5 Web Development Tools You Can’t Live Without

(Warning: Super unrealistic scenario ahead.) Suppose you’re stuck on a desert island with a laptop, a web server, and nothing to do all day except web development. Oh, and electricity. And a high-speed Internet connection.  And (as long as we’re in an unrealistic scenario) a cooler full of beer. Further, suppose your laptop has a virus that lets you use only five web development tools. (Don’t say you weren’t warned.) Which five would you absolutely need?

There are dozens of useful web development tools available, some for little or no cost. Here are five that the web development community is finding indispensable today:

All-Around Dev Suite: Chrome Dev Tools

From an all-around development perspective, Chrome’s web development tools, built right into the Chrome browser, are among the most useful. They are powerful, easy to use, and well documented. Google has invested a great deal in building a developer-friendly environment for coding, testing, and optimization.

Design/Prototyping: Pidoco

The Pidoco prototyping tool makes wireframing easy, enabling developers and designers to build, test, and tweak UI designs rapidly before committing coding resources. Getting the UI design right up front is much easier and less costly than doing so at the end of a project, and Pidoco gives you a powerful way to create fully interactive prototypes for multiple platforms (PC, tablets, mobile) at one time. Pidoco also provides multiple pricing tiers so development shops of all sizes and workloads can use the tool without breaking the bank.

CSS: CSS Guidelines

The go-to reference for all things CSS, CSS Guidelines provides a wealth of information about how to create manageable CSS files that work. Developers of all skill levels will find this handy reference a valuable companion when handling those tricky CSS problems.

Testing: UserSnap

Whether you have a dedicated resource for testing, or (gulp) let the client be your QA, UserSnap makes bug reporting easy and consistent by automating much of the work. Instead of fielding bug reports by email (and having to go back and forth with the tester to nail down exactly what the problem is), UserSnap gives testers an in-browser feedback widget that lets them “redline” a page, takes a screen shot of the page with the user’s redlines, and automatically captures the environment (browser version, OS). UserSnap works seamlessly with many popular bug tracking tools, such as Jira, PivotalTracker, and Zendesk.

Monitoring: Uptime Robot

A web developer’s job is not done when the site goes live. Issues do occur with live websites, and often it’s the developer who is called in to diagnose and fix the problem. With the free Uptime Robot, you can be proactive by monitoring multiple “vital signs” for each of your sites. The service automatically alerts you of problems over your choice of channels and provides a handy dashboard for a quick visual check of your sites’ overall health.