I am an amateur Web developer who has tinkered around with the design of websites and I have even taken classes to learn more about the subject. Every Web developer has their own style and tools to build websites, but his primary tools are usually a text editor and a browser. A browser not only helps with testing a design, but it can even help in the design of the website itself. When I first got started developing websites, I used Firefox as my primary Web browser because it was versatile and offered many skillfully created add-ons to assist in my development.
If you want to learn Web development or you’re just getting started, I’ve got a list of Firefox add-ons that may help. Firefox is the browser of choice for many Web developers because of its simple platform and popularity across the Web. These add-ons might not only help you with developing, but even day-to-day tasks.
Web Developer has a very obvious name, which also happens to provide a pretty clear explanation for what the app does. It’s a suite of tools that are essential for every Web developer to have when modifying and designing websites. The add-on gives you a toolbar of many useful functions to design your website without any hassle and even allows you to change things in real-time to tweak what you’re looking at without having to keep going back and changing the code and refreshing the page. This tool gives you options to block storing cookies so you’ll always have the most up to date information on the website when tweaking it. The set of CSS options that gives you a wide range of settings — from disabling certain styles and editing the CSS in real-time — might be the add-on’s most powerful feature. Whether you need to modify the CSS or validate the website to be in compliance with W3C standards, this add-on is essential.
Measureit is a great tool for checking dimensions of elements and ensuring that they all fit on the page properly and are sized to fit. So, instead of holding up a ruler to the screen and hoping that you measure accurately, this add-on gives you a virtual ruler that measures in pixels — both horizontally and vertically at the same time — to make your job easier.
Firebug is by far one of my very favorite add-ons for Firefox because it’s not only open source but it has an active community that create extensions for this add-on. Firebug is mostly a frontend development tool like Web Developer, but it can help you diagnose existing problems. It can help you figure out what CSS elements are affecting other elements on the page; this can be very useful when you’re having trouble with a style rule that isn’t showing up right on your page. Firebug can even inspect the page to tell you about the structure of the page and can determine a wide array of elements such as color, height, width, and many other HTML based elements.
CSS Usage, a Firebug add-on, is a very powerful CSS tool that can find unused elements in your CSS code to clean it up and remove unused or straggling code that shouldn’t be there. CSS Usage analyzes your page and finds everything that isn’t being used or referenced in the HTML and lets you know how to trim the excess fat off your website.
ColorZilla is one of those tools that every Web designer uses because a website is just plain ugly if it doesn’t have a splash of color somewhere. To make the page attractive, you need colors that complement each other, and finding the HEX code for these colors can be very daunting. ColorZilla is just like the color picker inside of Photoshop where you see a gradient of colors and a color slider on the right to select the correct hue of color you want. You can manually enter colors into the tool to see where the color is and then use that reference to pick a complementing color to go along with it.
HTML Validator is a nifty tool to check that all of your HTML coding is correct and up to par on HTML standards. HTML Validator will check your code for compliance, and if it finds something not up to par it will alert you and tell you what you can do to update the code to be compliant.
Page Speed checks your website and grades it on loading performance. Nobody likes a slow loading website that hangs when loading images that are of super high quality. Web design is not only about the look of the website but the load speed of the website. It’s said that every 100 milliseconds increased in load time at Amazon.com decreases sales by 1%. Page speed is everything, and this Firefox add-on will grade your website’s performance on a 100 point scale. It’s a Google developed add-on and uses its PageSpeed API to judge your performance. I use this tool constantly to check my websites and a grade of 80 points or above is generally the best for a normal website. Not only will it check your website, but it even gives recommendations on what you can do to improve its performance.
IE Tab 2 is useful because there are still a majority of users who use Internet Explorer. This add-on simulates an Internet Explorer window to check your design in a different browser without actually having to open a new browser. This add-on is very simple to use; after installing it you right-click on the tab and select to view the tab as an Internet Explorer window.
Screengrab is a great tool if you need to collaborate with a client or other developers to show off a design in progress or even a mock-up. This add-on has three different options for taking a screen shot of the website. It can take a picture of just the visible area on the website, so if your page is longer than the browser window it will only take a picture of what you can see. The second option offers to take a picture of the whole webpage; this is great when your website scrolls and you need to get the page from top to bottom in a single image for a client. Last, there is the selection option that will allow you to highlight just what you want to take a picture of. It’s simple to use and highly recommended.
SEO Doctor should be an essential tool in the final design stages of a website. If you want people to find your website when they are searching for it, this tool is what you need to get recommendations on how to improve performance of the website. SEO Doctor analyzes the page and gives you a score from 0% to 100% based on SEO. It will even highlight some areas of the website that can be optimized better for search engine traffic. One of the best features about this add-on is that it can export the data into a spreadsheet for logging and analysis.
These are just some of the most used tools out there for designing websites. Firefox has a vast array of different add-ons from which you can search. What development tools do you use for designing a website?