Tools of the Trade: 10 Front-End Development Tools and Resources the Pros Swear By
It’s true you don’t really need web development tools to create a decent website. Then again, the same could be said of the tools of carpenters, plumbers and mechanics and their respective trades. But why do things the hard way?
Tools are meant to make things easier and cut down on tedious work, which is especially true in web development. But with so many web development tools and resources out there, it can be a little tricky figuring out which are worth your time. That’s why we’re here to help!
10 Front-end web development tools and resources every pro should try
To help you separate the wheat from the chaff, we scoured the web and asked front-end development pros to identify the must-have tools they’d recommend for any new developer. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Sublime Text
Sublime Text is a simple text editing tool for coding that’s packed with features. Visual cues like syntax highlighting make editing much easier on the eyes and the ability to make multiple selections for variable renaming saves on time and errors. Sublime Text also receives high marks for being a fast code editor with minimal lag time.
“I like Sublime Text because it's lightweight,” says Milecia McGregor of FlippedCoding. “There isn't a lot of extra stuff included, but you have the option to add things to the text editor.” If you’re interested, Sublime Text is free to try but will require a purchase for extended use.
Brackets is another excellent browser-based text editing tool for web developers. It offers many features similar to Sublime Text but is also an open-sourced project—which means it’s free to all users and supports a huge selection of useful community-created modifications.
Graham Onak, owner of GainTap, says Brackets has become his go-to choice for text editing. “Every developer needs a good code editor,” he says. “I enjoy the plugins within Brackets and, most importantly, having the ability to perfectly indent all code with a keyboard shortcut. Plus you can search all files within a folder for specific lines of code and then quickly open the file and make edits. This works great when modifying WordPress plugins and themes.”
This keeps web developers from having to reinvent the wheel and repeatedly create elements from scratch. Odds are a navigation menu is only going to need minor tweaking from website to website, so standard elements give developers time to focus on the truly-tricky custom features and functionality a site may need.
4. Google Chrome™ Inspector
This simple, yet very useful resource is a standard tool built into the Google Chrome web browser. All you need to do is highlight and then right-click any page element you’re curious about to take a peek “behind the curtain.”
Onak says this tool is one he simply couldn’t live without. “The Chrome inspector is so powerful for front-end editing. You can right-click and inspect areas of a web page, then make edits to the CSS and HTML while seeing results in real-time on the page,” Onak says. He adds that this is great for quickly mocking up pages and taking screenshots to send to clients.
5. Stack Overflow
Tricky development issues have you stumped? The crowd over at Stack Overflow may just end up being a lifesaver. This massive online community of web developers has an incredible wealth of knowledge to tap into.
But before you come storming in with a question, take some time to search the site and observe how users interact—odds are someone may have already asked a question similar to yours in the past. It may take some digging to find what you need, but the collective brain power here is far too valuable to ignore.
Teamwork makes the dream work, right? But collaborative web development work isn’t always a smooth process. InVision is a powerful tool that helps smooth over some of the most common collaborative issues.
It features the ability to quickly create true-to-form design prototypes for user experience testing. It also includes collaborative idea boards, the ability to comment and give feedback directly on pages and several tools to help improve design workflows.
7. Page Speed Insights by Google
Nothing drives a visitor away like a slow-loading web page. The Page Speed Insights Tool from Google offers a fast and free way to assess the performance of the page you’re working on for both mobile and desktop platforms. Not only that, but it offers up helpful suggestions for how you can optimize your site and cut down on page load times.
In need of a little inspiration? Codepen is a great resource for any web developer looking for new or interesting front-end designs. Users submit their work—complete with the code that makes it happen. This can serve as an excellent jumping-off point and routine-buster for anyone who feels like they’ve been stuck in a creative rut.
9. Functional Accessibility Evaluator
When building a new website complete with the latest bells and whistles, it can be easy to overlook whether or not your site is accessible to all. The Functional Accessibility Evaluator is a free open-source tool from the University of Illinois designed to help websites improve their accessibility based upon the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Scott Madara, director of web development at Solodev, says accessibility is an important, but often forgotten factor in web development. “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance for any web developer is one of the most often forgotten pieces of dev, but it’s crucial to ensure that everyone, regardless of ability, can have an enjoyable experience on your website,” he explains.
“I love JSFiddle because you can share your code with other people and it runs right in the browser,” McGregor says. “It's super useful when you need help debugging, or you just want to bounce some ideas off of other people.
But remember … tools can’t replace talent
These front-end web development tools and resources can certainly make a developer’s life easier. But, like any tool, they’re not much use if you don’t know how to use them.
It takes practical skills and fundamental knowledge to put these tools to proper use. If you’re interested in taking the steps needed to become a professional web developer and fully unleash the power of these tools, check out our article, “Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Web Developer.”