSS coder, HTML testing, version control system, etc. all in one place. The interface is intuitive and easy to learn, with tabs that simply lay out each element of the project.
Keep Track of Ideas as You Have Them
There is one element of web design that’s often overlooked because it is rather intangible. Inspiration. Yet, compiling compelling ideas and being able to access them on demand is the key to producing projects that stand out and represent your clients well. Finding inspiration for a project quickly can also have a pretty substantial impact on your project turnover time.
Oftentimes, ideas we have won’t fit into our current projects, but they might be perfect for other work down the line. That means you need to keep track of them. A tool like Shutterstock’s Photo Lightbox can be ideal for just that purpose. It lets you cull through their extensive library of photographs and images and group photos together. Which is great for grouping ideas together and keeping your own desktop clutter free. You can also easily share the lightboxes you make, which is invaluable when you are working collaboratively with other designers or a client. Additionally, turning the photos you find into color palettes that can define your projects is a snap with a color extraction tool like Adobe Kuler.
Update Your Development Software
We’re all guilty of falling into ruts. Yet, if the rut you’ve fallen into is using outdated development software, it’s time to fix it. Spending a bit of money on dev software that is more in line with the type of design you do these days can save you invaluable time. Yet it’s important to find software that won’t take you weeks to learn. One application that I’ve been finding particularly effective and easy to use is Headway. It combines drag and drop functionality with an intuitive style editor. Additionally, it works through the backend of your site, which makes it simple to do limitless testing and editing more seamlessly than other software.
Don’t (Always) Build from Scratch
As a group, web designers tend to be overambitious. Many times, it seems that we’d rather build up every aspect of our websites rather than rely on outside, ready-to-go resources. Though this is a philosophy that has been great for keeping the field on the cutting edge, it can wreak havoc on your time management. Sometimes, it really can be better to choose elements that are usable “out-of-the- box” rather than to write up the code ourselves.
Look for places where you can replace DIY coding and building in exchange for simpler alternatives. For example, if you’re looking to monetize your website, consider going with a proven scalable ready-to- go marketplace like Amazon’s Webstore rather than building a unique client for your site. Not only will it save your time, but it can also really up the usability on the client side.