A web designer’s best design tools

I blogged about my best design tool over on Eye of the Chicago Web Designer blog this morning and it got me thinking in general about the tools I value most when it comes to creating web sites.

  1. My Eyes
    An obvious and basic choice but without my eye sight no other design tools would matter
  2. A Pencil and Paper
    When it comes to planning a web site I like the good old fashioned approach of a pencil and paper.  From drafting out an architecture, to a rough sketch of the look and feel. The paper and pencil stage is also great for a first pass at usability issues. Some web sites really call out for hand drawn elements see these hand drawn cartoons for example, where pencil and paper are the tools to make this happen.
  3. A well oiled computer and rock solid internet connection
    Speaks for itself
  4. A cordless mouse
    Being physically uncomfortable while working is a sure way to cramp creativity.  Using a corded mouse is not only irritating but very uncomfortable too.
  5. Adobe Photoshop
    The Queen of the Pixel. From designing look and feel to slicing graphical elements of a web site and optimizing for fastest download. There is an industry trend to always have the latest and greatest version of any software but this approach does not make you a better designer. A good designer can produce great work with outdated software.
  6. Abobe Illustrator
  7. The King of the Vector, while Photoshop does offer vector capabilities I always turn to Illustrator when design elements need to be created as vectors. It is also sometime much easier and faster to use illustrator to produce certain web elements..then import them into photoshop.
  8. Dreamweaver
    The Emperor of Coding,  while I can code by hand this is a great application to speed up the whole process.
  9. Google
    A script for a site, the perfect stock photograph?inIf I need to find anything Google is my initial go to tool. I particularly like the iGoogle application where everything I need on a day to day basis is right there on one page.

2010 ©  Chicago web designer

New Website for Zagros Robotics

There is something very satisfying about a web redesign project. Take a look at this site we seriously revamped for Zagros Robotics.

This is the before

old zagros website

and here is the after

New Zagros web site

The site not only looks more appealing and easy to use but has the advantage of some major under the hood improvements too.

The original site incorporated a shopping cart (PDshop.net) and while this had been well configured in terms of categories  it was embedded into the static site with frames (yikes!…. a SEO nightmare). The shopping cart software was the basis of our redesign. We created and implemented  a unique template and used the custom page feature within the software to add all the “static pages” of the site. The frames were stripped away leaving a site that is much more friendly towards the search engines and is also a lot easier for the client to manage.

The end users win, the client wins and the search engines win! Success

2010 © Chicago Web Designer

New Web Site for Clinical Ophthalmology Inc

Launched today is a new web site for Clinical Ophthalmology Inc of St Louis.

We completely reworked their old site,  creating a fresh new look which is easier to use and offers the site visitors lots more information. The site also features a text size adjustment tool to help those who need a larger print to read.

Just in case you were wondering this is what the old site looked like.

2010 ©: Chicago Web Designer

Do you need a professional Web Designer?

Creating a web site must be easy, something you can do yourself over a weekend , right? Your nephew/cousin/admin assistant has just taken a six week class in web design at the local community college, are they now  fully qualified to produce that highly polished web site for your small business?

In all likelihood if you take these routes you will end up with a sub standard web site which, at its worst, can be detrimental to your business. It’s much better to call in the pros but what are the advantages of hiring a professional web designer?

To put it simply they know what they are doing. Consider the following


Creating the look and feel of a web site is not just a case of opening Photoshop and playing around with a few pixels. A web designer will understand how to engage your visitors, enable them to navigate effortlessly all this while  considering the complexities of coding the design-what is and is not possible. How many pixels wide should the site be, what fonts are web safe, how should the files be saved, optimized for fast download.  What are the latest design trends? What type of design will appeal to your end user.  A web designer will be continually asking themselves questions as they design.


Coding involves rendering the design into a form that can be understood by web browsers. A professional web designer will be an expert in HTML and CSS and well versed in platform such as WordPress,  content management systems -CMS ( e.g Joomla) and be able to work with any shopping cart e.g PDshop.net.  They will constantly test the coding to iron out any bugs and make sure of cross browser compatibility.  Your site will look good irrespective of what browser of platform you are viewing it on. They will also remain up to date with all advances in the coding arena so you know your site will not be using outdated techniques.


The nuts and bolts of making a web site live,  registering a domain name, opening a hosting account, configuring email, stats packages. All bread and butter to a professional web designer.

Internet Marketing

Having a site which ranks well for particular key phrases is on the wish list of most, if not all clients. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the first step to achieving that goal and this end game will have been in the forefront of the designers mind as early as the design phase of any project. From researching the best keyword phrases, to naming files to optimize the potential of those phrases. What’s considered white hat (best practices) and what not do ( black hat practices) Getting the site listed is the next step, whether through organic ranking or paid placements through advertisers like Google. If social networking is part of your marketing plan your designer will help you implement.

So which route to take, the DIY  or the PRO approach?

I can guarantee by hiring a professional web designer you will end up with a far more effective web site.

2010 © Chicago web designer

iChicagoWebDesigner.com. We have a new blog!

Inspired by my original  “Eye of the St Louis web designer” and now Eye of the Chicago web designer” series I have decided to launch an additional blog dedicated to my “Eye of the Chicago web designer” posts.

Chicago is a rich city full of inspiration for us web designers … my camera has hardly stopped clicking since I arrived here! I didn’t want to swamp this blog with my photos.

So without further ado click iChicagoWebDesigner.com and take a peak.

2010 © Chicago Web Designer

Eye of the Chicago Web Designer: In the garden

My regular blog readers will know that gardening is my antidote to many hours sat in front of a computer screen designing web sites and the like. As much as I love my job I do need to get away from the technological world .

Moving to my web design company to Chicago has meant a new house and I have inherited a new garden. The garden is structurally excellent but it could do with a little color magic,  just like a web site a pop of color can make all the difference!

Chicago web design company

2010 © Chicago Web Designer