Best Website Development Tools for Your Workflow
Building a website is a complicated process. For a team of developers to properly execute an effective website development workflow, they must be able to check off two very important boxes. First, they must possess a complex array of skills pulled from several technical disciplines. Secondly, the team must be given access to a well-thought-out software toolkit that will help them effectively build your website, transforming the corporate messaging and mission into a powerful inbound marketing tool.
In this article, we’re going to dig into some of the decisions your technology leadership team will face in building out that software toolkit for your development team. First, we’ll discuss why such tools are necessary, followed by a comprehensive discussion of when it’s necessary to integrate a new software tool into your tech stack. From there, we’ll break down the software design workflow and the types of software that support each of the steps in that workflow. To finish off our discussion, we’ll offer up tips on how to choose the right website development tools for your team’s needs, and provide suggested solutions to help fill any gaps in your existing toolkit to fully round out your development team’s capabilities of successfully building and supporting your organization’s webpage.
Why Do You Need Website Development Tools?
Beyond the popular content management software platforms such as WordPress and drag-and-drop site building interfaces, the average user doesn’t have a need for any deeper dive into the website building process. However, for professional web development agencies and freelancers, there is a slew of tools that are necessary to truly bring a website through the entire build process to create a tool that truly meets the myriad demands of modern businesses.
Throughout the remainder of this article, we’ll talk about:
- When Should You Purchase Website Development Tools?
- What Are the Steps in the Development Process Web Development Tools Need to Support?
- Tips for Choosing the Best Web Development Tools
- 10 Recommended Website Development Tools
- Recommendations from the Field
When Should You Purchase Website Development Tools?
Overall, the decision on whether or not to bring a new software tool into their development technology stack should be based on the scope and function of the digital asset your team needs to build. This also determines what language your project will be built with, which further impacts the software necessary to get the job done. Further, with the speed at which the web technology field is progressing, it’s necessary to keep your tech stack up-to-date with the most current and relevant tools for web design. This is due to the need to not only keep up with current trends and capabilities but also to ensure compatibility and synergy between the tools in your toolkit.
What Are the Steps in the Development Process Web Development Tools Need to Support?
Understanding that we need compatibility and a range of functionality built into our tech stacks as developers, it’s important to enumerate the main steps in the development process so that we can then layout suggested tools to meet technical needs at each step in the process.
Strategically Establishing Website’s Main Purpose and Target Audience
At the initial planning stages of building out a website, the goal is to determine exactly what functionality will be necessary to meet your business needs, who your target audience will be, and what strategies and tools you will need to bridge the gap between those two concepts. This process will set the stage for the remainder of the development process and help your team determine which tools will be required for immediate development needs and ongoing site maintenance and management. At this vital juncture in the planning stages, your development team should be seeking out planning and collaborative software capable of task tracking, communication management, and project management.
Matching User Interface to Planned User Experience with Sitemap and Wireframing
Once your team has worked to determine the audience and the overall purpose of your website, the team can then use established design standards and follow current website design trends to wireframe out what your site will look like, the different components that should be included, and how users will interface with those components. Visualization and wireframing tools are the most useful prototyping tools for your team to leverage at this stage in the planning process while continuing to communicate and coordinate across the project management platform of choice.
Execution of Page Design and Layouts and Ongoing Iteration
With wireframes to build upon, the design team and marketing team start assembling visual assets and creating mockups of pages and the website infrastructure for client approval and to test to ensure that the proper user experience has been captured with the intended interface. Graphic design software and website management tools are useful at this stage
Content Creation and Management
Once layouts have been approved and the overall design agreed upon by the design team and the client alike, the client must provide the content to fill the page. Articles, blogs, product descriptions or service overviews, staff introductions, and all other necessary information must be procured by the owner of the site, either through the work of in-house writers or through an agency. Depending upon the tools that will be used to launch and maintain the website, there are a number of content creation and management systems that can be used by the client to create and plan out content over time.
Coding, Site Creation, and Assembly
Once all of the content is assembled and the strategic planning has been finalized, the front-end and back-end development teams can get started coding and assembling site assets. Throughout this period of coding, the designers are using integrated coding environments to assemble, test, and debug pages as the design process progresses. And again, depending on how the page will be hosted and maintained, they might also be programming the site directly with a content management system.
Full-Site Review and Testing in Preparation of Launch
During the testing and review stages, the team is validating links and verifying user management systems, as well as testing any drop-downs, menus, form creation and submission, navigation, and other interactive elements across the website. Once verified as fully-functional, the website can then be uploaded to the intended hosting service and launched for customer use.
Ongoing Maintenance, Revisions, and Management
A static website holds no weight in the modern marketing landscape. Even if you build a site that consists of a single landing page that filters potential clients to your sales team, you need a site that is updated regularly and takes advantage of modern design and technology trends. Once your site goes live, you’ll need to work out with your development team a strategy for updating. This should include a discussion about the tools and workflow to maintain the site, and whether that process will take place through a customer portal on a hosted service or via communication with your dev team, who agrees to handle the update process via the website’s back-end.
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Tips for Choosing the Best Web Development Tools
If you’re a new agency just getting started or a small business trying to build your technology stack, you might be struggling to decide which tools to integrate and which to leave undownloaded. When it comes to software and building out your team’s capabilities, some of the guidance is fairly standard and follows the same logic as many business challenges you’ll encounter around cost considerations and how easily your team can integrate the tool into the existing workflow, with or without the support of the vendor. When it comes to development tools, there are some special additional considerations.
What Role in the Web Development Process Does it Support?
Technology stacks can get extremely convoluted and intertwined, and if consideration isn’t taken in what tools to include, you can end up with both extreme redundancy and a lack of total functionality, all at a cost that is prohibitive to bringing in the actual tools you need. Talk to the developers and other users who might use a web development tool you are considering and ensure you fully understand the functions it brings to the table, and whether a simpler or more complex tool is needed.
The Fully Customizable and Compatible Experience
Web developers are often working at a client site or remotely on projects, so a solution must be easily accessible and travel well on the devices in standard use by the design team. It’s also important to remember just how quickly these technologies evolve and change, and developers rely upon a host of customizations, downloads, applications, and extensions to customize dev tools to their needs. Ensure the tools you bring aboard support that need for customizability and are compatible with the existing tech stack. And lastly, when it comes to customizability, ensure that the tool is designed to evolve with the needs of your business and can either be upgraded or extended to provide any additional development support that arises in the event of a site update or upgrade.
Security is Not Optional
With data breaches and ransomware attacks rampant across every industry, you must take a strong stance not only with the education of your staff but also with your development team. Every web asset you deploy must be created with security as a driving factor in design and function. No matter what tool or software platform you’re planning on utilizing in your technology stack, it will be on you as an organization to ensure your team keeps up with updates and builds the site according to best cybersecurity practices.
10 Recommended Website Development Tools
The steps in the development process broken down above can be divided into roughly three main phases of design: planning, conceptualization, and content creation; site creation and deployment; and ongoing maintenance and content management. While we mentioned general types of software that might be used to accomplish each step above, we’re going to bring it to a more granular level and give you some examples of those tools you can use as a baseline for your own research to find a mix that fills out your own organization’s tech stack needs.
Planning, Conceptualization, and Content Creation Tools
At the start of the web development process, you need software solutions that allow for the easy sharing of ideas, the end-to-end management of complex projects, and a way for multidisciplinary teams complete with stakeholders that are non-designers to easily understand the design concepts being conveyed and provide feedback and suggestions.
Jira was developed by Atlassian, a well-known leader in project management solutions that got its start in 2002. Now a global team, Atlassian has offices in 7 countries and supports a community of more than 2 million users across its products.
Originally built as a bug-tracker and issue-reporting platform for software projects, Jira has grown into a tool that helps marketers and designers bridge the gap and keep projects organized across teams and clients operating in remote locations. The platform has a mobile-accessible application and helps teams by integrating with more than 3,000 other applications to extend its functionality and effectiveness.
Pricing: The platform supports a team of up to 10 users with limited functionality for free. Beyond that, there are two pricing models, each with discounted rates less than those shown if billed on an annual basis:
- Standard focuses on small but growing teams with a need for collaboration on a single project at a time. Standard functionality runs $7.50 per user per month.
- Premium plans provide expanded support across more projects with better customer service access and project asset storage space. Premium costs $14.50 per user per month
- For multi-location agencies and large enterprises, potential clients must call customer service to establish pricing and billing is only available on an annual basis.
Trial: Standard and Premium access accounts can assess Jira during a free 7-day trial.
With eight global offices, ClickUp has quickly made a name for itself in the project and team management sphere since it was founded in 2017. Targeting major players like Jira, ClickUp has been able to capture market share by offering a free service on par with industry-leading solutions’ paid plans.
ClickUp allows users to fully customize workspaces, allowing teams to adopt the project management style that works best for their project or team without having to lose functionality in the service itself. Application integrations are easily managed and automation and task management are built into the interface. Teams can easily manage all project elements within the app and communicate within the team quickly via email plug-ins, keeping teams on-task and focused on efficiency.
Pricing: There are four plan levels beyond the Free personal user account. Annual payment arrangements decrease the monthly costs listed below.
- Unlimited, designed for small teams, for $9/month per user.
- Business, designed for mid-sized teams, for $19/month per user.
- Business Plus, for multiple teams, for $29/month per user.
- Enterprise, for many large teams, with pricing established during a consultation.
Trial: The Free Forever access tier acts as the trial for the platform.
With more than 7 million users globally, the InVision platform is a powerful collaborative tool with integrations that even leading collaborative software companies like Atlassian turn to for developer-centric design workflows. In fact, tools created by InVision are in use across 100% of the Fortune 100. The company employs a fully distributed work model and has employees in more than 25 countries.
The InVision platform is a conglomerate of related products, but cloud-based plans ensure users can take advantage easily of the trio of tools: Freehand, Studio, and DSM. Between these three tools, designers can wireframe and quickly mockup interfaces for teams to review and modify. Other integrations allow for coding integration as well, giving the collaborative tool a depth other platforms don’t have. The InVision platform works across Windows and macOS systems.
Pricing: There is a free plan that is designed for small teams and individuals with limited user collaboration and saved documents. Cross-collaborative teams are encouraged to go with the Pro plan, which increases the number of collaborators, removes the limit on the number of documents, and allows for private workspaces. The Pro plan costs $9.95 per user on a monthly basis. Enterprise-level users are invited to contact the sales and support team to establish a plan right for their needs.
Trial: The free plan acts as a trial with no time limits attached until a team requires increased access to the Pro or Enterprise plans.
Before your dev team starts transforming concepts into code, your marketing team will need to take advantage of content and document management systems such as Contentful. Contentful was built to eliminate data and content silos from the marketing side and allow multiple digital channels to access your repository of important branded content.
Built as a headless CMS solution, Contentful allows users to create content in a central space, and then allow that information to be broken down and repurposed for any social or marketing channel you might use to build your brand or advertise a product or service. The interface is built for editors, while data is tagged and tracked so that developers can easily access and collate related materials from the database in the design process. Resources include a marketplace of integrations, web applications, and extensible add-ons to improve Contentful’s performance in your existing workflow.
Pricing: The Team plan is designed for small cross-functional teams and for agencies needing to scale to a client’s needs, and will run at $1,995 per month. Enterprise-level plans can be negotiated directly with the sales team.
Trial: The free Community model remains free for 60 days, at which point the platform requires a commitment at the Team level at a minimum.
Website Creation and Deployment
When your team reaches the point when content has been made and the team agrees enough on the design that web developers can start committing concepts into code, the development team will need a platform that can support the design, collaboration and organization, and deployment of the finished product. For this stage in the build process, we are going to cover integrated development environments, or IDEs, popular with designers building not only traditional customized websites, but also with designers building PHP-based WordPress sites or sites for other content management systems (CMS).
With Microsoft’s Visual Studio, you get a range of IDE options to choose from as a developer. Microsoft, a brand that is practically synonymous with software development, first launched the Visual Studio product in 1997, and the project has since evolved into a best-in-class IDE tool available across Windows and macOS platforms and recently received its 2022 update. On the flip-side, Microsoft also wanted to give developers a free open-source option as well, so launched and started supporting VS Code as a separate project in 2015.
Visual Studio has all of the bells and whistles a developer could ask for from a modern IDE, including a powerful code editor and debugging interface. It’s built for team-based collaboration and local testing and debugging, the platform’s last few iterations have connected and integrated cloud-connectivity and functionality with Microsoft Azure. VS Code extends the coding IDE across Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems, with open-source integration with more than 20,000 app and functionality extensions.
Pricing: VS Code is a free platform with an extensive community that has created a massive knowledge base and community of tools around the platform. Microsoft Visual Studio comes with 3 levels of subscription:
- Community is the free product and allows individual contributors to use a limited range of the product’s full features.
- Business license costs range per user from $45 per month for a stand-alone subscription or $499 for a license covering the version purchased and updates to that version, but not future versions.
- Enterprise licenses per user-run $250 per month for a subscription. A more complicated licensing cost is available depending upon your status at the enterprise level.
Trial: You can evaluate the Professional or Enterprise
NetBeans has evolved since it was first launched in the 1990s and remains a competitive IDE as it has always been cross-platform compatible and therefore useful to a wider audience of programming teams. A strong user base and active community have ensured that it remains highly recommended and well-supported across multiple channels.
Pricing: NetBeans remains free, and the platform invites users to donate to the Apache Software Foundation to support NetBeans and other ASF projects.
Trial: The software tool is free to use.
Atom started out as a text editor project under GitHub, but since has evolved through forks and additions to the original GitHub repository into a full-featured IDE. It’s a newer platform, having gone live for users in 2014, but Atom could be a great solution for teams that want to try something new and have input into rounding out functionality, especially given the platform’s range of packages specifically geared towards WordPress development.
Atom is constantly being updated and iterated upon to improve its functionality for the Atom community of programmers. One of the tools currently in beta is Teletype, a method of sharing a workspace in real-time and allowing coders to collaborate live. Other features are in the works, but the platform is completely customizable for programmers to make it visually and functionally work how they want it to work with the right mix of plug-ins and settings adjustments.
Pricing: Free to use and highly customizable by the user.
On-Going Maintenance and Content Management
Once the site has been built and deployed via your hosting service, you must continue to keep the site fresh and updated. Depending on how it’s been deployed and what tools you used to build the site, you’ll probably take one of several approaches to ongoing management and maintenance that will entail either ongoing service management by your development partner or a self-managed content management service. Either way, you’ll also need a method for assessing site content and performance in order to guide and inform the need for future updates.
There’s a roughly 37% probability that your site will have been built using WordPress, 62% if it was built with a content management system (CMS) platform in general. If that’s the case, the process of updating and managing content will mostly be handled through the interface provided by Wordpress.com, the hosted version of the platform owned and operated by Automatic.
Once your initial site has been built and launched via WordPress, you can easily update and manipulate the visual theme of your site, and quickly change or modify the interface. Content management is handled through a dashboard, and the heavily-supported platform offers users at a certain plan level access to an extensive library of add-ons, extensions, and modifications designed to improve and enhance your site’s performance. If you hired a service to build your site using WordPress’s interface, then you likely established an ongoing managed services agreement for ongoing updates and management of the site.
Pricing: In addition to a Free model to create a basic website, hosted WordPress.com plans come in monthly subscriptions, each with increasing value and access to more functionality built-in. All plans also receive a discount for being paid ahead annually.
- Personal starts at $7 per month
- Premium starts at $14 per month
- Business starts at $33 per month
- eCommerce functionality for online store management starts at $59 per month
Trial: The Free model with limited hosting and functionality included acts as the Trial period.
Founded in 2012 as the first step towards creating a solution for helping businesses scale quickly, Monday.com has three offices in the United States, with three other international locations supporting more than 110,000 users globally.
Imagine a tool that is highly flexible and provides teams with workflows for most business use cases, and you’ll be close to the experience of deploying Monday.com as your method for managing your organization’s website. Not only does the platform help teams to deploy and organize around projects, but there are specific workflows designed for content creation that include content calendars, digital asset management, topic planning tools for blogs, and other templates that will help your team ensure your site remains fresh and constantly updated by the right staff with the right content to support any and all marketing initiatives.
Pricing: There are 4 tiers in addition to the free Individual tier, which is a free forever service helping individuals keep track of workflows.
- Basic plans are $10 per seat per month meant for small teams managing single projects at a time.
- Standard plans run $12 per seat per month and are meant for small teams with a limited number of concurrent projects who still need a robust level of collaboration.
- Pro costs users $20 per seat a month and access to an extensive array of integrations and automation to support large teams and projects.
- Enterprise-level prospective clients should contact the sales team to create a service plan that works for their specific needs.
Trial: Paid plans provide a 14-day trial period, after which a specific plan level must be chosen.
If any company could lay claim to being able to provide comprehensive analytics for any website’s search engine performance, it’s the massive search engine service, Google. Currently folded into the Google Marketing Platform, Google Analytics was initially launched in 2005 as a method for helping businesses track site traffic. It is now an important tool for any marketing team to be able to track and assess the return on investment of marketing initiatives across multiple channels.
In combination with your organization’s search engine optimization efforts tied to your website, Google Analytics can be used in the ongoing content management your team will engage in once your website has launched. It can be used to identify opportunities to integrate new material into your site as well as what can be improved on existing content pages. In conjunction with content management systems, Google Analytics can provide guidance as to how to shape and plan out future marketing campaigns and what existing content isn’t generating site traffic, and used to combine targeted content already in your CMS into the most impactful content for your targeted channels and help identify opportunities to create new content more in line with your advertising efforts.
Pricing: The basic version of Google Analytics is free, but doesn’t provide a significant level of granular data for business purposes. It’s a method for understanding what’s possible and getting used to the interface. The paid version, Google Analytics 360, requires a call with sales to determine the scope of your data needs, and service costs based on the data you pull are invoiced monthly.
Trial: The free version of Google Analytics allows users access to a limited functionality to assess what’s actually required and whether or not further value is necessary from the paid 360 model.
Recommendations from the Field
Just as with any business software, web development teams are particular about the tools they use at each stage in the development cycle. We asked community members from several of our information hubs their thoughts on the best website development tools and this is what they had to say.
For project management, Basecamp was offered up as another alternative to Jira. “We can structure every requirement, or group of requirements, into a template, then choose the template for a project. This provides us with repeatable excellence and every project receives the same consideration.”
—Julie Hubbard Gorham, Chief Marketing Officer, Marketing EQ
Readers also offered up several other alternative IDE solutions. The first, PHPStorm, is geared towards a very specific group of web developers.
“PHPStorm is a great tool for managing large-scale Magento projects but allowing us to navigate code efficiently. It’s not only the best choice tool for Magento developers, but it’s also a necessity.”
—Adam Fausey, Business Director, WDEVS
The other IDE brought forward as an alternative to any tools you might have in mind was Sublime Text.
—Joshua Preece, Founder, J&A Digital Solutions LLC
As you can probably guess, when it came to CMS platforms, the proliferation of WordPress across the Internet naturally means that a good number of our respondents had a lot to say about how simple yet vital the platform was to the web development workflows. This sentiment was perhaps best summed up by the statement from the CEO of Resound.
“WordPress has been our go-to web development tool for marketing and content-heavy websites for years now. We use it to build out the backbone and initial architecture of the website along with some key premium plugins to help build specific functionality like forms, dynamic content, and editable page templates.”
—Mike Jones, CEO, Resound
UpCity Provides Guidance On An Assortment of Tools to Tackle Complex Web Development Projects
The web design process is a complex array of tasks that requires a robust technology stack to fully tackle and execute properly, regardless if you’re outsourcing the work or handling the development yourself. In this piece, we’ve taken a deep look at the intricacies of web development and the tools that support the workflow from start to finish. Need more options? Check out our information hub on web development or visit the UpCity marketplace to find a B2B service provider that can spearhead your next website-focused project.