Best Free Tools to Build Your Own Personal or Small Business Website

Interested in developing your own web site? Here is a list of useful free resources and tools that recommend to help get you started:

  • Content Management System (CMS): Any easy to use website starts with a friendly CMS. WordPress powers more websites than any other CMS in the world. It not only provides the best balance between ease of use and flexibility, the level of support available on the web is unparalleled. If a website doesn't have MySQL database but does include PHP, GetSimple is our favourite way to go for small sites. There are more powerful CMS applications available like Joomla and Drupal but these come with a steep learning curve and really aren't worth the trouble for most small business owners. Compare features of different CMS applications at CMS Matrix or give them a try with live demos at OpenSourceCMS. Using a CMS, your website will end up with a more consistent look and feel, plugins will provide advanced functionality, and you'll save tons of time over coding your website in HTML. It will be up in a fraction of the time and be manageable in most cases by anyone with word processing skills and familiarity with using the web.
  • Search and Replace: ReplaceEm is a freeware string-replacing utility for Windows. Unlike most editors, ReplaceEM can not only search and replace across multiple files but can search and replace multiple lines of code at a time. For example, you could replace the header or footer across your whole web site in one shot.
  • Photo/Image Editor: If you can't afford Photoshop or it's less expensive sibling Photoshop Elements, Paint.Net offers a complete image editing package that is fairly easy to use. While some people might prefer the power of GIMP, I I prefer the integrated interface of Paint.Net. You can even find a plugin to open Photoshop PSD files for Paint.Net. Gimp has this built-in. Note that neither of these can open CMYK files, only RGB.
  • Image Viewer/Resizer: IrfanView is an image viewer that is free for non-commercial use. It is one of the best tools available doing high quality resizing and manipulating/converting images. Although you can apply effects, it has no image editing capabilities. When it comes to resizing a batch of photos, I'll take IrfanView delivers high quality similar to Photoshop.
  • Web HTML Editor: Notepad++ (easier to learn) and Sublime Text are great full featured editors for programmers. Atom and Visual Studio Code are also great as long as you don't try to edit very large files (200 KB+). They all include an extensive list of features such as HTML, JavaScript and syntax colouring as well as many more advanced features.
  • FTP Client: WinSCP is possibly the best FTP application available today. It allows you to edit the files on your server using your favourite text editor (like Notepad++ or Sublime Text).
  • Site Link Validator: Xenu Link Sleuth will crawl across your web site your local copy of your web site and test all the links for you.
  • Photo Management: Picassa is one of the best free tools out there for keeping track of your pictures. You can also upload your photos to the Picassa Web Albums (similar to Flickr).
  • Web Site Design Templates: Open Web Design.org has over a thousand different web site templates available for free. If you don't find something that suits your taste, give FreeCSSTemplates.org and Styleshout.com a look. Designs on these web sites are all released for free under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license. However, if you are using WordPress, checkout the WordPress Themes gallery. Tip: "Framework" WordPress themes often have more customisation options than regular themes.
  • RSS Generator: FeedEditorLite is a great tool to create the RSS file for the RSS/XML feed. However, if you are using WordPress, look for a plugin instead. Not only can these keep your RSS/XML feed up to date, it will notify some of the major search engines as soon as you make a change on your site.

Freeware Software: Whenever you need software, check out the freeware section at Gizmo and SnapFiles. These each application is individually tested and reviewed by the webmasters and rated by site visitors. They don't list software that includes spyware or ads. They have been my favourite places to find quality freeware applications for years. SnapFiles also has an excellent shareware section.


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