Each project requires the right set of tools that will help you plan, design and develop a new website. You can go cheap, or you can buy or rent costly solutions. In my project management story, I have decided that I will go the cheap way. I will use the tools that I can get for free.
Well, as you can notice, I have a few exceptions in the collection of my project design and delivery tools because I have a paid version of XMind Zen. Also, I am an Office365 subscriber.
However, which tools I have chosen to achieve my project goals?
A Silent Computer and A Big Monitor
Most royalty free photos displaying a freelancer put the Apple hardware in the center. Quite surprisingly, you do not have to buy a new polished Apple computer, iPad and iPhone to start designing and writing your website. You do not need to astonish anyone. You will begin to design the site alone.
There are no doubts that Apple hardware looks robust, reliable and worth the money, but it does not increase the ability to deliver. You can go cheap and lose no productivity. Sure, some applications are macOS only, but you can usually find a great substitute application for Windows or Linux. Also, your competitive advantage remains unchanged if you go for the cheaper hardware.
I am an old fashioned guy. I prefer a desktop computer over the notebook (yes, I have both). In the end, I was looking for a mini PC that is silent and still has the power to run the Internet browser, text editor and Microsoft Excel at once. Finally, I ended up with one of Intel NUCs, and I am delighted.
They are tiny, silent and they are capable of doing my job. Sometimes, it is good to make a reality check if you need the most modern hardware available. Writing texts is not the most demanding and processing power heavy task.
On the other hand, Intel NUCs are not the cheapest mini PCs available on the market. However, compared with the new Apple Mac Mini, they are a bargain. Their chips are powerful, and the integrated graphics card can keep 4k monitor busy easily. I have never seen any significant lagging, and everything is smooth.
Today, you do not have to buy Windows 10 or Apple macOS. With a few limitations, you can run Linux. Some Linux distributions are user-friendly, and they offer a full set of applications for creative writing out of the box. Also, Linux is getting better, and it can be a strong competitor, even on a desktop. Gnome and KDE look both stunning, and for creative writing are both a great option (Gnome is probably even better with its minimalistic approach).
You need a durable Mechanical Keyboard
Do not forget that writing is about your brain, back, and hands. It would be best if you protected them. You should not save money on a good office table, your health supporting chair and there is one more tool you should not save on. You have to buy an expensive mechanical keyboard.
Go for one with the backlighting, because it is a great extra (you will not like any keyboard without it soon). Choose the one where you can program the color.
If you do not want to have programmable colors, definitely do not go for the one that emits just blue light. Choose white, red or green. Never go for the blue backlight. It is not good for your eyes and health.
There is one advice – you should try before you buy. Everyone prefers a different keyboard and physics. Just try to write a few sentences before you pay.
Writing and designing is about taking notes. Most great ideas come at the moment when you do not sit at your computer. They catch you unprepared. You can travel at the moment, or you can be attending a boring meeting. It is essential to take the note because you will forget it before you have a chance to record it.
The traditional notebook works fine. You can invest in a stylish and durable Moleskine notebook and a great pen. Nevertheless, you can use modern technology. For quite a long time I was using Evernote to take notes. However, I got never familiar with the software. The same story was Microsoft OneNote. We were never friends. I was not taking my notes; I was exploring how to record the idea as quickly as possible. I wanted something simple that does not influence my way of thinking.
Finally, Google Keep is my favorite choice. It has a simplistic approach, the user interface cannot be more straightforward, and the app works fine. In my opinion, it delivers its promises. After a short time, I have found my way how to use it.
I have one note at the top where I put my new ideas. I do not sort them till I am free and willing to go deeper in my thinking process. That is my creative moment when I decide what to delete, what to keep and what to elaborate further.
It is not just for taking text notes. You can take photos, take notes, or record audio. Everything works.
As a great plus, it has the application for your smartphone and PC. On the other hand, you can run it in the browser without any limitations. The price? It is free.
Atom is the best word processor
Designing a website is about a lot of writing. The content is the king. It is about putting a structure in place and filling it with the relevant, thrilling and traffic winning text.
MS Word can kill your creativity. Microsoft designed Word as a tool to produce business related stuff. Microsoft Word is not a word processor for long documents. It is the best choice to write and format a business letter, but you should never write a book in MS Word.
For years, the king of creative writing was Sublime Text. It was the software, which just did its job. However, it was also pretty expensive. On the other hand, it was a star when writing the content without being distracted by many hints. It is a pure text processor as it should be. The first step in the writing process was about typing the document. After that, the most critical step took place – editing the document. As the final step in the process, you format the text.
Lately, a new star was born, and it is free. It is called Atom. It has everything what Sublime Text has. It is supported by a large and active community of contributors. You can enhance the functionality with tons of plugins.
Well, it can seem as a programmer´s editor, but it is great for writing long texts, as well. It has excellent Markdown support out of the box (if you do not know Markdown, you have to learn it). It can export the document as HTML to copy-paste it into WordPress directly.
There are tons of themes to personalize your experience. You prefer a dark scheme? Fine. Do you want a light one? Fine. Do you want different fonts? Easy.
There should be no discussion when choosing your new text editor for website development. It should be Atom word processor with several plugins to improve your overall creative writing experience.
XMind and Pomodoro Focus
Designing a new website or changing the existing one is also about the site structure. There are many different tools, but I have found XMind Zen as the most useful one. Surprisingly, it is not its original aim and purpose. It is a mind mapping tool.
Also, it not free when you want some additional features, but it also offers a free version with some restrictions. In my opinion, it is the best software to create mindmaps and structures. It helps you to simplify your difficult idea into easy to understand steps.
It allows you to think through the structure of the new website. It will enable you to guess and confirm how you should connect different topics. It helps you to discover interdependencies and track your key messages.
Pomodoro is a simplistic approach to “Get Things Done” (aka GTD). I was never a fan of the full GTD methodology. It was killing my creative thinking because I was not able to sort them into right boxes immediately.
However, Pomodoro works for me. I use a simple Focus application for Windows 10, that measures and cuts my Pomodoro slices. Again, it has no additional project management features, but this is exactly what I like about the application. It is straightforward, and it does what it promises to do.
MS Excel and MS PowerPoint
Maybe you are surprised why I have Microsoft Office on my list of tools? Honestly, I was trying to switch to LibreOffice several times in the past. Though, I always failed.
There are things in MS Excel you cannot do in LibreOffice. When thinking and solving the complex issue, I have always found contingency tables helpful. You can produce them in MS Excel efficiently. On the other hand, it was never such a straightforward task in LibreOffice. However, I use just MS Excel and MS PowerPoint.
I use MS Office to draw pictures for the website. You and then you fill the page with the relevant content supporting your text. I know MS PowerPoint is not the best drawing tool, but I can draw images quickly, and they do not look bad.
Microsoft Excel is an excellent tool for website traffic analytics. There are moments in the keyword research when the contingency table is your best friend. With MS Excel you will save much time. Also, there is no better tool to draw graphs quickly.
As we say – one picture is worth a thousand words.
Ubuntu Server as a great productivity tool
Sooner or later you will find out that you need to store your data somewhere that you can easily access them from anywhere. You need to detach the data from your desktop.
You will probably look for a simple Cloud solution you can upload and synchronize your data. Also, it is a way how to back up your most valuable content.
There are many paid solutions available, but maybe you could consider using the old computer you have at home. By installing Ubuntu Server, you can boost your productivity and decrease your running costs.
I have a small home server for years. It was mainly a backup machine for photos, movies, and music.
Now I use it as my cloud solution, personal RSS reader and I also run some small analytics solution on it. Everything accessible from anywhere on Earth. I use NextCloud and TinyTinyRSS. Both are great productivity tools.
As an additional benefit, I know where my data are and who is the person responsible when I lose anything. It is just me.